WASHINGTON – Nine months after a WTOP investigation into Metrobus collisions and close calls, a WTOP reporter was directly involved in an incident that has left a bus operator on administrative leave.
WTOP investigative reporter Mark Segraves says he was trying to parallel park his car in Northwest on Wednesday when a Metrobus driver rushed the bus up behind him, honked and flashed a lewd gesture. Segraves went to the next stop with a camera, boarded the bus and confronted the driver, who refused to answer his questions.
Metro is investigating the incident after placing the driver on administrative leave shortly after the incident.
“There’s really no excuse,” says Metro spokesman Dan Stessel. “We have 2,500 bus operators, and the vast majority do their job professionally every day, sometimes under challenging conditions.”
“But it only takes one incident to leave a lasting negative impression. When an incident like this happens, it reflects poorly on all of us, which is why we take these matters so seriously,” he says.
Stessel says there is no DriveCam footage – the basis of WTOP’s January feature – because it is only activated by a sudden change in G-forces, such as before an accident. All Metrobuses are equipped with this device.
Metro is “pulling DVR footage” from the bus, Stessel says.
Segraves says he was trying to park his car outside WTOP studios on Idaho Avenue in Northwest D.C. Wednesday afternoon when he noticed an X3 bus bound for Minnesota Avenue bearing down on him.
“The bus was coming down behind me and didn’t want to wait for me to parallel park and honked its horn at me,” says Segraves. “When I turned (to the bus), the bus driver was flipping me the bird.”
Segraves then turned on his iPhone video camera and confronted the driver at a nearby bus stop.
The video shows Segraves repeatedly asking the operator, “What is your name?” The driver hides her name tag and eventually takes it off. The operator then closes the door behind Segraves and starts driving the bus with other passengers on board.
“You can call me Miss Metro,” the operator then says.
“Can I get off your bus?” he asks. “You are not going to let me off your bus?”
“You can get off at the next stop,” she says.
See more of the incident in the full video, below.
Segraves says this is the first time he has had this kind of encounter on a Metrobus.
“Most Metro drivers and employees who I come across are professional and courteous,” he says. “This is the first time I have had something like this happen to me, and that’s why it was so shocking to me.”
At any time there are more than 1,000 buses on the road. Recent attacks against Metrobus drivers have caught the attention of the transit agency, which has added physical barriers to protect drivers from passengers in more than 50 buses.
There were 14 attacks on Metrobus drivers in the first quarter of 2012, according to Metro. In 2011, there were 66, down from 90 in 2010, and 71 in 2009.
Segraves reported the Wednesday incident to Metro. A Metro supervisor met the bus operator following the incident while she was still driving her route.
“She is being held out of service on administrative leave during the investigation,” writes spokesman Stessel in his email.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)