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CATS drivers hoping to get powerful ally in an effort to explain safety concerns

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake rode on a CATS bus Thursday afternoon to see, first hand, what operators and passengers experience.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — CATS bus drivers may soon have an important ally who can also explain their safety concerns to elected officials. 

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Vilma Leake will ride on a CATS bus Thursday afternoon to get a firsthand view of what transit operators and passengers experience. 

Leake jumped on board a CATS bus around 4:30 p.m. at the stop in front of the Amtrak station on North Tryon Street, just outside of Uptown. Her trip took her through a route in the University City area and ended at the same location she started.

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Operators said the ride-along was important because they have complained about safety on buses, for years, even before the road rage shooting death of Ethan Rivera last month. But their concerns have grown since that incident.

According to CATS, there have been 57 assaults on operators since 2017, including two shootings. 

RELATED: 'We ain't get no respect' | CATS drivers protest at Charlotte City Council meeting

The transit system said that all buses have cameras and GPS tracking and drivers barriers. But drivers say this isn’t enough. They want the barriers to be bulletproof and want security on buses, especially those routes that run at night. They also want emergency panic buttons on each bus and working phones in the case of an emergency.

They’ve taken these demands to city and county leaders and now have one who they say is willing to do more than just listen.

Contact Richard DeVayne at rdevayne@wcnc.com and follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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