Violence on The Rapid: Who’s protecting you on the bus?

Posted at 12:00 AM, Feb 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-17 22:41:56-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Imagine yourself riding on a bus and someone points a gun at you and pulls the trigger. That's exactly what happened New Year's Eve two years ago on a Rapid bus.

As the city of Grand Rapids continues to grow, so does the use of public transit. Gun play and a history of violence onboard have changed safety measures, but are they really making us safer?

Threats of violence have brought forth bus drivers out of silence, informing us their safety concerns have been ignored and when faced with a life and death situation, they can be disciplined for breaking company protocol or even for calling the police.

Bus Driver's Union President, Richard Jackson, represents 300 employees working for the Rapid, and believes violence on the bus is a threat.

"I do know that Grand Rapids is changing," said Jackson.

He said there's an increase in ridership, which translates to an increased risk every time someone steps on a bus.

Fast Forward two years later, after four prolific acts of violence on a Rapid bus. Anonymous bus drivers feel their safety concerns are going unnoticed.

Jennifer Kalczuk, Spokesperson for The Rapid, said they're doing everything they can to equip their employees with the tools they need to be safe. One of those tools is an on-board emergency switch, which has not been pressed in the past two years.

Drivers we spoke to refused to go on camera for fear of losing their jobs, and said they're hesitant to touch the emergency button, or even call police. Saying they're fearful of getting in trouble for breaking protocol.

"We do want them to use their judgment but follow the procedure as best they can," said Kalczuk.

The protocol is something some believe is standing in the way of safety on a bus.

"Yeah there are some protocols out there but at the end of the day we’re concerned with people being safe and these people going back to their families," said Jackson.

The protocol asks drivers to call The Rapid's company dispatch during the event of an emergency. Then, police are contacted by The Rapid, a process drivers say can take far too long.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration was brought in after complaints were make about a year ago. The Rapid informs us there was no finding of safety concerns on their bus system.