ATU Local 757 is excited to announce a new partnership with OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Bus Riders Unite to develop a new Rider Advocate program, dedicated to improving safety on transit.
This partnership is innovative, but the idea of Rider Advocates is nothing new: TriMet partnered with community to put Rider Advocates on buses starting in 1994, through 2009 – the same year the program won the City of Portland’s Public Safety Partner Award. The Rider Advocates created what the City called “a safer environment for all who ride TriMet by using conflict resolution skills and de-escalation techniques.”
Rider Advocates serve as a highly-recognizable presence on key bus and MAX lines. They are trained in conflict-resolution practices and techniques to de-escalate tough situations. They assist riders in navigating the system. And they work in close partnership with bus & MAX operators, as well as Road Supervisors, to keep our system moving smoothly.
“The Rider Advocate program should have never been eliminated, and I’m looking forward to this new partnership with OPAL to bring it back,” said Shirley Block, President of ATU 757. “We need to improve safety and security on transit. Our operators are being punched, kicked, spit on, and verbally harassed every day. And no matter how hard we push TriMet to do something about it, they refuse to listen. The only path forward is to do it ourselves, and so that’s exactly what we plan to do.”
ATU’s Executive Board and membership have formally endorsed the new Rider Advocate program. ATU, OPAL, and allies will advocate for the new program at the next TriMet Board meeting; it will take place on Wednesday, March 28th, at 9:00am at the World Trade Center in downtown Portland.