• CATS begins pilot program to protect bus drivers from assaults

    By: Paul Boyd

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - CATS officials said they surveyed bus drivers about which type of barrier to use to enclose the driving area of a bus for safety reasons.  

    The drivers were asked if they liked any of the three types of barriers.

    A CATS bus driver was brutally attacked earlier this week while driving her route.

    "The guy got on the bus, and without saying a word, without paying a fare, just punched her right in the face -- broke her nose -- walked right off," former CATS bus driver James Coyer said.

    Coyer said assaults on the city buses need to stop.

    "I don't have any fear of retaliation,” Coyer said. “They can't fire me, because I no longer work there." 

    [9 investigates attacks on CATS bus drivers]

    Channel 9 has been investigating the problem for years.

    There are posters warning bus drivers of possible assaults in the transit system.

    "Those are actually posted at the CATS facilities,” Coyer said.

    CATS officials said operator assaults are an issue faced industrywide, not just in Charlotte.

    There are safety programs in place to protect their workforce, CATS officials said.

    The majority of the drivers who responded to the barrier survey were in favor of some type of barrier, but a pilot program was not implemented at that time. 

    Some Charlotte bus drivers are pushing for protective shields to be installed on city buses.

    "Everyone that I've ever spoken to about those shields, they all say that we need to have them," Coyer said.

    He said there was a concern the shields would not show Southern hospitality.

    "There's no Southern hospitality on those buses when you have that kind of violence and abuse on the regular," Coyer said.

    CATS is moving forward with a pilot program that installs the barriers on some of its fleet, so operators can give their opinion based on actual usage of the barrier during their work. 

    CATS issued the following statement: 

    CATS takes the safety of its operators seriously.  We have taken several measures to safeguard our employees. 

    • Uniformed officers often ride buses and trains to conduct well-checks. Undercover/plain-clothes police officers also ride the system.
    • There are cameras on every CATS and LYNX vehicle, at LYNX stations and at all CATS facilities.
    • CATS worked to increase the penalty of an assault on a public transit operator when the operator is discharging or attempting to discharge his/her duties to a Class A1 misdemeanor.
    • CATS has implemented an exclusion policy. It allows the organization to exclude anyone who commits a crime against an operator or engages in any other crimes on CATS property or against a CATS employee, passenger, contractor, etc.

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