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CTA Bus Drivers Demand More Protection During Coronavirus Pandemic

CHICAGO (CBS) -- While the advice is to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic, not everyone has that option.

Some people still need to get to work, and that includes Chicago Transit Authority and Pace bus drivers. They are providing essential transportation for many.

As CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported Wednesday night, some of the drivers want more protection.

The CTA has provided the drivers with hand sanitizer and gloves, but the union representing them does not think that is enough – because drivers do not feel safe opening the doors to the buses.

CTA buses continue to roll throughout Chicago. Yet since the COVID-19 outbreak, the CTA reports its ridership is down overall 61 percent.

Yet the buses and their drivers keep on moving.

"When we pull up to bus stop, we don't know who or what we're picking up or if they have it or not," said Keith Hill, president of ATU Local 241.

Hill said drivers are downright fearful to come to work.

"Because if someone gets on the bus with it, they're subject to take it home and spread to their families," he said.

Hill believes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, his nearly 7,000 members who drive for both the CTA and Pace are more than just bus drivers.

"We're part of the first responders," Hill said. "We're the economic engine of this city."

And to keep the engine revving, Hill is asking the CTA to up its safety measures – beyond just providing plastic gloves and hand sanitizer and some buses with plastic shields.

"That shield offers a little protection but not enough," Hill said.

The union said the CTA must go a step further to practice what isn't happening on buses - "social distancing."

"Why don't they allow everyone to get on through the back door keep the driver free and clear and more people to wipe down the buses and clean them?" Hill said. "It's not just about the drivers. It's about people we pick up too."

The CTA told CBS 2 it continues to have a "rigorous cleaning regimen for buses, trains and stations."

It is also working with the union to accommodate employee concerns. In fact, signs are going up throughout the transit system telling passengers to promote social distancing.

But social distancing is hard, the union says, when more than 10 people get on at once. The drivers say they do not have the option to pass up anyone.

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