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'Help me, help me': Metro bus driver stabbed, reviving fears about safety

Rachel Uranga, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — A video circulating on social media captured the moments a bus driver was stabbed Saturday night by a passenger in Willowbrook as other passengers watched.

The driver survived and is recovering at home, but the incident heightens concern about the safety of Metro's bus drivers and passengers. The attack came less 24 hours after an argument among passengers resulted in the stabbing of a 70-year-old man on a bus in Silver Lake and less than a month after another man hijacked and crashed a bus in downtown Los Angeles.

Metro's head of security, who was recently fired after filing a complaint to the agency's inspector general, says that law enforcement isn't doing enough to prosecute those responsible for such crimes, and the local union representing drivers said they are worried about their members' safety.

"It has got to stop, it has got to stop," said John Ellis, who represents six union locals that account for 5,000 bus and rail operators working at Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. "There are people that are afraid to go to work."

Ellis has been working with Metro to produce a fully encased protective barrier that could prevent attacks such as this one, but he says the process has taken too long.

"There's a lot of red tape and some of that can be eliminated," he said.


As Metro ridership has gone up, so too has the number of assaults on its bus and train operators — 168 in 2023, a slight increase from the previous year. The assaults included being spat on and being stabbed.

The figures underscore a stark national trend. Assaults on transit workers have tripled over the last 15 years, according to research from the Urban Institute, making it more difficult for public agencies to recruit and retain their workers.

"It's devastating," said Lindiwe Rennert, a senior researcher associate at the think tank. "To go into a work environment where you are fearful for your well-being. No one should have to deal with that, especially someone who is a public servant."

Rennert reviewed federal data between 2008 and 2022 and found the number of assaults resulting in deaths or medical transport rose to 492 from 168 nationwide.


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