Just a few hours after I published my recent post about Safety, one of our bus operators was punched in the face, apparently over a question of the person's fare.
One of my brothers reports this assault happened when the operator informed a passenger who paid $3.00 for the $2.50 fare that we don't give change. Nor have we for decades. So instead of just eating the $0.50, this punk punched the operator, sitting in the driver seat and doing his/her job. We don't take credit cards, and the fare amounts are plainly posted on the bus next to the front door.
So, just as I thought, the district put out a statement on the assault which sounds good to the public, but makes union operators sigh and shake our heads.
"Our operators provide a vital service every day, getting riders where they need to go safely day in and day out. We ask riders and the public to treat our operators with kindness and respect," was the district's statement. You ask them? And when they say no, then what? Tap them on the fingers and give them a time out? These people need to be p-u-n-i-s-h-e-d, and severely. Jail time, and a meaningful exclusion from ever riding transit again is my idea of treating us with respect. There is no excuse for this increasingly violent behavior. It isn't acceptable for any reason.
What's it going to take before Portland and its transit agency get truly tough on crimes against transit workers? Must one of us die before they actually stand up behind their rhetoric and set some examples? I'm sorry, but lip service doesn't protect us from violence. Only action does, and I'm not talking about some cage around the operators; that's like a bandage on a scratch.
If the district wants to show that "Safety is a Core Value", it should ask the prosecuting attorney to push for a felony and full punishment. Maybe then the public will realize that punching one of our operators will result in serious consequences.