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ATU: FTA’s General Directive Regarding Assaults on Transit Workers is Long Overdue and Needs to Quickly Lead to Meaningful Changes to Save Lives

Silver Spring, MD – Calling the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) General Directive on transit worker assault an encouraging first step, the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the largest union representing transit workers in the U.S., calls on the agency to do more to ensure the safety of transit workers and riders. This is the first-ever General Directive issued by the agency.

“Each day, hundreds of transit workers are assaulted on the job. ATU members have been shot, stabbed, and struck with canes, fire extinguishers, screwdrivers, hammers, and garbage cans. They have been attacked with pepper spray, burned with hot coffee, and doused in urine and spit. Bus drivers have been robbed for pocket change and operators are regularly sexually assaulted. This constitutes a regular day on the job in the transit industry,” says ATU International President John Costa. “We applaud the FTA for acknowledging for the first time that transit workers are facing hazards on a ‘national level.’ However, in order to keep operators safe, transit systems need to begin immediately the process of retrofitting all fixed route buses with quality floor-to-ceiling-to-windshield barriers to protect transit bus operators from continual vicious attacks.”

The FTA’s action comes in direct response to Costa’s January letter to Secretary Buttigieg, urging DOT to respond immediately to the nationwide transit worker assault crisis by directing FTA to issue a nationwide Directive.

While it did take nearly a year to respond to our appeal, and many transit workers have unfortunately been seriously injured or killed during this time period (list of driver assaults), ATU is glad that FTA is finally moving forward on this issue, even though the current action is nothing more than data collection.

FTA’s directive, requiring transit agencies to conduct a safety risk assessment related to assaults on transit workers and to identify safety risk mitigations or strategies to improve transit worker safety, using joint labor-management Safety Committees, is in large part already required by the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in 2021.

However, the FTA’s action is a welcome contrast to the Trump Administration, which in 2019 issued a notice in the Federal Register disgracefully stating that it was “not necessary” to take any further actions to address transit worker assaults.

“If the FTA needs to give transit agencies another sixty days to report that they have not done nearly enough to protect transit workers from assault in order to justify a strong rulemaking (required by the FAST Act eight years ago), we just hope that not one more transit worker loses their life during the next two months,” Costa continued.

“The ATU is grateful for the FTA’s step forward today,” said Costa. “However, in sixty days, it is time for the FTA to act.”