FoxCT Investigation: Thousands of complaints about CT Transit bus drivers

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HARTFORD--Thousands of people ride the bus every day in Connecticut, and many rely on the public service to get around.  But it's not always smooth travels.

Fox CT found thousands of complaints filed by riders against CT Transit drivers accusing them of rude behavior and reckless driving.

CT Transit is the organization that operates the state's public buses. It's run by the Connecticut Department of Transportation and is funded by tax dollars.

Riders say the fares keep going up, but say the service is headed in the other direction.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, CT Transit provided Fox CT with copies of all complaints filed between May 2014 and July 15 2014. More than 1000 complaints were filed by riders during that time.

These included complaints alleging one driver was "operating like a kamikaze pilot," complaints of drivers blasting through red lights, speeding, telling passengers to "shut the f*** up" and multiple complaints of drivers giving people "the finger."

"Some of them are rude, man," says Calvin Garrett. He told Fox CT he rides the bus every single day to get to work and for personal trips and pays for the monthly bus pass.

A woman named Laurie from Enfield, who declined to share her last name, didn't hesitate to share her frustration. "Some of them can be very rude and crude," she says.

Nearly every rider Fox CT surveyed on the streets said they've had problems with CT Transit drivers.

"There's just no kind of politeness," says Wallace Rosser. "Drivers are very rude."

Over and over, different riders allege drivers swearing and giving riders the finger; speeding and violating traffic laws; showing up way too early or way too late at bus stops; or skipping bus stops altogether, leaving passengers stranded.

To be clear, not all of the complaints are confirmed as true. CT Transit wasn't able to provide any data indicating which complaints are valid.

Fox CT combed through all 1000 complaints we received through the FOIA reuqest, one by one, and found:

  • 206 complaints of "rude" drivers
  • 139 complaints of "late" drivers
  • 128 complaints of "unsafe" or dangerous driving
  • 211 complaints of "pass bys"

In one complaint from Stamford, confirmed by CT Transit as true, video evidence showed a bus driver "berating the customer" and stomping hard on the gas pedal, causing the passenger to fall down and get hurt.

When Fox CT spoke to Rochelle Ricketts, a CT Transit rider, and told her there were 4000 complaints filed last year, she said, "I believe that. I've complained numerous times. I do believe that. I feel like they should definitely be extending some kind of penalties to the bus drivers."

Fox CT decided to take a ride behind a bus, hooking a GoPro camera up to our dashboard and following a bus from Downtown Hartford to Windsor. In less than 15 minutes the bus blew through two red lights. It's just one example, but allegations like that show up in rider complaints again and again.

CT Transit Spokesman Philip Fry admits the numerous complaints of drivers swearing at and harassing riders are "alarming."

"No, we don't tolerate--knowingly tolerate--anything where we have drivers being rude to customers or swearing at customers," says Fry.

Fry adds there were a total of 4,177 complaints statewide during the 2013-2014 fiscal year. But he also said that in that same time period there were 26.7 million bus trips, meaning that less than .015 percent of rides were followed by a complaint.

However, many customers are regular and repeat riders, so the actual number of unique rides is likely less than 26.7 Million.

"We've got a lot of good drivers, but there are some people from time to time that--have to be reminded of what they need to do," says Fry.

CT Transit didn't provide Fox CT the numbers on how many drivers were disciplined or terminated during the last fiscal year.

"I've called and complained several times and, no one seems to care," says Ricketts.

But Fry insists that CT Transit does care. He brought Fox CT to the customer service center staffed with employees taking phone calls. That's where agents jot down callers' complaints by hand and try to determine if they're true.

Fry says every bus will eventually be equipped with a GPS unit so riders can track its location on a smartphone app in real time. He believes that awareness and accessibility will help reduce customer problems and complaints.

"So we'll be able to manage the whole system much better than we do today," says Fry.

But GPS is unlikely to change driver demeanor, and riders that Fox CT spoke with say they want the tax-payer funded CT Transit to take more action, steering drivers in the right direction.

"I don't mind paying because I do need it, but at the end of the day, if I'm going to pay for a higher price, I expect better customer service," says Ricketts.

To be clear, not every driver is receiving criticism. Fox CT did find some riders who wrote or called to praise CT Transit drivers for doing good work and being polite.

However, the bulk of the documents provided were complaints.

The number of complaints has hovered around the same amount the last three fiscal years.

Here's the breakdown:

FY 2014 (July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014)

  • 4177 complaints logged
  • Ridership of 27.6 million
  • .015 percent complaint factor

FY 2013 (July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013)

  • 3865 complaints logged
  • Ridership of 27.4 million
  • .014 percent complaint factor

FY 2012 (July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012)

  • 4032 complaints logged
  • Ridership of 27.5 million
  • .014 percent complaint factor

 

 

 

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23 comments

    • Dawn

      Actually, no you can’t. If I PAY you to provide a service then provide the service. These situations are not simply rude drivers, they are complaints of reckless driving, shutting doors on passengers limbs, allowing on board drinking, riders who are so heavily intoxicated they can’t even sit on the seats, allowing filthy language in front of children, not pulling the bus over when riders are unruly and violent. Not showing up per the schedule, NEVER EVER on time!! No enclosures for weather, elimination of bus stops just cause CT Transit feels like it, refusing to allow riders to exit the bus!! So no, you DON’T get to complain!!!!

      • szujus

        Dawn you have a lot going on in this post, some of which has nothing at all to do with the driver. Maybe you should try to look at things from a drivers perspective before you keep going into your rants. These drivers are doing a high stress job and they do it the best they can. Granted, some may not be as good as others but like the man said, “we are only human”. Give some credit where it is due, the drivers main focus is to transport you safely from point A to point B, secondary is all of the other stuff your complaining about. Think of all the distractions the driver endures in the course of a day while driving a 40ft bus…and then they have to deal with unruly passengers. Make everybody’s life easier, be at the bus stop 5 minutes BEFORE scheduled time, have your fare ready, sit down and be quiet. If everyone followed those steps we’d all have a nice peaceful ride. Without these drivers you’d pay for a taxi or drive yourself around. Be nice to a driver, they are doing you a favor!

    • Alexandra Nofi

      Here’s the deal: I don’t have the option not to take the bus. I have a disability that prevents me from driving. Bus drivers have the option to keep disorderly, drunk and intoxicated individuals off of the bus. So when a driver lets one of those passengers who cannot control themselves onto the bus, no, they cannot complain.

      • cgoe37

        drivers do not have an option to not allow “drunken” people on the bus. nor do they have the authority to remove someone from the bus. drivers cannot tell a customer they cannot board without a specific reason such as an open alcohol container. drivers are not baby sitters they are there to get you from point a to point b in a safe manner. if you have a problem with another passenger than it is up to you to tell them. the driver can only call the problem into the office at which point they decide whether or not to send someone to the bus to deal with the offensive passenger. however because most passengers are only on the bus for 10 to 15 minutes by the time someone does arrive at the bus the passenger is long gone and everyone else is going to be delayed another 15 minutes while the supervisor does their thing. so if you want the driver to react to every rude passenger expect a 15 minute bus ride to take about 2 hours. as a disabled person i am sure you are aware that others with disabilities are often misunderstood to be drunk or on drugs. just because someone has poor balance or slurred speech doesn’t mean they are drunk in fact many more times than not they actually have a disability so if the driver were to make a determination that the person cannot ride because they believe them to be intoxicated and the person is disabled the driver will lose their job. finally as a disabled person you DO have options for getting a ride places you just don’t feel like waiting for the dial a ride. the bus system is there for all people not just YOU. i ride the bus a lot along many routes. there are definitely some passengers looking for trouble with a driver, they do say rude things, they do waste everyone’s time searching for freaking pennies and holding the driver up by standing at the farebox for 5 minutes instead of being ready with their money and getting in and sitting down, Here is a thought instead of blaming the driver for being late put the blame where it belongs your fellow passengers. want to get where you are going on time without drama i will tell you what the drivers can’t. GET ON, BE READY, HOLD ON, SIT DOWN and most of all SHUT UP!!! there you go solve your own problem and stop blaming people who have a tough job to do.

    • Dawn

      NOT when you are paid to perform a service! Not when you are paid to drive a bus and stop when and where you are supposed to! Drivers who stop the bus to use the bathroom or even there have been times when the driver went for coffee or a meal!!!! YOU ARE BEING PAID!!!! GPS app, what a bunch of pointless crap!!!!!

      • szujus

        Dawn these drivers are on the bus NONSTOP anywhere from 6 to 12 hours at a time. They deserve to use a restroom and grab a drink or some food. Yes they are being paid but don’t you get a break at your job? They don’t so they have to take advantage of any situation they can without causing a delay in service, this is not always an easy task. Sorry if it may inconvenience you for 5 minutes.

  • Jaroslaw Pizunski

    First of all this story is written by Fox News, they always like to show that the hard working person is to blame for everything that is bad.
     
    Next how many of those complaints are proven to be true ,from experience half are just false accusations.
     
    1. Complaints about bus being late. Drivers have little  or no control over this. For example they are on unrealistic schedules. Traffic and  stops to use a restroom are things that are beyond driver control.
     
    2. Complaints about driver being rude to passengers. The Driver is said to be rude when he ask for correct fare or when he trys to enforce any of the rules that company wants him to enforce. He is simply acused of being rude when he’s doing his job
     

    3. Complaints about drivers speeding , going through the lights and reckless driving. Once again, unrealistic schedules and
    and record high ridership leave you with two choices either speed, or be late. All which will results in another compliant. By the way the company will encourage you to speed by saying that 5 miles over the speed limit its not a problem. Ask my general manager he will tell you, by the way he is from the same management company First Transit.
     
    4. Complaints about  passengers being passed by. As far as I know Connecticut transit have designated bus stops so if you are not at the bus stop you’ll be passed by.
     
    Of course some of those complaints are valid, we are all  just humans. Why is Fox News generalizing and saying that the drivers are rude, mean, and  bad people. I know many Connecticut transit drivers they are excellent drivers, who care about the community and they proud of the job that they are doing.
     
      

    • bus driver

      Got that right brother and they don’t even mention the drivers that are beat, harassed and threatened on a daily basis about conditions us bus drivers have no control over. Sixteen years driving in Hartford have proven this status quo is here to stay.

    • Dawn

      There are some drivers that I adore, who are wonderful. And then there are the ones who threaten and harass and are nasty and miserable! The point is, you are being paid to do a job. Do we expect you to do that job? Yes, we do! How very shocking!!! If the job is too tough for you, and you cant handle all that driving pressure, then quit and make room for someone who wants and needs to be where you are. Stop making everyone around you miserable!!! Orrr better yet, give me back my tax dollar that was spent to pay you!!

    • Alexandra Nofi

      When drivers enforce rules, a lot of the time they are very rude about it. I’ve witnessed many drivers yelling at passengers for their fare, and even refusing to let a passenger take a moment to get the fare out of their bag. I’ve seen drivers stop at bus stops and refuse to let passengers on simply because they believe that stop isn’t a stop, when it actually is. (Any telephone pole marked with a white painted band is a bus stop, btw).

      Drivers cannot control traffic, however, I take a bus at 7:30 am, and there are drivers who will show up for weeks straight on time at 7:30, and other drivers who will show up for weeks straight at 7:40 or later. There is no excuse, NONE, for reckless driving and speeding through lights. I’d rather be late than in an accident, and I’d bet most passengers feel the same way. These schedules are not unrealistic because I have seen plenty of drivers get from point A to point B in the time allotted to them.

      There are many times I’ve been passed by while standing at the bus stop. Recently, a bus driver tried to pass my mother and I, after being twelve minutes late no less, and we had waved to him to make sure he knew we were there. He then tried to blame the mail truck blocking his view of the stop, even though the mail truck was parked half a block away from the stop.

      So I’d say more than SOME of these complaints are valid.

  • Mark Kahansky

    The interesting thing about this story is the way it uses statistics to skew the point of the argument. Firstly, each ride is unique even if the rider isn’t. The ratio of complaints to rides is consistently low. The “ride along” reported two red light infractions. How far back behind the bus was the reporter’s car? Did the reporter have knowledge of what was going on inside the bus at the time? Does the reporter have any experience operating a 40 foot bus? There is no doubt there are “bad apple” operators. This happens in all walks of life. At the same time there are also bad passengers. That would make for an interesting follow up. The litmus test of good journalism is balance. This article is overloaded with negativity. The balance would be enumerating the positive comments from passengers. Then the story would be complete.

      • Daniel French

        Hey Dawn, You ought to quit your job and go to work for CT. Transit, they are hiring like crazy, I guarantee you wouldn,t last a week, you have no idea what this job is about, also your quit the job if you don,t like it is a worn out cliche for people that can,t respond with any degree of intelligence.

  • Daniel French

    Thats funny because I am a CT. Transit driver and I was behind a Fox crew yesterday the 21st of Nov. on Capitol Ave.at 11;28 it made a right onto Main st. where there is a NO TURN ON RIGHT SIGN,, had too laugh. Also I hope Fox will interview some drivers to see how the other half lives.

    • Alexandra Nofi

      I know exactly what your job is like. I know what types of people ride the bus. I also know that for your safety, as well as the safety of the passengers, who have the right to tell unruly, drunk, intoxicated passengers to get off, or refuse to let them on the bus. And before you try to say you aren’t allowed to do that, guess again, because one of the best drivers from CT Transit will refuse to let the regular trouble makers on her bus.

      I’d also like to point out that I have had to make complaints about 7 male drivers over the last seven years, and 1 complaint about a female driver.

  • Jim Bowden Sr.

    I worked for CT transit for one day. I am a professional School bus driver and I tried to get a better paying job and they were hiring in Waterbury. I went in and once I saw what they wanted you as a driver to do on a daily basis I said to myself no way could I do that everyday. They had a schedule that was way to hurried and required you to speed and break laws to be on time. I did not see any swearing or name calling by the training driver I had but that was only one day. They didn’t have a place for the drivers to use the bathroom or take any break during the entire shift. All it was is drive like a mad man and don’t be late. Don’t let people on without checking their ID out for discounts but you did not have time for that. Hell the people would still be getting off and you had to close the door and drive away as they stepped out. Very very unsafe to me.. I called dispatch up the next morning and said no thank you…

  • Maureen

    I had the worst experience this morning, bus driver snapped at me cause my ticket got stuck and I needed a transfer ticket. He then proceeded on the route stopping at every bus station as the route should, except the one station in Hartford, Sigourney station. He drove right through, I pulled the cord and got up and said I need to get off here, he said no. I told him you can’t keep me hostage on this bus, so he had to let me off in the middle of an intersection, only after everyone on the bus started yelling at him. I can’t believe our tax dollars pay to keep this service running and we have to put up with this disturbing behavior.

  • PRF

    I know this post is oldo but I got to say something that today I was on the bus as usual, going to work and I pulled the string for the bus to stop and it didn’t stop because or I didn’t pull the string well or it wasn’t working (second time I pull the string and it doesn’t work) things is I stood up and went to the bus driver and asked him to stop, and he completely ignored and pass my bus stop, stopping on bus stop from which I had to walk near the road risking my life, afraid of getting hit by a car, to go back to the bus stop that I was suppose to be in the first place. I’m just trying to over think myself by thinking he didn’t hear me, because if he did hear, that’s plain rude and mean to put a customers life in danger by making them walk on the side of the road where cars are coming and going just because you decide to ignore them.

  • Karen kurlowicz

    Why should I complain nothing is done because of it. So in the end I have to take the bus no matter if your day was good or not.