There is new support for transit workers from some of Connecticut's representatives in Washington, D.C.
New federal legislation is aimed at better protecting transit workers from assault and other dangers on the job. NBC Connecticut Investigates has been looking into the issue of assaults on Connecticut bus drivers since last year.
Now cosponsoring the Transit Worker & Pedestrian Protection Act are U.S. Congressmen Joe Courtney (D-2nd District), Jim Himes (D-4th District) and John Larson (D-1st District).
"Assaults and other mistreatment of public transit workers is a growing issue, one that places increased risk on both the workers and other passengers, as well as bystanders who might be impacted by a distracted or injured driver," Himes said in a statement.
Surveillance video obtained by NBC Connecticut Investigates showed passengers spitting on bus drivers time after time. The videos also showed food and drinks being thrown at drivers and even a passenger punching a driver in the face.
Of 42 assaults reported between 2016 and 2018, only five had resulted in arrests or charges, according to CT Transit. The incidents were documented in reports filed with CT Transit by the drivers themselves.
If signed into law, it would for the first time require local agencies, such as CT Transit, to report assaults to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Currently, there is no requirement that each assault be included in the department's National Transit Database.
A representative from Rep. Larson's office said that the congressman is supportive of finding ways to protect workers because no one should feel unsafe in their workplace.
“Our transit workers serve our communities every day, and these protections are the least we can do to keep transit workers safe. Everyone should feel safe in their place of work,” Larson said.
Rep. Courtney said this the legislation is a smart way to reduce the safety risk for transit workers.
"The people who get us safely to and from work and home deserve our respect and protection. This bill is a step in that direction," said Rep. Himes.
The proposal would also require agencies to construct physical barriers around bus driver seats. CT Transit told NBC Connecticut Investigates last year that the bus company would be launching its own barrier pilot program. Last month, Cole Pouliot, general manager of CT Transit, said that only one bus has been equipped with a barrier so far.
H.R. 1139 has been referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.