AUSTIN (KXAN) — Capital Metro bus riders said they are concerned for their own safety after three bus drivers were assaulted over the weekend. One was hospitalized.
It’s still unclear what led up to the attacks, but CapMetro passengers told KXAN conflicts happen fairly often, and it’s prompting some of them to rethink how often they ride the bus.
“[Bus drivers] got a hard job. Dealing with people all day, long days,” said Dustin Martin, who KXAN caught up with at the downtown bus station.
“I’m not trying to get a black eye from somebody that’s ranting and raving angry and will hit anybody,” said Julie, who also lives in Austin. She rides the bus most mornings to get to work downtown and said she’s constantly uncomfortable with different interactions she sees frequently.
“This is why I don’t ride the bus,” joked Toni Hayes, who lives in Austin. In reality, Hayes rides the bus several times a week to get to his job in Central Austin.
The riders KXAN spoke to are shocked to hear three different drivers were attacked, but not necessarily surprised.
“Sometimes the bus drivers aren’t super polite either,” Martin said. “I’ve seen them miss stops or someone is 12 feet away from the bus stop and them not stop for them because they are too far away.”
CapMetro officials said three attacks in one weekend is highly unusual. The transportation company typically averages one per month. There were no assaults reported in the months of May and June, according to a CapMetro spokesperson.
“Everyone has a right to a safe ride. The safety of everyone—our drivers, customers and the community—is always our top priority. We take each of these incidents seriously and we encourage everyone: if you see something, say something.”Mariette Hummel, Capital Metro
CapMetro drivers have strict orders to follow if they get assaulted, including calling for help once the situation is safe. But there won’t necessarily be changes made following this weekend’s attacks.
After reviewing the three incidents, CapMetro officials called these attacks random and completely unrelated to each other. Further action from management would only occur if the incidents were sparked by their own protocols.
Nevertheless, the riders KXAN spoke to said each time a fight breaks out, it makes them a little more weary to hop on the next route.
Despite Monday’s heat, Hayes decided to walk home, a route that takes around 20 minutes by foot.
“They have cameras in effect for this reason, and I don’t feel like that’s enough. Safety is still an issue,” Hayes said.
CapMetro officials said there are ways that passengers can help if they witness an assault take place. First, call 911 and alert the authorities. But then also, make sure you stay at the scene so you can answer officers’ questions.
Passenger Safety on CapMetro
If you are on the MetroRail, there’s an intercom you can use to reach the train engineer in case of an emergency or to report suspicious activity.
There are cameras rolling constantly on buses, trains and at stops.
And to make sure riders follow the rules, Cap Metro has its own police force. About 160 off-duty Austin Police officers serve as part-time Cap Metro Employees. This makes the company the largest employer of off-duty police officers in the Austin-Metro area.
The newest addition to security is the Operations Control Center which opened back in March. It’s a central point of communication. Employees can follow transit routes, view surveillance cameras and watch for incidents in real time.