The Pennsylvania Senate Transportation Committee has unanimously passed a piece of legislation aimed at increasing the safety of transit operators across the state.
Senate Bill 977, introduced by state senators Frank Farry, a Republican from Langhorne Borough, and Christine Tartaglione, a Democrat, would make it a felony to assault or interfere with bus and mass transit vehicle operators.
The proposed legislative came in response to an uptick in violence against transit operators, particularly noted since the onset of the pandemic.
Farry’s office said SEPTA operators have been especially vulnerable and faced an alarming rise in incidents ranging from gun violence and physical assaults to various forms of disruption.
Under the new bill, an act of interference with a transit operator will be considered a third-degree felony. The bill takes a firmer stance on aggravated assaults, classifying them as first-degree felonies.
The bill has been named in honor of Bernard Gribbin, a U.S. Army veteran and SEPTA bus operator who lost his life in an assault while on duty on October 26.
“Our hope is this legislation will not only help safeguard our transit operators so they can safely do their job, but protect passengers and other commuters on the roadway,” Farry said.
The legislation has garnered substantial support from transit agencies and employees.
Following its successful passage in the committee, Senate Bill 977 is now set to be presented to the full Senate for consideration.