MATA testing barriers to protect bus drivers and passengers

WATCH: Test shields on MATA buses

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Starting Wednesday, MATA riders will notice something new on some buses. The public transportation provider has installed new test shields to protect drivers from assaults and keep other passengers safe.

FOX13 Investigates first told you about the unions push to get the devices installed last February.

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FOX13 reached out to other public transit authorities where these shields are in place.

The reaction was positive from at least one agency and one company that uses them. Bus drivers said they are needed on routes where passengers can act out.

MATA CEO Gary Rosenfield told FOX13, “It is not a barrier. It will keep the vast majority of objects that someone can throw at them away from the bus operator.”

Last February, FOX13 Investigates showed the bus surveillance video of drivers being assaulted.

According to MATA, eight incidents were reported over the last three years. In most of the cases, the drivers were not seriously injured but shaken.

The passengers were never in danger, but the bus drivers’ union warned if the operators are in danger, so are the passengers.

"This shield should provide them with an extra layer of safety and prevent the vast majority of those incidents," Rosenfield said.

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According to MATA, at least three other cities use this same type of shield including Greyhound Coach Fleet.

A spokesperson for Greyhound told FOX13 they have 230 in operation and the company has received positive comments from both drivers and customers.

The shields are also used by the Kansas City Transportation Authority. A spokesman told FOX13 "We currently have over 60 AROW Global barriers in our fleet of 200 buses. Our bus operators use these barriers daily. "

Rosenfield told FOX13 Memphis is hoping for similar results. "We will test it and see where the data takes us for the next several months," he said.

Expense is an issue. Each shield costs about $5,000 and MATA has 120 bus routes.

Rosenfield said, “We know it is a substantial capital investment for us in the future if we chose to go this route."

MATA will listen to comments from both its drivers and passenger before deciding if it wants to order more of the shields.

The test period will last for a couple of months.