PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. -- Three weeks after the death of HART operator Thomas Dunn, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority announced they’d fund the installation of driver barricades on all 210 buses it has in its fleet.
Union members at HART want something similar but no announcement has been made.
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HART says they continue to meet with union reps to hear their ideas and come up with the best type of glass enclosure for their drivers. They hope to make an announcement some time this week.
"We need this now, ASAP, yesterday, we needed this,” said Leon Smiley, the president of the bus union in Pinellas County.
He says the glass barricades they decided on will protect drivers by shielding their blind spots and give them extra time to call for help is someone tries to attack them on their bus.
“The next hour, the next minute, the next second. The longer you wait on getting these barricades in buses, it’s possible it could happen agai,” said Marcus Kincade, a union member secretary in Pinellas County.
Pinellas County bus union representative April Murphy says PSTA took nearly $1 million it already set aside for a project involving the Parkiside terminal to make it happen.
Kincade says union members from Hillsborough County came to their meeting last week to see what type of shields they’ve decided to go with. He hopes they report back to HART and use the recent momentum to make it happen right away.
"With my career, I’ve been with 24 years now this is like the first time I’ve ever seen that side of the bay come together to try to get something done,” Kincade said. He hopes that partnership will continue.
The barricades in Pinellas are slightly taller and will extend out farther than the prototype they experimented with recently to give the driver more protection.
They will cost anywhere between $4,000 to 5,000 each and it will take four to six weeks for the company to manufacture the barriers, and crews are expected to begin installation of the enclosures in August with all PSTA buses equipped with these safety improvements by the end of October.