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Los Angeles bus drivers conduct unofficial strike as attacks on drivers continue

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(The Center Square) – Los Angeles Metro bus drivers staged an unofficial strike to protest poor safety conditions on public transit as staff face violent assaults from unruly passengers. Weekday ridership in the system is only at 80% of pre-pandemic levels despite expansions in service coverage and frequency while car registrations remain steady, suggesting riders who have car access but replaced some car trips with transit before the pandemic are deciding to remain in their cars instead.

LA Metro’s budget has increased significantly, from $6.6 billion in 2019, to $9.1 billion in 2024. Once accounting for inflation, LA Metro’s budget has increased 12%, going towards expanding its rail and bus lines, and decreasing the time between trains and buses during peak transit hours. However, despite notable service coverage and efficiency improvements, ridership is failing to recover as safety concerns continue to plague the beleaguered system.

Because LA Metro bus drivers are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, the sick-in, or calling in sick to impact service, by drivers is not a union-sanctioned effort. The one-day sick-in came after LA Metro agreed in late April to install full-length safety doors to protect drivers from violent passengers. Just days after the safety door announcement, a transient who refused to pay a bus fare violently attacked a bus driver in a video that went viral, highlighting the challenges faced by public transit drivers in the increasingly lawless city.

Prosecutors say the violence is a result of lack of criminal prosecution of violent individuals by the county’s lead prosecutor, District Attorney George Gascon.

“While these barriers may help delay or discourage attacks on bus drivers, the real issue is the rise of property and violent crime in Los Angeles County over the past four years,” said former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Nate Hochman, who is running against Gascon, to The Center Square. “George Gascon refuses to prosecute many crimes, and as a result criminals know that there won’t be consequences for their actions.”

When LA Metro stopped enforcing fares during the COVID-19 era, the system became a de-facto shelter for the county’s homeless and mentally ill, limiting utilization of a system that is the product of billions of dollars of growing public investment ahead of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.