LA Metro warns of delays due to 'sick out' by bus drivers following recent assaults

ByTim Caputo and Staff KABC logo
Saturday, May 4, 2024
LA Metro warns of delays due to 'sick out' by drivers
The L.A. Metro is warning of delays due to its bus drivers staging a "sick out" Friday over safety concerns following several recent assaults on drivers.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Metro buses on 19 different lines throughout Los Angeles were delayed Friday as hundreds of bus drivers called out sick over safety concerns following several recent assaults on drivers.

The lines affected include Lines 2, 4, 18, 20, 40, 45, 53, 66, 70, 108, 110, 111, 206 and 720, Metro said on the social media platform X.

Metro was deploying its staff to mitigate the impact of this sudden staffing shortage.

In a statement, Metro also said bus drivers are "the lifeblood" of the organization and urged them to reconsider calling in sick.

"Bus operators are the face of Metro to more than 80% of Metro riders. They are the lifeblood of the Metro organization. We understand their and their families' fear in the face of the senseless assaults some have experienced primarily resulting from the twin crises of untreated mental illness and drug addiction. We share their frustration and have expedited the installation of barriers to keep them safe, as well as the re-deployment of safety and security personnel on board buses to deter assaults. At the same time, we are working on longer term plans, which include the addition of even more dedicated transit security bus riding teams," the statement said.

"However, transit riders throughout Los Angeles County depend on the Metro Bus and Rail network every day to reach critical destinations including work, school, and medical facilities, and to care for their friends and family members. We appeal to our operators to reconsider the impact their plan to call in sick will have on some of the most vulnerable people in the county," the statement continued. "Transit operators who intentionally plan to call in sick put our customers at risk. Further, it is a violation of Metro's Collective Bargaining Agreement, so we hope they will reconsider."

"I took my own choice, to call out and come out here and that's my own personal choice," said Metro bus driver Carlos Carballo.

Carballo is one of the 360 L.A. Metro bus drivers who aren't behind the wheel Friday, instead using a sick day in the hopes it draws attention to their safety concerns.

"They have to see the issues, like people bringing weapons on board," he said.

The last few months have been dangerous and violent for Metro bus drivers and passengers.

In March, a man hijacked a Metro bus with a BB gun, only to crash that bus into the front of the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

In April, a Metro bus driver was punched and stabbed by a passenger, and in a separate incident a passenger was stabbed and killed leaving a Metro train in Studio City.

Metro riders say they often take safety into their own hands.

Just last week, the Metro Board approved new, larger plexiglass barriers to protect drivers, but the bus operator's union doesn't think it's enough.

They've asked for armed security guards, and stiffer sentences for those who attack Metro drivers.

The coordinated sick calls caused an intentional short-term inconvenience in the hopes it'll lead to long term change.