Metrobus drivers fear for their safety

WMATA is looking to make bus routes more efficient, like cutting service where few people ride and eliminating service where drivers say people are throwing rocks, bricks and bottles, making routes too dangerous.

“The operators are afraid to operate, especially in the evening,” says Carroll Thomas, a Metrobus driver.

When asked if Thomas is afraid he says, “Yes I am. I have a family. My goal is to get home at night.”

But more and more, Metrobus drivers fear they won't, unless something changes.

“I’m almost certain we have an issue every night. Some of those who throw rocks and bottles are the ones that have to ride the service the next day, which is sad,” says William Nolin, who also drives a Metrobus.

In an awareness campaign, the drivers’ union posted an image on YouTube. They claim the rider threw a baseball-sized rock. The driver had to get stitches.

The union supports WMATA’s proposal to eliminate certain stops after dark, like neighborhoods off Stanton Road in southeast where a sprawling abandoned apartment complex harbors trouble.

“On this very route, one operator hit in the head when rock came through window and had to be hospitalized,” says Phillip Stewart of WMATA.

But the people who would be cut off from service worry about their safety.

“It’s not a bad neighborhood,” says Kevin Richardson. “At some token you don’t want children walking home, especially after school events.”

The bus drivers understand those complaints, but they argue if they’re not safe on the bus, no one is.

“Safety is supposed to be our number one priority and they’re not living up to it.”

The drivers’ union is asking for WMATA police to patrol the most dangerous areas and ride the buses with them. Next week, WMATA will hold a series of public hearings so riders and drivers can voice their concerns.

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