Complaints Expose ‘Bad Behaviors' on CT Transit Buses

Complaints filed about CT Transit in 2017 have raised concerns including bus drivers running red lights, cutting off other drivers, driving away from people who were trying to board or offering poor customer service.

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters obtained hundreds of pages of complaints filed by people who are not satisfied with service they received from CT Transit, the Connecticut Department of Transportation-owned bus service.

The DOT received the complaints from the Hartford, Bristol and New Britain areas between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 15, 2017.

NBC Connecticut also obtained on-board surveillance video from many of the incidents in question.

In a complaint filed on Oct. 26, 2017, an on-duty CT Transit driver admitted to his employers that he had urinated in some bushes after parking his bus on Lydall Street in Manchester. Managers informed the driver that urinating is not allowed on the bus or in public.

In the video surveillance accompanying the complaint, the driver can be seen exiting his bus, walking to the bushes along the road and apparently relieving himself.

“That is not allowable in our policy,” Cole Pouliot, general manager for CT Transit, said about the urination incident.

“You're not allowed to pull over on the side of the road and urinate on private property,” he said. “He was counseled and we followed up with aggressive discipline to make sure it doesn't happen again.”

Another complaint filed on Nov. 29, 2017 and accompanying video concerned a bus driver who had become frustrated behind the wheel while on Main Street in Hartford.

Video showed the driver forming his hands into the shape of a gun as if to aim and shoot at a woman who had pulled her car into his bus lane. According to the complaint, the driver was "immediately corrected in accordance with company policy."

“It's distressing to see that and we followed up with him and I don't expect that driver doing anything like that again,” Pouliot said of the incident. “To my knowledge, he is still driving.”

A complaint filed on Sept. 18, 2017 concerned a bus operator who had received his bus late from the previous operator and continued to fall further behind schedule. Still, the video surveillance footage shows that the driver decided to stop at McDonald’s and returned to his bus with a bag of food and drink.

“The operator should have been checking in with the dispatcher and asking permission for things like that,” Pouliot said of the non-sanctioned lunch break.

“People remember that,” he said. “In fact, they called it in because they did recognize it.”

According to that same complaint, the operator drove over a railroad crossing improperly in order to make up time. Bus drivers are required to stop and make sure no trains are coming before proceeding across railroad tracks.

Pouliot said the number of complaints seems ‘appropriate’ based on the scope of what CT Transit does.

“We put almost 16 million miles on the street with all of our buses and moved about 26 million people last year,” he said. “Nobody likes when something bad like this happens, but I do take a lot of pride in the way we respond to the issues.”

“The feedback that we receive is less than 1 percent of the total amount of service that we put out there, so we definitely viewed these things as isolated incidents more than patterns of normal behavior,” Pouliot said.

“We've had a lot of good experiences, but this was just not one of them,” said Joe Duggan, of Newington. He said his bus driver decided mid-ride that the ride was suddenly over. “Folks kind of walked by and questioned him and his answer was ‘Everybody off.’”

An NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigation found several instances of questionable activity by CT Transit bus drivers caught on camera.

Duggan, who said he is a supporter of public transportation and of CT Transit, filed a complaint in February 2017 about a driver who told all passengers, including an older man with a cane, to “get off” and “get the next bus.”

Ryan Leahy said he, his wife and three little kids were on a CTfastrak bus heading from Newington to Hartford to catch a baseball game on July 2, 2017 when he witnessed an incident.

“It was a smooth ride up until the point we got into Hartford, around Bushnell Park,” said Leahy who reported seeing a young man's bike being stolen right off the rack on the back of the bus. Then, according to the complaint filed with CT Transit, an altercation between several teens began unfolding right in front of his kids.

“I'll ride it myself again, but I don't think we'll take the family on again," Leahy said.

Pouliot said he wanted Leahy and his family to feel safe on board.

“I would encourage him to give us another shot because that is certainly not the experience that the majority of our customers have happen,” Pouliot said.

“I'll certainly be looking at some of the patterns of things that have happened and find if there’s not ways that we can intercept some of these bad behaviors to make sure they don't occur all over again," Pouliot said.

Among the feedback and complaints DOT received, riders also praised CT Transit’s service and commended drivers who went above and beyond to offer good customer service.

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