NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In the wake of a sharp rise in assaults, Metropolitan Transportation Authority bus drivers say they’re under attack.
On Thursday, they gathered to send a message to riders and law enforcement, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported.READ MORE: Anti-Violence Advocates Rally In Harlem Following Death Of 10-Year-Old Boy On Saturday
“I’m just lucky to be alive, because I could be in a coma today or be in a morgue today,” bus driver Matthew Ashby said.
Ashby said no words were ever exchanged.
“I thought I was going to die,” Ashby said, when asked what was going through his mind as he was attacked.
MTA officials gathered with bus operators and representatives from the Transport Workers Union on Thursday to say enough is enough. According to officials, almost every week a bus driver is physically assaulted — and the number of incidents is on the rise.
Verbal attacks and getting spit on are even more common.
“And then guess what? If we retaliate, our job is on the line,” bus driver Chester Francis said.READ MORE: NYPD: 28-Year-Old Woman Shot To Death Outside Catering Hall In Cypress Hills, Brooklyn
Earlier this week, MTA officials said 140 new officers have been added to monitor the transit system. In all, 500 will be added by the end of the year, Cline-Thomas reported.
“We need to have more police checking in on buses, whether that means at a bus stop just saying hello to a bus operator, whether that means riding the bus down the line,” MTA Bus Acting President Craig Cipriano said.
Bus drivers told CBS2 the efforts need to go even further.
“We need the district attorney’s office to work with the NYPD, catch and prosecute,” said J.P. Patafio, VP of TWU Local 100’s TA Surface.
And they want stiffer penalties for the suspects.
“If you ask any bus operator here what’s the penalty when they get assaulted? None,” Patafio said.
In the meantime, bus drivers like Alan Brown are nursing major injuries after being attacked.
“As I was stepping down out of the partition, he grabbed my jacket. It was slippery and wet on the floor. He pulled me down, full force,” Brown said.MORE NEWS: CBS2 Weather Headlines: Clear, Cold Overnight; Slightly Warmer Monday; Bigger Boost Tuesday
He doesn’t know when or if he will be able to go back to work. He’s just hoping those responsible will be caught.