MINNEAPOLIS - There could be a big change for Metro Transit bus drivers to improve their safety on the job.

The Metropolitan Council is expected to vote Wednesday on whether or not to buy hundreds of operator barriers. The barriers are essentially safety shields made of plexiglass, which many people say are key in keeping bus drivers safe on the job.

The council has already approved funding for 150 barriers, which are expected to be delivered in February of next year. If it approves the proposal of funding additional barriers Wednesday, the total would become 600 barriers.

Metro Transit had 909 buses in its fleet as of last year.

This safety measure comes after at least two physical attacks on Metro Transit drivers were caught on camera just days apart in April of this year.

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The price tag for the 450 new barriers would be $1,125,000. Funding would come from the 2019 Capital Budget.

One model of barriers on the table now would either partially shield the driver's area of the bus or be pinned back, leaving the area open. According to the council agenda, this model emerged as a favorite because it gives drivers a choice. It also says there is no known opposition to getting another round of barriers.

Metro Transit sent KARE 11 this statement:

"This is the next step in a process that has included feedback from ATU union members, Metro Transit management and others who care deeply about the safety of our operators. Our operators are dedicated to getting riders safely to and from work, school and dozens of other destinations. We all want to work to ensure that they have a safe working environment."

Ryan Timlin, president of the public transit union, ATU, also provided a statement, saying:

“The leadership of ATU 1005 is glad to hear the news of 2/3rds of the bus fleet will within the next year have barriers to protect our members. This is due to the membership mobilizing around our contract last year. We send a large thank you to the members who were on the committee that worked with management to finalize this project. This is a step in the right direction to reduce assaults on the drivers.”

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