RTA driver attacked in dispute with passenger about loud music

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CLEVELAND- An RTA bus driver is back on the job after he was attacked during a dispute with a passenger over loud music.  It’s the latest in a string of assaults against bus drivers.

RTA officials say around 2:45 p.m. Monday, one of its bus driver was assaulted by two males at East 105th Street and Superior Avenue in Cleveland.

"Earlier in the day, there was an incident with a passenger on a bus who had an altercation with the operator; they exchanged words because the passenger had loud music," said RTA spokeswoman Linda Krecic.

Krecic says that confrontation happened about an hour earlier at East 52nd Street and Superior.

"The operator called transit police and the passenger fled and said he was gonna come back with his uncle. He came back a couple hours later, boarded the bus and approached the operator and unfortunately hit him in the jaw," she said.

Both men ran from the scene.

Although most RTA buses are equipped with surveillance cameras, this bus was an older model that did not have one.

"We serve 200,000 customers a day. That's the size of the city of Akron, so for a city that size, you're going to have crime. It's unfortunate, you know. One operator assault is one way too many, but you're gonna have incidents; you're gonna have crime," Krecic said.

Monday's incident is the most recent in several attacks on RTA drivers.  In November, four teenagers were arrested for hitting a driver with a sock filled with rocks.  In June, a passenger robbed a driver at gunpoint.  In September of 2012, a passenger spit on a driver during an argument. He retaliated by punching the female passenger; he was later fired.

"We did look at the possibility of an enclosure for the operator and we tested it. We did a survey and the operators decided not to have that. They didn't like being separated from the passengers; they didn't like being closed in," said Krecic.

Most RTA passengers we spoke to say they feel safe while riding the bus.

"I have been on there when people have acted up and the bus driver has asked them to cut the music down or either let people sit down, but so far I feel safe," said passenger Wilma Holiday.

"I keep aware of my surroundings. I'm always alert and I watch out for what type of people get on the bus," said rider Brittney Ashby.

"Even though I'm in a car right now, I still ride the bus downtown, but the streets are not safe; the bus is not safe," said RTA passenger Vernon Grayson.