Feb 26, 2014 8:10 PM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham
TUCSON - For many people, riding the bus is not a choice - it's a necessity. But what's being done to make sure those buses are safe for riders, and for drivers?
The News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to find out what's happening on board Sun Tran buses that has some passengers, and even some drivers concerned.
What we uncovered were reports of unruly passengers, intimidation, and worse.
On-board surveillance video shows several fights on-board Sun Tran buses. As disturbing as it is, it only tells part of the story.
The News 4 Tucson Investigators also reviewed dozens of Tucson Police reports plus reports from the City of Tucson spanning the past two years. They document a range of crimes; both on-board Sun Tran buses, and at transit centers.
Crimes range from everything from bike thefts, to several reports of drunk and disorderly passengers. Other reports detail rocks thrown through windows. Another even details a woman who claimed she was going to "blow up the bus."
The reports also detail lots of fights. Those fights sometimes end up with innocent passengers caught in the middle. In one of those cases, a man even pulled a hatchet during a fight.
Despite a long list of incidents that happen on-board Sun Tran buses, the News 4 Tucson Investigators found that bus riders have mixed emotions as far as their safety on the bus.
Rider Keri Castro tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, "Honestly, I don't really feel that safe at all."
Castro depends on Sun Tran to take her to class at Pima Community College. For her, riding the bus is more of a necessity, than it is a choice.
In one recent incident, a man who had a gun on a bus left her shaken.
"I was just, sitting normal, and he starts saying crazy things about shootings, and killing babies and stuff like that. And, I'm just like panicking at that point," Castro says.
Though, other riders feel Sun Tran drivers do the best job they can of keeping things safe and calm, despite having a tough job.
"The bus drivers are sharp here. They know how to take care of things. And, they know how to take care of things before they happen. So, I feel safe," says rider Tony Black.
Still others have learned to just go along to get along, and try not to get involved in the turmoil. They say they try not to make eye contact with people.
In a statement to the News 4 Tucson Investigators, a Sun Tran spokesperson says:
"Sun Tran takes the safety of our passengers and employees very seriously. We have procedures in place to handle driver assault situations, and have worked with the state legislature to support bills benefiting driver safety. Sun Tran provides training to all new coach operators, as well as refresher training to further support operators on how to handle difficult situations when dealing with the public."
Despite that statement, some Sun Tran drivers say the city and their union are not doing enough to protect them. Those drivers want added security measures put in place.
If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at 955-4444.