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TORRANCE : City Considers Funds for Bus Locater Safety System

January 13, 1994

Torrance bus drivers--who call some of their routes "combat zones"--say they need a better radio system for safety.

With a proposed satellite locater system, drivers could press a button in an emergency to activate a silent alarm and reveal their location--within 100 yards--to dispatchers in the Torrance Transportation office, said the department's operations manager, Dennis Thorne.

The City Council will consider Tuesday whether to spend $1.1 million from three federal grants on the locater, built by Westinghouse Electric Corp.

The system would connect all buses to sophisticated satellites operated by the Department of Defense, using technology employed by the Army during the Persian Gulf War, transit officials said.

A bus driver threatened by a passenger or injured in an accident could press the alarm, and the longitude, latitude and elevation of the bus would flash on a monitor.

Lemar Milner, of the local union that represents city bus drivers, said the tracking system would improve driver safety.

He especially fears his trips from Torrance into Long Beach gang territory. "It's what they call a combat zone," he said.

Union officials said six drivers have been assaulted by passengers in six years, but drivers say threats and attacks in which no one is seriously injured occur more frequently.

Driver Vollie Haskin fought off a passenger who tried to hit her and take a baby from another passenger in February. The assailant still tries to ride Haskin's bus and threatened her life in September, said the driver.

The new satellite system also could signal the bus' arrival and announce its destination for blind people waiting outside, a measure that would help the transit department comply with federal law, Thorne said.

It also would help the department keep track of the number of passengers and the number of times the buses run late.

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