The CTA says it will put protective barriers on its buses to separate drivers from passengers who may try to attack them. CTA drivers have long complained about the dangers of driving a bus, particularly in areas outside of the Loop where police officers are less likely to ride buses in plainclothes or uniform.
A recent attack on a driver on the No. 12 Roosevelt route highlights the problem.
CTA bus driver Mario Jones was watching customers board his bus on the No. 12 Roosevelt route. Next thing he knew, he was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head from behind.
The Chicago Transit Authority said Jones was attacked by a passenger on the bus, causing him to lose control of the vehicle and crash it into a fence at Roosevelt and Kolmar.
Six people were injured in the Oct. 7 crash, including Jones, who had to get 20 stitches in his face.
His assailant is still at large, Chicago Police said.
Jones, who has been a CTA driver for 11 months, said he's "had a lot of nightmares" since the incident, and he's not sure he'll come back to the CTA.
"Now that I've had time to think about it, it was really scary," he said. "I feel fortunate that I'm still here."
The incident isn't the first to raise questions about safety for bus drivers.
Darrell Jefferson, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 241, said at least two other drivers have been assaulted by CTA riders in the past month.
'You have to pay'
Some bus drivers have said they don't feel safe because there aren't enough police officers patrolling buses and there aren't any barriers separating drivers from passengers who may try to harm them.
Acknowledging drivers' concerns, CTA President Ron Huberman said Thursday that the CTA will retrofit its existing bus fleet with partial barriers and also has requested that new buses now on order are made with protective barriers.
According to Jones, his attacker boarded the empty bus while Jones was taking a restroom break at the end of a run. When Jones asked the man, who police said was in his 30s, for payment, the man tried to pay with an invalid fare card. Then he borrowed $2 from a passenger who got on after him.
Before he took his seat, the man allegedly told Jones, "If I have to pay, you have to pay."
But Jones said he "didn't think anything of it," because the man "never seemed like a threat." A few minutes later, "he just attacked me," Jones said.
"I hope this guy is gonna get caught -- and whatever punishment he deserves, he gets."