CT Transit employees from across Connecticut, union members and local leaders gathered at a rally in downtown Hartford on Thursday to demand better bathroom access after an NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters investigation found that some drivers do not have access to adequate restroom facilities on all of their bus routes.
The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters were first to expose the behavior of another CT Transit driver, who was caught on surveillance camera urinating on the side of a busy street next to his bus while he was on duty. Bus drivers said the incident was actually a prime example of the problem: there is nowhere to go.
"Bathroom breaks! Bathroom breaks!," the drivers chanted as fellow on-duty CT Transit employees drove by in buses.
"We need to pee!," they shouted while holding signs and wearing adult diapers over their clothing.
"We'll keep the pressure on until we do come up with something," said Mike Wendus, a longtime CT Transit driver who recently spoke publicly about the embarrassing moment when he accidentally relieved himself while in the bus driver's seat.
"It makes me feel real good to see the support we have here," Wendus said.
Members of the local Amalgamated Transit Union said there is often no time or place to find a restroom on their routes. Some drivers said they avoid drinking water before or during their shift. Others said they have even resorted to wearing adult diapers on the job.
"Oh my God. It's an experience that nobody wants to go through," said CT Transit Operator Jasmin Rivera. "It can get really serious quickly."
Local leaders and those vying for political office also stood alongside the drivers at the rally.
"This is just not right," said State Rep. Tony Guerrera, who is co-chair of the Transportation Committee and also a candidate for the 9th District Senate seat. "I think that what's happened here is that they are finally standing up for themselves and saying that we need to do something," he said.
During an investigation of problems facing the bus agency, the Troubleshooters spoke to drivers who said that the lack of adequate bathroom facilities has been an issue for years.
"Look, it raised so much awareness as to what we're actually going through behind the scenes and now hopefully something can be done about it," Breanna Hartfield, a CT Transit driver, said.
CT Transit General Manager Cole Pouliot, who has been at the helm of the bus service for five months, said the first time he heard about this bathroom issue was a few weeks ago.
In response, the bus company is now in the process of creating a ”bathroom committee.” with management and drivers working together to address the problem. Details about the committee are still coming together but Pouliot said he is committed to finding solutions.
"Hopefully we can find a solution to these issues and hopefully make our jobs better," said Wendus.