The Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) is demoing a new security measure meant to keep drivers and passengers safe.
The agency will introduce bus shields, or a sliding glass window that puts a partial barrier between drivers and passengers, for a trial period beginning next week, the agency announced Tuesday at its Airways Transit Center.
Gary Rosenfeld, CEO of MATA said bus shields, having been in the transit industry for a while, are not a new concept. MATA is exploring installing them now after the recent request by a group of bus drivers.
Compared to other transit agencies across the country, Rosenfeld said “relatively speaking,” MATA has not seen a high number of incidents.
“We’re always concerned about passenger and employee safety aboard our buses,” Rosenfeld said. “That’s our number one priority at all times. We recognize that incidents do occur from time to time. There has been no real uptick in incidents, but, nonetheless, we recognize that there are incidents we need to take affirmative action to try and deal with them.”
The idea of the shield is to deter passengers from physically interfering with the bus operator. At roughly $5,000 a piece, Rosenfeld said the shields are a “tremendous capital investment,” but that MATA is “willing to invest in safety.”
“If we can be proactive in this situation, that’s great,” he said. “If it demonstrates that it prevents something bad from happening, even better. So it’s just a matter of working hand in hand with out bus drivers.”
For now just two of MATA’s buses will be equipped with shields during the demonstration period as MATA determines whether or not they are effective.
The demonstration period will continue “as long as it takes,” Rosenfeld said. This will give MATA time to collect data on the number and severity of incidents involving drivers when a shield is in place in order to make an “informed decision” on whether or not to add them to each of MATA’s approximate 120 fixed-route buses.