The Working Families Party Says Bus Drivers Should Be Exempt From Vision Zero

March 19, 2015 | Liam Mathews

The Working Families Party, the left-wing pro-labor party that endorsed Bill de Blasio and Andrew Cuomo’s last campaigns, said in a memo Wednesday that the party supports a proposed City Council amendment that would exempt New York City bus drivers from Vision Zero legislation, the New York Post reports. Vision Zero, implemented by de Blasio’s administration in 2014, is attempting to improve traffic safety and eventually bring traffic fatalities down to zero annually. It has already reduced speed limits.

The memo begins by stating the party’s support for Vision Zero, but continues:

We are concerned that the Vision Zero legislation, as it now stands, puts more than 10,000 New York City bus operators in an impossible situation. On the one hand, MTA scheduling and route demands require the city’s drivers to navigate their buses through intersections teeming with pedestrians thousands of times each day, a circumstance which applies to no other large group of drivers. But despite these unique job requirements, even accidents that are unrelated to reckless driver behavior can lead to criminal charges for bus operators, including handcuffing, fingerprinting and arrest. In effect, this criminalizes the everyday work of these drivers.

This is ridiculous. In a post called “Working Families Party: Let’s Allow Bus Drivers to Run Over Working Families,” Streetsblog breaks it down: “the thrust of the WFP argument is that bus drivers have to run people over while on the job, and the rest of us just have to accept that.” According to Streetsblog, the Working Family Party is misreading a clause that allows emergency vehicles to enter crosswalks while pedestrians have the right away. Unless someone is bleeding to death or giving birth or there’s a Speed situation, a bus is not an emergency vehicle. Keeping buses on schedule is in no way more important than protecting people not getting run over by buses. Bus drivers, due to their increased responsibility of transporting people, which is truly a “unique job requirement,” should be held to an even higher standard of safety.

The amendment was proposed last month, after a 15-year-old girl was struck by an MTA bus in Williamsburg and the driver of the bus was arrested and charged with misdemeanor failure to yield. The bill’s sponsor, I. Daneek Miller, drove a bus for 19 years and is a former member of the Transit Workers Union Local 100. The TWU’s current president John Samuelson, who also supports the amendment, called the arrest “an absolute outrage.” Samuelson praised the WFP’s support for the amendment.

MTA bus drivers killed 9 pedestrians last year, 8 of which were due to drivers failing to yield, according to Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White.

An email to the Working Families Party asking if there is a financial or endorsement relationship between the party and the TWU has not been replied to as of press time.