RTC may spend $4 million to modify bus fleet, hire security officers

The Regional Transportation Commission may spend as much as $4 million to modify its 400-bus fleet with safety enclosures and hire more security officers to protect drivers from assaults.

The commission’s board of directors is expected to consider staff recommendations at its June meeting.

Jerry Keating, assistant general manager of the commission staff, told board members Thursday that assaults on drivers are up 102 percent in the past five years nationwide, and there already have been 50 assaults on local bus drivers in the past six months.

Keating said assaults range from abusive language to spitting on drivers to physical confrontations. He said he was researching what other transit companies have done to address the problem and has met with 50 drivers with the commission’s contracted bus companies as well as with leaders from AlliedBarton, its security contractor.

The commission is looking at two types of driver enclosures, full-door and half-door clear acrylic glass barriers. Most Keolis Transit and MV Transportation drivers prefer the full-door enclosures, which come with either sliding or hinged doors.

Keating said the enclosures would cost about $720,000. Additional costs depend on how aggressively the board wants to address the problem because doing more would mean hiring more security officers. Keating suggested spending $2.3 million to $3.3 million for additional officers.

The commission has only enough security personnel to ride buses on 10 percent of routes — roughly 12 officers per shift on 345 buses on 39 routes.

Keating said most assaults stem from passenger misconduct and fare evasions. Some incidents escalate when alcohol, drugs or weapons are involved.

For passenger safety, drivers are instructed to stop the bus and call AlliedBarton’s roving patrols if no security officer is onboard. Drivers also call the Metropolitan Police Department, but response time depends on how busy police are with other calls.

Keating also recommends that AlliedBarton continue to have weekly security meetings with Keolis and MV drivers. The security company’s dispatch centers also will be moved to Keolis and MV operations centers to speed response.

Keating wouldn’t identify routes where assaults are most prevalent. He said the problem shifts to other routes when a greater security presence is established on problematic routes.

The commission on Thursday also unanimously approved its $905 million budget for the 2015 fiscal year. It anticipates collecting $172 million in sales and use tax revenue, $65 million in fuel taxes, another $50 million as a result of fuel tax indexing and $71 million in fare-box revenue.

Transit purchases planned in 2015 include $14.4 million for 25 fixed-route buses; $8 million for 80 natural gas paratransit vehicles; $5.6 million for a transit mobility center; and $4.1 million for bus shelters and safety enhancements.

The commission also will spend $5.5 million for ticket vending machines on the Strip.

Fare-box revenue is expected to increase by about $1 million in fiscal 2015 as a result of the new west-side Route 120, along Fort Apache Road and Buffalo Drive, that began operating in March.

Fuel tax revenue has come in at $65 million annually since 2010, but fuel-tax indexing is providing a revenue boost that is being dedicated to Southern Nevada road and highway projects.

Contact reporter Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow him on Twitter @RickVelotta.