HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) is gathering national safety experts and transit peers from across the country for the first statewide Transit Safety & Security Symposium.
Transit leaders are meeting to develop solutions to improve operator and customer safety on public transportation with topics ranging from Transit Worker Altercations to Hazard and Threat Identification and Analysis.
This comes just months after police say a passenger stabbed Thomas Dunn, a HART bus driver, to death on his route.
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"HART is proud to assemble national safety experts and our transit peers together to develop real-world safety and security solutions for our industry," said Benjamin Limmer, HART CEO. "We made a commitment to our employees, customers and community that we would be bring together our elected officials and transit industry leaders to to discuss innovative approaches to keeping the transit community safe and we are proud to deliver on that promise."
Arow Global will be providing a demonstration of the safety barrier that will soon be installed on HART buses.
"This is one of the worst attack zones right here around this area," said Mark Ricklefs, who works with the company. "It is a deterrent to help protect the driver from getting abused, verbally or with material.”
In recent months, HART has been assessing safety and security of bus drivers.
A Federal Transit Authority report found the number one cause of transit worker assaults is disputes over paying the fare. Other issues include routes in high-crime areas, waking a sleeping passenger, dealing with passengers who are intoxicated or have a mental illness, according to the findings.
Ricklefs says their phones have been ringing off the hook in Florida and all over the county for these types of shields.
"It’s not slowing down anytime soon," he said.
Transit leaders will also be looking at what solutions can be used to prevent attacks, such as cashless fare systems, left-side driver exit doors, better security cameras and lighting and more.
"It is a positive, did It come too late? Yes most definitely. But it is a step forward in ensuring that all of our members are coming to work safely and able to go back home to their kids, family, loved ones safely," said Tunishia Jordan, a HART bus operator. "We do what we do because we love it not because we have to.”
This also comes as HART launches a new campaign called Ride With Respect.