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Last year, an MTA bus driver was violating the law and parking his full-size bus on North End Avenue in front of the Conrad Hotel because police around the corner on Vesey had blocked his normal spot to park and loiter for hours. The bus was turned off and not picking up passengers. He was avoiding work.
When I confronted him, telling him that he could not park there, he became labile and violent asking, “Who the hell are you?”, then began to leave the bus. I walked 50-feet away to an NYPD officer in a patrol car at Vesey Street and reported the driver.
I was amazed at how the bus driver approached us aggressively despite me standing by a police officer. He clearly thought that he was above the law because he was a city employee protected by a big union. To get out of his bus and basically want to fist fight was an egregious violation of MTA regulations, yet he suffered no repercussions.
In short, this bus driver was a nut who likely had perpetrated countless small crimes before over the years, but he was not a rogue outlier. Bus drivers have been getting away with possible murder for decades, literally.
Every year, hundreds of pedestrians are slaughtered on New York Streets in “man v car” or “man v bus” accidents, and the drivers are rarely criminally prosecuted. Nine people trying to cross the road were killed by MTA buses making turns in 2014.
But times are a-changin. Mayor de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan to improve street safety is leading to arrests of bus drivers involved in deadly pedestrian accidents, and the unions aint too happy.
The NYT reports, “But the arrest last week of a bus driver who struck a 15-year-old girl angered union officials, who sent a memo to members this week warning that bus drivers were under attack and were being treated like “criminals.”
The union, Transport Workers Union Local 100, says the arrest on Friday of the driver, Francisco DeJesus, a veteran with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was uncalled-for; it has supported a proposed amendment in the City Council to exclude bus drivers from the law. The union created a hashtag — #LetsBePerfect — for its 10,000 bus operators, protesting that the mayor’s policy, Vision Zero, unreasonably demanded perfection.
He was at least the third bus driver for the transportation authority arrested under the right-of-way law since it went into effect in August. The law makes failure to yield a misdemeanor if the driver kills or injures a pedestrian. Drivers can face fines of up to $250 or 30 days in jail.”.
Yes. You read that correctly. A bus driver can commit vehicular homicide and receive only a $250 fine, and this has the unions outraged.
The NYT article goes on, “In 2014, at least nine pedestrians were killed when transportation authority buses struck them, usually while the buses were turning. Transit groups keep a tally of the lives lost, among them Marisol Martinez, a 21-year-old nursing student from Brooklyn, and Julian Porres, an 88-year-old from the Bronx who died nearly a month after he was struck.”.