In December, SMART-TD announced the members who will serve on the Bus and Transit Assault Prevention and Safety (BTAPS) Committee. This committee, which was voted on at the 2023 SMART Leadership Conference in Washington, DC, is being chaired by Christine Ivey, a member of SMART-TD Local 1785 who works as a bus operator for the Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines.

In addition to Sister Ivey, the members of the BTAPS Committee will be the following:

Bus members

  • Russ Gaillard, Local 1582, Adirondack Transit Lines, Albany, New York
  • Sandra Pineda, Local 1563, LACMTA, El Monte, California
  • Bruce Cheatham, Local 1594, SEPTA, Upper Darby, Pennsylvania
  • Pedro (Pete) Lara, Jr., Local 1563, LACMTA, El Monte, California

Transit/commuter members

  • Cole Czub, Local 898, KEOLIS, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Ernest Higgerson, Local 1525, Amtrak, Carbondale, Illinois
  • Joseph Williams, Local 800, New Jersey Transit, Newark, New Jersey

This committee will be focusing its efforts on lobbying at the state level and in Washington, DC, to promote bills that ensure the best demonstrated practices for transit worker safety and bring down the alarming rate of assaults on our brothers and sisters. BTAPS members will also be working with carriers, the Federal Transit Administration and other federal agencies to promote best practices to make our members safer on the job.

“I want to thank all our bus and transit members who volunteered to serve on this important committee. After careful consideration, we have chosen eight members that represent a geographically diverse cross section of our bus, transit and commuter service workforce,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “We are lucky to have many talented people in our union, and we look forward to the progress this BTAPS Committee will make. Under Christine Ivey’s leadership, I am sure they will make an immediate impact on the safety of our bus and transit rail members.”

The SMART Transportation Division has formed a new committee to address the growing problem of assaults on bus and transit operators. The Bus and Transit Assault Prevention and Safety committee (BTAPS), was founded at the recent SMART Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

The idea for the committee was raised by Christine Ivey, a legislative representative from Local 1785 out of Santa Monica, Calif. Ivey spoke during a TD breakout session about the need for a union-led effort to address the issue of assaults on bus and transit operators.

Legislative Representative Christine Ivey of Local 1785 (Santa Monica, Calif.) addresses TD leadership Aug. 2 at the SMART Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

“The gate is already open. The bull is coming out. We’ve already had drivers stabbed. We’ve had drivers shot. We’re still having drivers that are being assaulted and we’re still dragging our feet on creating laws that protect the drivers,” Ivey said from the floor of the leadership meeting. “My question is, ‘How do I get on a team that will propose a bill that will change the status quo?’ ”

SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson was impressed by Ivey’s presentation and called her up to the podium to address the entire crowd from the stage. When Ivey finished making her points about the need for SMART to consider developing a committee to address these concerns, Ferguson stepped to the mic and surprised everyone in the room, including Sister Ivey, with what came next.

President Ferguson called for a point of order and all eyes locked on him. He then said that in his opinion, what Sister Ivey had just said to the leadership of SMART-TD constituted a motion on the floor. Ferguson then called for a second on the motion to officially form the committee and immediately called for a voice vote. The motion passed unanimously, and with a spontaneous standing ovation, the Bus and Transit Assault Prevention and Safety Committee was founded.

Ferguson named Ivey chairperson of the committee with no objections. Ivey is a highly experienced union leader and advocate for bus and transit operators. She is well-respected by her peers and is known for her passion for safety.

The BTAPS committee will be tasked with developing and implementing strategies to reduce the number of assaults on bus and transit operators. The committee will also work to raise awareness of the issue and advocate for policies that will make bus and transit operators safer, including lobbying in Congress and state legislatures to urge that punishments for the crime of assault on a transit worker be heightened from a misdemeanor to a felony.

“This is a historic moment for the SMART-TD union,” said Ferguson. “We are committed to doing everything we can to protect our members from violence. The Bus and Transit Assault Prevention and Safety committee will be a powerful tool in our fight for safety. Christine Ivey is driven, intelligent, and determined to make this committee successful. I have full confidence that SMART will be proud of what this committee will achieve through Sister Ivey’s leadership.”

The committee will meet regularly and report its findings to the SMART-TD Board of Directors. The committee will also advocate for safety measures at the federal and state levels through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Ivey and Ferguson seek nominations for bus and transit members to serve on the committee. If you are willing to serve and would like to be considered for an appointment, please contact Chairperson Ivey at Chrissie.ivey.smtd.1785@gmail.com or Dan Banks in SMART-TD’s Cleveland office at (216) 227-5450 or by email at dbanks@smart-union.org.

The formation of the committee is a major step in the fight to protect bus and transit operators. The committee is well-positioned to make a real difference in the lives of SMART-TD members and make bus and transit a safer place for our members to work and passengers to ride alike.