AFSCME Council 18

Daily Crisis of Safety Overshadows $180,000 Cost Savings for Albuquerque’s Transit System

photo P.J. Reynolds

Citizens Speak Out with ‘Claims of Safety’ as City and Labor Plan to Sit Down and Address Rise in Violent incidents directed at Bus Drivers


Invitation for PUBLIC Transit Passengers to TAKE ACTION (PDF 1MB), 
ABQ Ride should be SAFE!  

Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, Mayor Richard J. Berry announced an annual transit operational cost savings of about $180,000 to taxpayers. The press release says a drop of transit related calls to the 311 Citizen Call Center through the use a next generation technologies is responsible for the cost cutting.

The 24 hours following that announcement saw a passenger stabbed aboard an ABQ Ride bus, and a spontaneous informational picket by drivers calling to “alleviate the tension between passengers and drivers,” according to Will Gutierrez, ABQ Ride Motor Coach Operator.

Daily ABQ Rider, James Graham said “I ride the bus 500 times a year. I never feel safe coming down Central or San Mateo in the afternoon. The stuff drivers have to deal with is outrageous, especially the women drivers. [Aggressive] passengers are much more dangerous than they used to be, quick to anger, quick to agitate.”?
 
Drivers first raised concerns in a May ’13 report pointing out troublespots and suggesting safety improvements, That report was largely ignored by the transit department. More recently, AFSCME L624 Safety Committee Chair Designee, Elizabeth Maestes reached out to City leaders for a series of Labor Management meetings in October.

“We going to make a good faith effort to address the spike in violence aboard city busses and the chaos resulting from a freefall in APD & Transit Security personnel numbers,” said Maestes.

“Albuquerque lacks the woman or man power to quickly dispatch police or transit security when they’re needed to intervene in the potentially violent incident,” says Maestes. “Often it’s us bus drivers forced into the role of peace officer, and we’re not charged, trained, or armed for those duties.

Today (9/20/13) an AFSCME driver called dispatch requesting APD or Tranist Security remove an aggressive and threatening passenger from their bus." reported Maestes, "Dispatch flat old told our operator, 'We cannot do that at this time'. That's a violation of our standard operating procedure and a huge safety risk." Today (9/20/13) one of our drivers called dispatch requesting APD or Tranist Security remove an aggressive and threatening passenger from their bus. Dispatch flat old told our operator, 'we cannot do that at this time'. That's a violation of our standard operating procedure and a big problem." 

A working group of around 25 drivers have met over the past three weeks at the AFSCME Union Hall to drill down into the safety concerns, explore legislation hightening driver safety, and strategize next steps. After interviewing dozens of passengers, the union reached a decision to encourage the public to voice concerns to ABQ Ride directly through "Dial 311" and ABQ Ride social media pages. 

?Janice Morgan, another Daily ABQ Rider and Office Professional was blunt in her assesment of the state of safety on board ABQ Ride Busses.“Once I save for a car, I’ll never get on Albuquerque transit bus again in my life. The situation is utterly ridiculous, when passengers try to intervene in driver assault then we become the target of the aggression ourselves. I'm sad to say it, but until a wealthy passenger from the Westside or NE Heights is assaulted, they won't pay attention. They don't care about me because I'm not in the right economic class.”


 


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