Thursday, June 11, 2009

Did WMATA Get the Wrong "Guy?"

Are they full of it?
Or does their form letter just need a simple tweak?
This incident seems particularly egregious, perhaps deserving of more than a form letter.
From reader Mazzie:

On May 1, I boarded the 96 bus at Union Station. Two people were ahead of me, a rider was fiddling with the fare box. I am pretty sure he was adding fare, which seems to be time consuming. I was on the bottom step, waiting. The bus driver, obviously getting impatient, closed the doors behind me rather unexpectedly, hitting my shoulder and my messenger bag. Then, with me still on the bottom step and two passengers in front of me--one at the fare box and another on the steps--she took off!
I don't mean pulled gently away from the curb, I mean launched into traffic. I have never felt so unsafe on a Metro bus. The person at the fare box finished what they were doing (or gave up for fear of their life) and the driver waved the two of us on the steps past without requiring fare. She continued to drive like a bat out of hell, and it soon became clear why. At 14th and U, she got off the bus and a new driver got on. She was anxious to end her shift!
I took note of the bus number and time. When I got home, I surfed to file a complaint. I wrote that the driver took off with us in the stairwell, and I was under the impression that it was not safe or legal to do so. I did not include that I didn't pay fare or that the driver's shift ended; I didn't want it to be unnecessarily drama-full.
I got the following response almost immediately:

Dear (Mazzie):
Thank you for submitting your comment. We will direct it to the appropriate office for any necessary follow-up action. If you wish to contact us again or have additional information regarding this comment, simply "Reply with thread" to this email and refer to the
following case number: 479410
Office of Customer Relations
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
When responding to this email, please perform a reply with history so
that the following conversational identifier "[THREAD_ID:497137]" is
included in your response.
On May 6, having not heard anything else, I wrote and asked for a status and got this response:

Dear (Mazzie):
Complaints can take any where from 2-6 weeks for proper investigation and proper action. Your case #479410, was forward to a supervisor on May 08, 2009.
We appreciate your patience during the review/investigation period.
Helen James
Office of Customer Service
Why it takes as long as 6 weeks, why that's not mentioned in the initial contact, and why it took 7 days to get to a supervisor ... well, I decided not to focus on those things. At least they were doing something, and at least they responded.
Yesterday morning, two days short of six weeks after my complaint, I got a response. Here it is:

Dear (Mazzie):
Thank you for taking the time to make us aware of a Metrobus being operated in an unsafe manner. Safety is Metro's top priority, and occurrences such as this are taken very seriously.
The information you provided helped us identify the driver so that we could take proper disciplinary action. The operator was interviewed and reinstructed on his duties and the safe operation of Metrobus. Safe driving is the chief responsibility of every Metrobus driver, and
any conduct that deviates from that will not be tolerated.
We apologize for the unprofessional actions of this driver. Thanks again for contacting us, and we hope that riding Metrobus will be a positive experience in the future.
Mrs. James
Consumer Representative
Office of Customer Service
I understand why they would avoid any question of legality, and I appreciate the apology, but ... can you spot the critical flaw?
I wrote back asking Mrs. James to send me a copy of my initial complaint, but I don't have any expectation of actually getting it. I would like to see if I mentioned in the complaint that the driver was female.
So, either this is a form letter, total bullshit, or they took "proper disciplinary action" against the wrong driver.
My money is on bullshit.

Other news:
Reeling in MetroAccess (DC Examiner)
Trip from Hell (DC Examiner)
Metro's take of what happened Tuesday (WaPo)

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Anonymous said...

Yesterday I had a driver refuse to let anyone off of the bus until the bus was at the bus stop because of a recent WMATA "safety briefing." Hmm.

Unknown said...

it is likely just a form letter ... and they actually disciplined the driver ... just didn't bother changing the gender in the form letter.

why wouldn't they have a form letter - im sure they get complaints like this all the time

Golden Silence said...

I still think they need to screen their drivers. They seem to hire just about anyone now!

Hostage Hoosier said...

agreed. i call bullshit.

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