HONOLULU (KHON2) — There were two recent assaults onboard city buses. Both involved passengers who wouldn’t follow the rules meant to keep passengers and drivers safe.
There are concerns that more confrontations may be ahead as more people start to head outside.
The city says violence against bus drivers doesn’t happen often.
There was another incident on Monday night involving a passenger who spat on the bus driver after being told to social distance. The city says that person was also arrested.
But it was on Saturday when a bus driver traveling through the Ala Moana area was assaulted by a passenger.
The city says he wasn’t compliant when asked to put his mask back on.
“At that time the passenger became very angry and started yelling at the operator,” said Jon Nouchi, deputy director of Department of Transportation Services. “Then struck the operator with his crutches in the face.”
The union for bus drivers says it’s challenging to be tasked with driving safely and dealing with unruly passengers.
“We are basically told to inform the passengers as to what they need to do and what they shouldn’t be doing,” said Wayne Kaululaau, Teamsters Local 996 president. “But a lot of times passengers become irate they take it on the drivers by screaming or yelling or sometimes assaulting the operators.”
The city tells us some people may be growing a bit restless and are finding ridership is slightly increasing.
“We are worried as we get more people onboard the bus we are going to start to see more conflicts,” said Nouchi.
KHON2 was told the city is looking at using money from the CARES Act to place something like plexiglass barriers to protect drivers in response to the assaults and COVID-19.
But the demand is high.
They hope to have some type of barrier up by the end of the year.
“We have a demo unit coming our way,” Nouchi said. “We’re going to test for installation and for fit. The plexiglass barrier has become the hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes of the transit industry. Everybody is trying to now retro fit all of their buses with these.”
In the meantime Nouchi is asking for the public’s cooperation.
The city says violence against bus drivers is unacceptable and points out interfering with the operator of a public transit vehicle is a class C felony.