After deadly shooting, Charlotte city councilman proposes bulletproof glass for bus drivers

CHARLOTTE — As city bus drivers continue their calls for additional safety measures from Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), one Charlotte city councilmember has developed a possible solution.

On Monday, Tariq Bokhari, the Republican representative in District 6, unveiled a bulletproof, shielded enclosure that could be installed on all city buses.

The request for added protection comes more than a month after CATS bus driver Ethan Rivera was shot and killed while on the job in uptown Charlotte.

Bokhari said he spent the past week speaking with local companies to develop the bulletproof glass he showed off during an event at the Transit Center on Monday. The technology could be put into place as soon as Tuesday, he said.

“We hope there is a world where you guys don’t have to think of this stuff, but for now, it is our first priority is your safety and making sure this doesn’t happen again is a close second,” Bokhari told CATS bus drivers who gathered for the demonstration.

He said the shields were designed and manufactured by local companies at a cost of about $4,800.

Safety is at the forefront of the conversation for city leaders.

“If our transit workers are afraid to and feel unsafe operating a bus or light rail, think about the woman who gets on the bus as a rider at 9 at night feels,” said Kyle Leubke, a Republican at large candidate for city council.

After Rivera’s death, some CATS drivers have called for safety upgrades like bulletproof glass.

Drivers on hand for the demonstration on Monday supported the idea and are hopeful more protection will be put in place.

“It seems like it is pretty good, so it doesn’t look like someone can spit on you or reach your hand on you, and we have had that happen,” CATS driver Tamasa Patterson told Channel 9.

CATS has said installing the bulletproof enclosures would require a complete analysis of the driver’s area and they are in talks with bus manufacturers about the feasibility of bulletproof glass.

City councilman Tariq Bokhari and candidates running for council unveiled a bulletproof, shielded enclosure Monday to be placed on city buses. The group worked with local business to design and create the shields.

On Thursday, CATS said it hopes to learn more about the prototype and continue the discussion about the technology.

“They’ve said we’re willing to take that torch and figure it out. And now we can put the action in their hands where it belongs, but giving them a breadcrumb trail of exactly how to do it cost effectively and aggressively,” Bokhari said.

CATS statement on the bulletproof prototype:

“We appreciate the work and thought that went into creating the bullet-resistant prototype. We are open to further discussions about the feasibility of this technology. CATS will meet with the groups that led the design and development to learn more about the prototype.”

Previous full statement from CATS:

“CATS was not a party to these conversations and was not aware of this effort until today. CATS has been in discussions with our primary bus manufacturer about the feasibility of a bulletproof glass enclosure on buses for several weeks.

“Installing these enclosures would require a complete analysis of the operator’s area, as well as an analysis of the impact that the additional weight of the glass would have on vehicle performance and safety, the structural changes in the operator’s areas to support the additional load and the impact to federal Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA) requirements for front-entry access and wheelchair loading.

“CATS has not been able to identify any other transit agencies in the United States that use bulletproof enclosures at this time; and our bus manufacturer has informed us that there are no current options, nor is there a timeline for when a product might be available. We are open to further discussions about the feasibility of this technology.

“CATS will continue to work with the SMART employee union to address its concerns. CATS has already taken a number of steps to improve safety and security training including:

  • CMPD has added patrols of the Charlotte Transit Center (CTC) and bus routes requested by the SMART employee union. The Department of Homeland Security Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams will make random visits to and patrol CATS facilities. CATS will also add additional Allied Universal company security resources for all bus facilities.
  • CATS is working with CMPD to identify and implement de-escalation training for bus operators and CATS frontline emplovees. This training will be given to current bus operators and added to new employee training program.
  • CATS has surveyed every bus to identity and fix any malfunctioning bus radios. CATS instituted new daily procedures for radio checks prior to morning pull-out. Any bus that has malfunctioning radio will be immediately swapped out for another bus.”

(WATCH BELOW: Commissioner, community members board CATS bus to address security issues)