RTA, City Meet to Discuss Driver Security

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CLEVELAND -- City Leaders held a meeting Wednesday with The Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation Authority to discuss safety concerns after recent incidents involving their bus drivers.

The RTA was in the hot seat before City Council, as the Public Safety Committee was briefed by Joseph Calabrese, CEO of the RTA.

"In the last five years, between 2006 and 2011, there have been 71 reported operator assaults," said Calabrese.

Calabrese briefed councilmembers on protocol for RTA bus drivers.

He also discussed RTA procedure for bus drivers when encountering unruly passengers.

This all comes after video went viral of Artis Hughes, an RTA bus driver, delivering an uppercut to a passenger he says, hit and spit on him first.

For more on the viral video incident, click here

"In the incident with Artis Hughes, the police were called. Two of our police, two of Beachwood police. By the time they got there, the situation had resolved. Neither one of them wanted to press charges. In that specific case, the only issue that arose was after the YouTube video hit the airwaves," said Calabrese.

But for some councilmembers, it is too little, too late.

"You don't let it go five years out and then you say it's a media issue.  You could see the trend and the numbers tell you that. 72 assaults is huge," said Councilman Kevin Conwell, chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

The RTA is not a city entity, but with at least three recent incidents involving bus drivers, city leaders are getting involved.

"All of us collectively have got to set a tone. You wanna act like a fool on that bus, you wanna be disruptive, you wanna turn it into a garbage can, a urinal?  You're off the bus! And we're gonna prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law," said Councilman Mike Polensek, vice chair of the Public Safety Committee.

The RTA say they are working on several measures, including an enclosure for bus drivers, as well as a text alert system that would allow people to anonymously send photos and video to Transit Police.

However, many councilmembers feel behavior is the route of the problem.

"It's sad in the city of Cleveland that I can pick up a paper and see a woman on the front page who drives around buses and has no regard for little kids and no regard for people. You wonder why stuff like this is happening," said Councilman Matt Zone, of Ward 15.

Councilman Zone is pushing for a public awareness campaign, making people aware of the consequences of striking a bus operator.

Councilman Jeff Johnson suggested video cameras on every RTA bus.