Threatened by Bus Driver 9693

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Kordite
Participant
#

25 May 2010, approximately 4:45pm

Grant Street at Oliver Avenue

I was on my bike and stopped at the light when, in the rear view mirror mounted on my helmet, I saw a Port Authority bus approaching. I can’t say what it was about it but my subconscious indicated to me that I would be safer taking the whole lane rather than sticking close to the curb so, when the light changed, I proceeded through the intersection in the center of the lane.

The bus passed me at a high rate of speed and fairly close while straddling the centerline. I looked down at my speedometer and noted that I was traveling 17 miles per hour as the buss pulled in front of me, back into the right lane.

The bus was stopped at the light at Fourth Avenue when, now in the left lane because I would be turning left onto First Avenue after crossing the Boulevard of the Allies, I came up beside him. I looked at the driver to judge his manner before talking to him. Seeing me looking at him he glared back and, when I did not turn away, he leaned towards the window:

“Is there something you want to say to me?”

“Yes. You could have given me a little more space back there.”

“You could get off the fucking road!”

“I have every right to be on the road.”

I don’t recall exactly what he said after that but I do recall that he threw in another “fucking” for good measure.”

“I was traveling at the prevailing speed of traffic.”

I moved towards the front of the bus so that I could see the number there.

“Are you trying to block me?”

“No. I’m trying to see the bus number.”

“If you block me I will fucking run you over!”

I could see the number on his shirt and, realizing I would not be able to remember that, the bus number and the route identifier, decided to focus on the number that identified him specifically.

“9693. Is that your number?”

“Get the fuck out of my way! I’ll fucking run you over!”

“I’m just making sure I have your number right. 9693. Is that really your shirt?”

“Fuck you!”

“9693.”

I was moving back as the light turned because I was absolutely certain that he would, in fact, run me over given the opportunity”

“Fuck you!”

“9693.”

“Faggot!”

“9693.”

I proceeded across the Boulevard of the Allies while he turned right. I turned onto First Avenue, onto the sidewalk near the bike racks there and got off my bike. After a few minutes I was able to controll the shaking in my hands an legs enough to dial 911.

I informed the 911 operator of what had happened and was then connected to the Port Authority police. I informed them what had happened. While doing so, I heard someone laughing. I can’t be sure whether it was officer taking my statement or someone in the background, but it seemed related. I asked the officer if he thought something about what I was saying was funny. He said no but offered no explanation as to what the laughter was really about if not at my expense.

I was put on hold for quite a while before being put in touch with the Port Authority’s customer service. I explained yet again and received the institutionally required apology. (Service Report 10-09399)

Driver 9693 had passed me somewhat closely but not so closely as to have me fear for my safety. It was not terribly dangerous, merely inconsiderate and I thought, considering he was a professional driver in the service of public transportation, it was appropriate to inform him of this. I expected a weak, disinterested “sorry” or to be ignored altogether. If his window were closed I might have let it go rather than tap on the window to pursue the matter, leaving my rebuke as merely a dirty look.

But as soon as Driver 9693 opened his mouth I could tell he was aggressive, belligerent and that when he had passed me he wasn’t being merely inconsiderate but was being intentionally hostile. He was a threat to all other road users, bicyclists and cars, and was being a risk to the safety of his passengers. I was lucky he had given me as much room as he did. Then, when I dared to even look at him, he verbally and physically threatened me with a massive bus weighing over 20 tons.

This is in no way acceptable.


mustion
Participant
#

I usually, as a rule, give bus drivers the benefit of the doubt as a driver and bicyclist. I can’t imagine a more frustrating job than driving all day in an enormous bus through the horrible traffic in this city, so I sympathize with them.

That said… this guy is obviously too psychotic to handle such a vehicle and should be demoted to cleaning the seats at the end of the route if not locked up. I’m sorry you hand to endure such a hostile and embarrassing incident. I’m glad you and your bike came out unscathed. I hope that Port Authority will take action against that piece of shit.


edmonds59
Participant
#

While you’re thinking about it, do you have a physical description to back up the driver number? Age, hair, complexion, etc. It might help if anyone tries to question that you were able to get an accurate driver number from outside the bus.

Definitely post any follow up that PAT does, or if there is none.


quizbot
Participant
#

I’m wondering why incidents with drivers go to PAT cops. You’re on a city street, why can’t city cops take a report? Is there audio on the cameras on busses? What are the chances that PAT cops could be pressed into reviewing the footage?


edmonds59
Participant
#

Although, now that I think about it, it is a bus route, you could always just hang out at the same time and location tomorrow and verify the bus and route number then.

I know a city detective, if I remember I’ll try to subtly ask him quizbot’s question.


Nick D
Participant
#

If I were you i would contact the local media. Behavior like this is completely unacceptable.


rsprake
Participant
#

Email SBland@portauthority.org with your story.

I have emailed him about two incidents I have had with PAT drivers who were wreckless. Who knows, maybe it’s the same driver.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

Many if not most buses have almost-full-motion video cameras. Six frames per second, IIRC. Not sure about the audio quality. The one nearest the driver, pointed out the door (and hence useless, in this instance, in terms of video) would have picked up at least the audio of one side of the conversation.

Should you cause management to pursue an investigation, they will at the very least be able to verify how the driver handled the situation. What they do with that info, who knows.


steevo
Participant
#

Yeah it would be really hard to have (maybe) a high

school education, be backed by a union, make like

60k a year and be able to be offensive and dangerous

while not threatening your job security. Sounds like

a rough life.


cburch
Participant
#

more like 80-100k after overtime…


mustion
Participant
#

hmmm. good point…


erok
Keymaster
#

i’ve worked worse jobs for far less pay. never found the need to threaten anyone


dwillen
Participant
#

You could twitter this link to them too, @pghtransit

A couple of PR people respond to the tweets. I’d say drivers cussing out pedestrians and threatening to run them over for no good reason is a PR issue that should be dealt with.


Nick D
Participant
#

I don’t think the quality of the job or the inherited stress gives you the right to threaten someone’s life. I know air traffic controllers, pilots, surgeons, and OB-GYN’s who all have stressful jobs–if they acted like that they would be fired and sued.


Lyle
Participant
#

It’s not just offensive, it’s a crime. This stuff won’t stop until people start pressing charges.


surly jason
Participant
#

I think buses are consistently among the most dangerously & aggressively driven vehicles on our roads. I was rear-ended by a bus while sitting at a red light years ago. Since then, I’ve had numerous “close encounters” as a pedestrian trying to get across the street and as a cyclist who has nearly been run over or sideswiped by buses.

The other day I was heading toward Grant Street from Sixth & Smithfield when a bus sped through a red light (the light on Sixth was green in my favor) and the bus would have taken off my front wheel had I proceeded from a stop.

Calls to the port authority don’t seem to accomplish anything. I don’t know what I expect; I’ve asked the operators what happens and they tell me the complaint is sent to the manager at the garage the bus operates from. This doesn’t seem satisfactory when my life has been threatened by a careless (or reckless) “operator.” Most of the time I can’t get through to the hotline and give up.

Several weeks ago, I tried to report a bus going through a stop sign that would have hit me head-on had I not stopped. This occurred while I was traveling up Bryant Street in Highland Park. I was on hold for more than five minutes before giving up.


Kordite
Participant
#

Maybe I should start wearing my helmet cam all the time. It’s weight is a bit distracting on my helmet, though.


wojty
Participant
#

I just recently got into an argument with a bus driver…while on the bus. He had, in the course of my time on the bus, aggressively challenged three cyclists and I had had enough.

So as I got off the bus, I asked for his employee number, which he was naturally reluctant in giving and asked why. When I explained that I thought he was driving recklessly, he called me out on using a student ID and not paying for transit anyhow, so I have no room to criticize. (?) There was a brief exchange, and not any more negative than that, but definitely resistance.

Also, just tweeted a link to this @pghtransit. I agree PR is the best way to take care of incidents like this. I’ve had too many dead-end conversations with PAT police.


sloaps
Participant
#

Having PAT police has just the same positives and negatives as the college police: keeps embarrassing incidents away from public scrutiny, but allows for a greater familiarity with operations than the pittsburgh or state police may have.


Kordite
Participant
#

Just received a call from Brian Duce at the Port Authority confirming that I had called in a complaint and also seeing that I had blogged about it (I guess he saw wotjy’s tweet). He asked if I had the bus number or route and I said I didn’t I was focusing on remembering the one number that identified the driver specifically. He indicated that he world be faxing the information over to the Harmar and that I might be contacted later.


steevo
Participant
#

A bus driver saying that “you dont pay for transit” is insane. Google the lump sum that pitt pays PAT

so all students can have a bus pass. It is a HUGE

amount. It is not free, it is built into your ever

increasing student fees.

Im sorry, after riding around for like 18 years in

the area, I hate PAT. It is not unfounded, it is

just a build up of horrible horrible experiences.


Nick D
Participant
#

wotjty, why does it matter that you were riding using a student ID. Do you think the Port Authority lets students of certain universities ride as a gift to the school?

I doubt that driver (or 80% of Pittsburghers) would have a job if the universities weren’t here.


dwillen
Participant
#

Since I’m on some goofy grant here at Pitt, they report all my “fringe-benefits” on my paycheck as taxable income. The “Bus Pass” line reads $22.50. So if I understand that right, the university is paying PAT the equivalent of $22.50 for every employee (and student?) they issue an ID to, every month. When I was a standard, W-2 employee it didn’t show up as all, because I guess they just pay it and it isn’t taxable.

$270/yr doesn’t sound very free to me.


edmonds59
Participant
#

I would think the union would also want to address cases like this. As much good as unions have done historically, one jerk like this denigrates their whole cause. And if it comes down to it they would probably support this idiot. No common sense.


rsprake
Participant
#

The driver is just ignorant. Like steevo said, the bus pass is not free, it’s paid for with tuition. Let’s also not forget about the drink tax and all of the other ways PAT is funded.


Nick D
Participant
#

I think this is a common issue with public jobs. I think people forget where their salaries come from…..(cops)…..


rsprake
Participant
#

It’s the same stupid argument that cyclists don’t pay for the roads. That would be if the roads were paid for by the gas tax alone.


netviln
Participant
#

even then, many cyclists are multimodal. most prolly still own a car or have one in their household. So even they would pay the gas tax.


caitlin
Participant
#

Every instance that i have had with a bus driver i have reported the route and # to customer service and steve bland and have never heard back from anyone. I wish i had a record of all the times I called or emailed. Sad, because now I no longer take the bus. Id rather ride than support them.


rsprake
Participant
#

I followed up With Steve Bland on a year old email with a new complaint and received a follow up. Didn’t go passed the, I got it and will investigate it stage however.


Nick D
Participant
#

I think the best way to deal with these is to make them public– it forces the Port Authority to respond.

The local news would probably love a story about a bunch fo bus drivers threatening to run people down.


surly jason
Participant
#

Here’s an interesting article from January about a bus that struck a deputy sheriff. Anyone who spends an hour in downtown can observe the dangerous operation of the buses. I would like to see the post-gazette write a story about how complaints to the customer service line are handled; I wrote a letter to the pg but so far, no story.

Deputy struck by bus is OK; investigation continues

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Allegheny County sheriff’s office is investigating an incident Tuesday in which a sheriff’s deputy was struck by a Port Authority bus.

Sheriff William P. Mullen said the deputy had parked his car along the curb and partly in the bus lane in the 2400 block of Fifth Avenue near the Birmingham Bridge to serve a warrant at about 2 p.m. The bus approached and the driver sounded his horn.

Sheriff Mullen said the bus stopped briefly then lurched ahead, briefly pinning the deputy, Richard Manning, between the bus and his cruiser. The bus continued and two deputies gave pursuit using their lights and siren.

They stopped the bus a few blocks away. The driver, whom Sheriff Mullen declined to identify, has not been charged pending further investigation and consultation with the district attorney’s office.

Deputy Manning was taken to a hospital for X-rays and an MRI and advised to take a few days off to recover from minor injuries, the sheriff said.

Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie confirmed that there was an incident but would not elaborate.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our drivers and will not discuss any details out of respect for the investigation” by the sheriff’s office, he said. The operator passed standard drug and alcohol tests and was scheduled to return to work, he said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10007/1026500-100.stm#ixzz0p3MqxGWZ


JZ
Participant
#

I’m with Surly Jason. Port Authority bus drivers are consistently the worst drivers on the road. I routinely feel threatened by them. I gave up on calling to complain years ago- nothing ever happens, and usually the call only makes me feel more angry, because the person I’m talking to clearly doesn’t care.

Twice, I’ve tried talking directly to drivers at stop lights. (I’d try stop signs too, but they so rarely actually stop at them.) On both occasions, the drivers told me point blank that I didn’t belong on the road at all. On the second occasion, I was in the bike lane on Liberty Ave at the time of the incident.

My favorite maneuver is one that I see about once per week from the 86B on Penn Ave through the strip. The bus will come up behind me, then pass too close for safety on my left, then before the rear of the bus has even passed me, stop in front of me and open the doors, discharging passengers into my path. This happens when I’m slowing down for a red light. It’d be much safer and easier, and no slower, for the driver to simply proceed behind me to the light, stop there, and discharge the passengers.

I’m sure someone will tell me that I should call and complain, but why should I believe that will do any good? It sure didn’t the umpteen times that I did before.

I was really bummed when the alcohol tax was passed a while ago, not over the price of drinks, but because I was really hoping that PAT would go bankrupt and get out of my life forever.


wojty
Participant
#

JZ, as a frequenter of Penn Ave, I see this all the time. I have tried to communicate several times with the drivers, only a few have gone well.

@pghtransit tweeted back at me that they are looking into it, but who knows.

That said, do make sure if you witness the oh-so-rare good bus driver, remember them just as well. I’ve had a few 91A and a few 54C drivers in particular that I remember yielding, giving extra room, waving on, etc in the past. As best I can, I try to go to the comment form and send in a positive one. The system needs to realize they have a few good role models that show how it works.

My argument with the driver was about the fact that they DO get money from the whole thing. Granted, he did bring up the fact that it was after graduation and my ID expires in the fall. (I neglected to tell him that I had graduated a year earlier than that… my current employer pays PAT for passes as well, but they are a pain to get, so I figure I will use the easy way for now and PAT still gets there money)

It really is a shame that there is such a movement for car-free lifestyles, yet the two of the major players in these modes are not on the same page. Is this something that ACTC can help out with? Bike PGH?


steevo
Participant
#

My 2 favorite PAT moments:

As a messenger maybe 2006: I am going straight on

smithfield, bus is turning left. I proceed as I have

the right of way. Game of chicken ensues. Bus comes

within inches of hitting me while the driver looks

me in the eyes and mouths “f.. you”…. Me on

the bike, and him in his seat, we are at about eye

level, him about 6″ higher. awesome!

#2 Riding 837 towards becks run. Bus passes me too

closely. It has TONS of smoke pouring out the

rear. As soon as it gets around, I just crash. Oh

it was leaking TONS of oil. I get up quickly, not

wanting to die, and am covered in oil. I walk my

bike around the corner (where pages is) and the

bus has pulled over. I talk to the driver, he

tells me to call PAT number. I call the next day

and they have no record of it. NO RECORD OF A BUS

BREAKING DOWN!?!?!?


steevo
Participant
#

Oh and these are just the two that I literally

thought that I might die. Im sure there are probably

hundreds (thousands? I was a messenger for like 7

years) of times i felt threatened.


edmonds59
Participant
#

Just saw this on an activities calendar, seems like an outstanding place for people to show up and voice concerns and see if something can be done, even though it’s a county issue;

“On May 27, speak with Councilman Patrick Dowd at Council to Go, his mobile district office. Councilman Dowd and his staff will be available to hear your concerns and ideas, provide news on issues in Council, and help you access city services. Council to Go will be held from 6:30pm to 8:00pm at Enrico’s Tazza D’Oro Cafe.”


rsprake
Participant
#

Do drivers do the same route frequently? JZ, I had an encounter with an 86b on Penn Ave as well.


sloaps
Participant
#

I’ve had instances on Penn through the Strip, Liberty through lawrenceville/Bloomfield, and 18th street in the slopes where buses slow down behind me and coast to the stop, instead of hastily passing and cutting me off.

So… just sayin’. Ya’ll should still go to Dowd’s Council-to-go.


surly jason
Participant
#

My first new car was rear-ended by a bus while I was stopped at a red light. The bus just plowed into the back of me and pushed my vehicle into the intersection. There was hundred of dollars in damages and I, too, was told to call some phone number.

I recall that I submitted paperwork to pat and, having not gotten a reply in a week or so, called the phone number again. This time I spoke to someone who asked me some basic questions and then admitted that my paperwork was on his desk, would be processed immediately and that I’d have the check by the end of the week. Amazingly, a check arrived two days later.

Like any organization, there are rotten apples among the good ones but my experience is that, overall, the operators are ignorant, arrogant, dangerous and resentful of the public they serve (the riders) and the pedestrians, cyclists and other road users that are encountered. “Customer service” seems to be, on the whole, nearly inaccessible, uncaring and unresponsive.

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