Metro passengers taken for a ride by impostor bus driver

By Rick Rojas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 11, 2010

Metro customers boarded a bus Friday afternoon as normal: paying their fares, swiping their SmarTrip cards and plopping down in their seats.

They were unaware, however, that the driver was an impostor.

William Jackson, a 19-year-old District resident, apparently fooled workers and passengers alike. Authorities said he wore a standard-issue Metro bus driver's uniform, made his way into the Bladensburg bus garage in Northeast and drove off, pretending to be a driver assigned to the B2 route, which goes from Bladensburg Road to Anacostia.

Four miles later, the bus crashed into a tree and several cars.

The driver initially fled. Jackson was later arrested and charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle and fleeing an accident, Capt. Ronald A. Pavlik Jr. of the Metro Transit Police Department said on Saturday.

"He simply had a fascination with buses," Pavlik said, recounting what Jackson allegedly told investigators.

Metro is initiating a "top-down review" of Metro's procedures, Pavlik said, to figure out how someone was able to take the bus.

The incident is a reminder of Metro's long list of safety problems, including bus drivers striking pedestrians, workers being hurt or killed, and the deadly Red Line crash a year ago.

The crash led to a scathing Federal Transit Administration audit of Metro that depicted its safety department as dysfunctional and reinforced criticism of its oversight agency, the Tri-State Oversight Committee, as lax.

In this case, Metro protocol requires that employees entering the bus facility show a form of identification to a security guard before they can proceed, Pavlik said. However, investigators believe that the impostor must have been "waved through" by the guard on duty when he arrived at the facility Friday afternoon, he said.

After passing security, the impostor boarded a bus, which didn't require a key to start, and left the station to drive the B2 route.

He had driven about four miles when he struck a tree at 4:15 p.m., near the intersection of 17th Street and Massachusetts Avenue SE, Metro said.

After the crash, authorities said, the passengers fled. Metro has been unable to identify them.

But the impostor continued driving until he was intercepted at 14th Street and Potomac Avenue SE by District police responding to a 911 call from a witness to the accident.

He ran from the bus. Police apprehended Jackson two blocks away at 16th Street and Potomac SE.

It appears that the impostor drove the B2 route from the facility on Bladensburg Road to a stop near the Potomac Avenue Metro station.

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