Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I recently took the No. 42 bus home from work. As I boarded, I noticed the bus driver talking on a cell phone again. When we were at the Dupont Circle stop, many school kids got on, all with their food and drink, as usual.
A lady sitting across from me politely asked two girls who sat down near her to please put the food away, as she has food allergies, and it was illegal to eat on a bus anyway. They of course mouthed off to her and kept eating.
The lady then asked the bus driver to enforce the rules, but of course he didn't hear her because he was still on his cell phone. When she finally got his attention, he told her not to worry because they were kids.
She pointed out that she had allergies and it was against the law, the same as being on a cell phone while driving.
That did not sit well with the driver, and he called her an expletive and told her to deal with it.
I leaned forward to tell him the lady was right, and he turned on me and called me a troublemaker, also using an expletive.
The lady said she was going to report him, and he directed the f-word at her several more times. I handed her my card and told her that I would file a report also.
The bus driver then stopped in the middle of Connecticut Avenue and cussed both of us some more and ordered us off "his" bus. He used the f-word a few more times and really started to frighten people.
He then shouted at the lady that it was his expletive cell phone and that he expletive pays for it and that he will talk on it anytime he wants.
When people started to complain, he finally sat down and drove. He wouldn't stop slandering the lady, calling her a "fat expletive" several more times.
When I got to my stop and tried to exit, he said he wasn't going to expletive let me off.
I was becoming fearful for my life, as I have never had someone this crazy to deal with.
When I started to panic after being held against my will, I noticed a little glass case with a hammer like you would break in case of a fire. I figured this might alert someone, so I picked up the hammer and started to break the glass. Then he opened the door to let us out.
I have reported this to Metro, but I have done this before, and nothing is ever corrected.
I am a 61-year-old man, and the bus is my only way to get home.
I'm having trouble figuring out what is going on at Metro. Is it a systemwide collapse? Or just a series of unfortunate, isolated blunders, like losing millions in parking revenue (while increasing passenger fares); requiring plastic cards for parking, only to run out of them; and flooding a Red Line station while ignoring an alarm, to mention a few.
Certainly my Metro mail is rising. Customers are angry at unexplained delays (bus and rail), snap-shut rail doors and crowding, as well as at operators, station managers and Metro police who violate laws against eating and drinking on the system and on using a hand-held cell phone while driving.
Metro Chief Executive Richard A. White has acknowledged that the public is losing faith in Metro. This prompted Metro's first-ever town hall meeting last week. When someone raised the cell phone question, White said Metro operators obey laws against cell phone use. Many in the audience of 230 shouted, "Not true!" and "That's a lie!" according to Washington Post reporter Lyndsey Layton. And on Thursday, Metro announced an initiative to prioritize customer service.
Certainly the bus driver you encountered should not be operating a bus, Mr. Fleek. He violated a number of laws and Metro policies, not the least of which was stopping the bus in the middle of Connecticut Avenue to curse at passengers.
Here's what I'd do: Send a report, with the date, time, bus number, location, bus driver's name (if wearing a name tag) and any other details to Robert Smith, Metro Board Chairman, 600 Fifth St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001.
Smith could be our last hope.
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Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
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