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