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Union Advising SEPTA Operators To Ignore Fare Beaters After Bus Driver Assaulted, Spit On

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Front-line SEPTA workers are fed up. They say their safety is at risk and they're no longer going after fare evaders.

Some workers say it's just not worth it and their union is backing them after a bus driver who was recently spat on was fired.

Fare evasion on SEPTA isn't exactly shocking news, but the Transit Workers Union is now advising front-line operators to just ignore fare beaters. They say it's a matter of safety.

SEPTA is down one operator after a recent altercation on one of their buses.

"This passenger walks up to the front, he begins to verbally assault and then physically assault the bus operator," TWU Local 234 President Brian Pollitt said.

Pollitt says this all stemmed from the operator following SEPTA's "check and request" protocol where a driver will request a passenger's payment if they notice they haven't paid.

"He dropped his mask down and spit on the bus operator," Pollitt said.

The driver retaliated and has since been fired.

"I'm asking my members to sit in that seat and if they refuse to pay, be quiet and let them ride because we have no protections," Pollitt said.

For some, like John Crowder, on a fixed income, he doesn't always have a fare.

"I'll ask the bus driver. Some people get on so disrespectful, it's ridiculous," Crowder said.

Passengers say it's normal to see disputes between commuters and operators.

"The bus driver did what he needed to do. He should get his job back," Talbert Hill-El said.

"I think he has a right to be upset. I think they both was in the wrong but it happens," Ellesha Shahid said.

A rep from SEPTA says they offer ongoing de-escalation training for operators and are very clear about moving on if someone refuses to pay.

"If someone becomes confrontational with a bus operator they can call their dispatcher to have police come out or a supervisor to come out," SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said.

The union president says this wasn't the first time someone spit in that operator's face, and that SEPTA used that against him.

Meanwhile, the agency says it's important for operators to record the fare evasion so SEPTA management can continue to track the number of daily offenses.

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