PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla — Pinellas County transit leaders were the first to lock down funding for protective barriers on all of their PSTA buses. This comes just weeks after police say a HART bus driver was killed by a passenger.
But months after that announcement, PSTA leaders confirmed that only two buses have barriers. Bus drivers in Pinellas say they’re even more on edge following a second attack on a HART bus driver that left the driver seriously injured in the hospital.
"It’s kind of stressful and nervous when you’re driving you know, anything can happen at any time,” said Marcus Kincade, a bus operator at PSTA.
He says many other drivers are worried, too, and wonder why the barriers that were promised back in June haven’t arrived yet.
"It’s our top priority, when this incident happened over in Tampa earlier this week, we called to see if we could expedite any faster,” said Brad Miller, PSTA CEO.
A press release from PSTA sent out on June 7 assured the barriers would take 4-6 weeks to manufacture. They were expected to arrive by August and be installed by the end of October.
As of Friday, only two buses have a shield.
Miller says the shields were never delivered even after they attempted to order them.
"I know they are our most important employees and we don’t want them to feel unsafe in anyway coming to work,” Miller said.
He also said they received a lot of input from drivers on the type of shield they wanted and believes that could have slowed down the process.
Miller says 50 shields are expected to arrive in December and another 25 in January. He said it will take a few weeks to install.
He says that process will continue until all 210 buses have the barriers.
Drivers have also been going through de-escalation training, which includes not arguing with someone over the $2.25 fare.
"Just push a button, if the fare is short just push a button and have a seat sir, or ma'am, and have it for us next time,” Kincade said.
Miller also urges drivers to call 911 or operations if they ever feel uneasy about a passenger.
"Never put yourself in harms way, if there’s any concern about anything, call," Miller said.