Bus riders violently refusing to wear masks or maintain safe distance are driving a surge in attacks on transit workers, The Post has learned.
Transit workers faced 515 attacks between April 15 and June 30, according to MTA stats — compared to 507 over the same period last year.
The one percent jump comes despite ridership drops of nearly 80 percent on subways and 50 percent on buses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Over one-fifth of the incidents stemmed from the MTA’s social distancing or face covering requirements; all but two of those attacks occurred on buses, the MTA said.
“It’s getting to be too much,” said Brooklyn driver Milton Goodman, 65, who had multiple run-ins with mask-resistant belligerents in a 24-hour span last week.
On Monday afternoon, Goodman said he asked a “big white guy” to put on a mask and was told “to shut up and drive the bus, n—a.” Early the next morning, he called the cops to remove another customer who verbally threatened him after being asked to put on a mask.
“I was so mad I was crying. I have underlying health conditions. I don’t think I should be moving you around without a mask,” Goodman said of the first incident.
“I didn’t keep my cool. I got in his face and told him to say it again — which he didn’t.”
Another driver, who asked to remain anonymous, said a raging rider demanded to board his B15 bus on July 12 without a mask, then proceeded to crack the windshield with a plastic Arizona bottle before trying to pry open the doors.
Police who arrived at the scene failed to apprehend the assailant, who the driver said was behaving “like a demon had taken over him.”
The driver said he is not bothered by customers who refuse to cover their faces, but that bus riders expect him to monitor compliance with both mask usage and safe social distancing — even though it’s not his job.
“My job is to drive that bus safe, and to go to work and get back home to my family safe,” he said.
“I am not MTA police. Who am I to get up and tell people, ‘There’s too much people on the bus, y’all need to leave’? All I’m going to hear is ‘drive the damn bus.’”
Bus drivers have long complained about dangerous interactions with customers. J.P. Patafio, who reps Brooklyn bus drivers for TWU Local 100, said the coronavirus and related concerns have added to the pressure.
“Bus operators are frontline workers, with the COVID-19 pandemic their jobs are even more dangerous,” Patafio said.
“Wearing a mask is mandatory on buses, asking to do so shouldn’t be a reason to get assaulted.”
More than 130 transit workers have died from the coronavirus.
In response to driver concerns about contracting the virus, transit officials temporarily eliminated bus fare collection and installed barricades around the front section of the bus. The fare-free, backdoor-only policy will end next month as the MTA installs plexiglass and vinyl barriers around the driver’s seats of its 4,800 local buses.
A recent survey by Local 100 found mask compliance as low as 35 or 40 percent on some routes, union president Tony Utano said.
Local 100 has called on city and MTA officials to dispatch cops to enforce COVID-19 rules on buses.
“Bus operators should not engage riders without masks, but there should be some enforcement. It makes zero sense to have a rule but not enforce it,” Utano said in a statement.
Interim Transit President Sarah Feinberg said masks are available at subway station kiosks.
“At this point, if you are physically capable of wearing a mask and yet you choose not to wear one when you are in the subway system or on a bus, you are showing just how little you respect your fellow New Yorkers,” Feinberg told The Post.
“Bus operators are responsible for safely and efficiently operating and maneuvering a bus through the city. They should not have to enforce the law as well.”
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