Just over a year after a passenger fatally stabbed B46 bus driver Edwin Thomas in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has installed its first bus partition in hopes of safeguarding its drivers. The half-inch-thick piece of plexiglass — covered in a non-glare coating — is already in use on the #5052 bus, which runs on B46 route.
As part of a pilot program, the agency has ordered 100 partitions to see how well they work on buses throughout the city. After Thomas was killed for refusing to give a transfer to a passenger who hadn't paid the fare, many called for increased security for bus drivers. At the time, NYC Transit president Howard Roberts promised "[t]he legacy of Edwin Thomas will be a more secure and safe environment for bus drivers in this city."
MTA NYC Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges told Gothamist it has been challenging to design a protective barrier that all drivers are comfortable with:
"It's difficult to come up with a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to this simply because our Bus Operators aren't one size. Each has to position the wheel, seat, mirrors to their preference, same is true for something like a partition. They all have to be comfortable with the environment the partition creates as they drive. Our overriding goal here is to provide both a safe and comfortable environment."
The new partitions don't entirely seal off drivers. Designers left an open space between the farebox and the windshield so drivers can access the Metrocard reader, but it's wide enough that "[a]n irate passenger hell-bent on harming a driver might not be deterred," according to the Daily News. Still, drivers seem to like it, even if it doesn't offer them total protection. "It gives us peace of mind, I guess," said driver Wayne Roberts, 40.