Detroit bus drivers walk out, fear for their safety


May 23, 2007


Detroit bus drivers stage walkout over security concerns

Santiago Esparza / The Detroit News

DETROIT — City bus drivers this morning reported for work but have refused to drive their routes to protest what they call a lack of security on buses.

The protest has prompted city officials to cancel morning bus service today. Officials are advising riders to look for other ways to get about the city.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26 officials this morning could not say how many drivers are participating in the protest, but said it was most of them.

“This is not a strike,” said union executive board member Marchel Curtis. “Some of our operators want to bring attention to what they go through every day.”

The drivers reported to work at 3 a.m. and more than five hours later still had not hit the roads. They want the Detroit City Council today to vote on putting Wayne County sheriff’s deputies on buses for security. A three-year, $11.7 million federal grant is available to pay for the deputies.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration has worked for about a year to get the deputies on buses, mayoral spokesman James Canning said.

Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings has said it is not in her department’s budget to allocate police officers to buses. She prefers to have officers on streets. The department stopped assigning officers to buses in 2005.

The council earlier this month voted 5-4 against putting deputies on buses because of concerns over legal liability and that approval could pave the way to privatizing the bus system.

Voting to have sheriff’s deputies on the buses were council members Martha Reeves, Kwame Kenyatta, Barbara Rose Collins and Kenneth Cockrel. Voting against the plan were Monica Conyers, JoAnn Watson, Alberta Tinsley-Talabi, Sheila Cockrel and Brenda Jones.

“We are stuck in the middle,” Curtis said. The council votes on Wednesdays and could take up the matter today as an emergency item. Curtis said bus drivers are not looking to stay out until they get a favorable vote, but they are looking for help.

“People have been killed on buses,” he said. “There is no safety for us out there.”

Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams in a press release said the city is working to resolve the matter, which impacts how Detroit Public Schools students get to class.

“We do not agree with the tactics of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26, but we do understand their concern,” Adams said in the release. “We are encouraging all riders to find alternative means of transportation. Para-transit services that provide transportation for special needs riders will continue to operate.”

Ferndale resident Vicky Hooker said she is buying a bicycle later today so that she does not have to worry about rides. The 55-year-old child support worker takes a SMART bus from Ferndale downtown and then a city bus to her job in Detroit’s Corktown area.

Her supervisor picked her up from the bus stop at Michigan Avenue and Third Street about 8:30 a.m. this morning so she would not miss work.

“D-DOT (Detroit Department of Transportation) has lost my business,” Hooker said of the walkout. “I will keep taking the SMART bus here and then ride my bike the rest of the way to work. SMART buses have bike racks. Today I was lucky my supervisor could pick me up.”

You can reach Santiago Esparza at (313) 222-2127 or


~ by Keith A. Owens on May 23, 2007.

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