By Wilson Walker

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — It happens hundreds of times a year: a San Francisco Muni driver getting assaulted by a passenger. It can be a verbal assault, spitting, or an actual physical attack.

In an effort to curb that violence against bus and train operators, the next stop for Muni drivers will be de-escalation training.

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“It will give our operators the ability talk down people who are getting too close to the operator, acting threatening towards an operator or a parking enforcement officer,” says SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.

The de-escalation emphasis is part of the agency’s new contract with its driver training provider, but it probably won’t look too much like the de-escalation tactics used by police.

Also, it does not mean that drivers will be expected to intervene in the passenger versus passenger altercations that often surface on social media.

The training will focus on how to manage angry Muni customers, and one kind in particular.

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“When we look at these assault numbers,” Rose explains, “what we see is that fare disputes is where we’re seeing most of the assaults.”

The drivers’ union, The Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, has asked for more driver protections and is in favor of the training. However, the union has also asked for more help from the San Francisco Police Department.

“We do have a Muni unit, and we have officers that ride the Muni buses and trains,” SFPD Chief Bill Scott told KPIX 5. “Not as many as we would like, but they’re out there.”

Drivers are also out there, every single day on every single route. The hope is that the new training will help drivers steer clear of the violence that often steps on to their bus or train.

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“Our operators have very difficult and demanding jobs,” says Rose. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at these initiatives, to ensure that we keep them safe.”