Avon cracks down on unruly bus passengers
AVON, Colo. ” The drunks on the bus don’t scare Emily Halls as much as they make her uncomfortable.
She’ll occasionally take the ECO bus from Avon to Vail to ski, have a good time with her friends, eat dinner, and take the bus back. Most people mind their own business. But on Friday and Saturday nights, she’s bound to see at least one obnoxious drunk who can make a 30-minute bus ride seem like an eternity.
“I’ve never seen anyone get violent, but I’ve had drunk tourists hit on me,” Halls said. “There’s just some gross, loud people riding. You just sort of accept that.”
Halls said she was glad to hear that Avon passed a new law making it a crime for anyone to hinder the operation of public transportation. The new law will allow police to charge anyone who disrupts bus service with a misdemeanor. The penality is a fine of up to $2,000 or up to a year in jail, said Police Chief Brian Kozak.
Colorado law already makes a weapon or an assault on a bus a felony, Kozak said. Avon’s new law is aimed at disorderly passengers, such as someone who is yelling or being verbally abusive.
While police officers can already charge troublesome passengers with crimes such as disorderly conduct, the new law reiterates how serious the town is about protecting its employees and passengers, Kozak said.
“They don’t have to put up with that disorderly and abusive behavior on buses,” Kozak said.
The recently passed law is part of a much bigger crackdown on bad behavior on buses.
On Feb. 26, an angry passenger attacked the driver of a Beaver Creek bus while the vehicle was traveling on U.S. Highway 6. The passenger slammed the driver’s head into the window, breaking the glass, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said.
After the assault, Avon increased security on town buses and the Beaver Creek bus system it operates between the parking lots on Highway 6 and Beaver Creek Village.
Undercover police officers have been hired to routinely ride town-operated bus routes. The town’s newest buses are equipped with video cameras, and surveillance systems are being added to older buses. Also, Avon police officers and Eagle County sheriff’s deputies are checking in on drivers at various bus stops ” just in case they need help removing an unruly passenger.
After officers step on a bus, people who are sort of “borderline” disorderly quiet down, Kozak said.
“I’m glad they’re not driving, it could be a heck of a lot worse, but if there’s a certain police presence on the bus, they’re more likely to calm down and keep their mouth shut, because it’s not a long ride,” said bus driver Jim Reiter.
Passengers who are uncooperative with drivers will be kicked off. If a driver feels a passenger will be a problem ” say they can barely get on the bus because they’re drunk or have an open bottle of alcohol ” they won’t be allowed to board.
Riders who are extremely intoxicated ” those who pass out or are incoherent ” will be taken to a detox facility, Kozak said.
ECOtransit, the countywide bus system in Eagle County, recently implemented a similar zero-tolerance policy on its buses. Vail also has a bus law similar to the one Avon just passed.
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