SEATTLE — Every day, hundreds of thousands of people ride King County Metro buses. They are commuters who may be exploring other options after Monday morning’s shooting.
Consider the recent history of violent encounters aboard Metro buses. In April, two passengers were stabbed on a bus in Beacon Hill. Many others have been robbed and beaten, including a blind woman.
It’s not just riders who have been targets, but people waiting at bus shelters or in tunnels. In 2010, a teen was jumped by a group of girls, repeatedly kicked in the head while Metro security stood by and did nothing.
King County Executive Dow Constantine called Monday morning’s events an isolated incident, but riders say they want to see more security on board.
“It would make me feel safer knowing we have people on the bus to protect us in case anything happens, whether it’s a shooting, stabbing or anything,” said James Bunce.
There are currently 100 Metro and Sound Transit officers charged with protecting the commuting public, but is that enough?
“We use those resources to be on and around the coaches as much as possible and the bus zones and various transit centers focusing on where high-probability issues are occurring so we can intervene when best possible,” said Metro Chief of Police Dave Jutilla.
Drivers have also been victims. In 2010, a group of teens beat a Metro driver unconscious in Tukwila. That incident sparked the Amalgamated Transit Union to begin a pilot program to better protect their members. They installed 30 enclosures around drivers’ seats, but they eventually voted to do away with them.
“The executive board voted not to install the shields for a host of reasons, including glare, obstructions, and a change in the relationship with the operator and the passengers that we thought would cause more problems, not solve problems,” said the union’s president, Paul Bachtel.
Right now 40% of all Metro buses have security cameras on them. That is up from 25% in 2010.