BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — NFTA workers said they are worried about their safety amid the coronavirus pandemic. A union leader and workers said the precautions the NFTA has put in place are not enough, despite a 77% decrease in ridership. Five NFTA employees have tested positive for COVID 19.
“I get calls every day. I mean if I tell you I get hundreds and hundreds of calls a day that would be an understatement,” said Jeffrey Richardson, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1342. There are more than 1,000 members.
NFTA employees have turned to the union for help, saying they're working in risky conditions. Richardson described the conditions as hazardous.
“We had somebody, I'm going to say it nicely, use the bathroom on the bus the other day. We had some people vomiting on the bus. We had somebody threatened to spit or puke on the operator,” Richardson said.
“Help us. Basically, you have so much invested in us. You should be invested in the safety of the employees,” an anonymous NFTA worker said. “We don't know it they're a carrier or not.”
Workers are expressing concerns over joyriders, now that the NFTA has removed all fares. Joyriders are handled by the Transit Police on a case by case basis. The NFTA is only to be used for essential trips, yet are finding some are abusing the free ride.
The NFTA has taken numerous precautions, like providing PPE, having riders board from the back and creating a chain barrier to enforce social distancing between the driver and riders.
In cases where there are crowded routes, the NFTA has a bus follow the other for overflow.
“We are providing chaser buses to space people out and get people out to make sure there aren't too many people on one bus at a time,” said Helen Tederous, an NFTA spokesperson.
The union has three requests it would like to see the NFTA work with it on to make the buses safer.
- Move the chain that separates drivers and riders back behind the handicap seats.
- Mandate a 10 person capacity on each bus.
- Require every person to wear a mask.
“We are going to strongly encourage our riders to wear masks,” said Tederous. “We have seen other agencies limit the number of passengers and riders, so we will consider that. The chain is something we will look at too from an operational stand point.”
The union is also suggesting a form of essential rider pass similar to what Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April Baskin is requesting. The NFTA will be talking to both Baskin and the union about a pass in the future.