Sunday, April 12, 2009

FREE WHEELIN'

Last week I was driving the 12 for 10 hours a day. Not a bad route. A lot of the people are regulars. One regular, in particular, I was less than happy to see. She's a lady in a wheelchair that usually has her 3 kids with her. She is well known for not paying her fare...or her kids fares.

I have had problems with this lady for about the past 2 years. I don't see her too often, since I switch routes so much. I have had her quite a bit on the 21 and the 12. I have let her go with a stern warning at least half a dozen times. Usually, it's because she has her kids and I don't want to involve the police with them there. I've also let her slide due to poor weather and the fact that she is in a wheelchair. The last time I had her on, she had her three kids. As usual, she didn't pay. I was fed up, but the weather sucked AND she had the kids with her. I put a little bass in my voice and warned her this was her last free ride. Next time, I would call the police and she'd be taken off the bus and given a $180 fare evasion ticket. When I got to her stop in downtown Hopkins and was unhooking her wheelchair, the oldest boy asked if I had called the police. He seemed a little distressed and was afraid his mom was going to jail. I explained to him that I didn't call the police this time, but that when people ride the bus they have to pay a fare. I told him his mom had a habit of riding without paying the fare and that was illegal. If I did have to call the police on her, she would get a very expensive ticket but she would not be taken to jail. He seemed relieved. The kids are great, actually. They are well behaved, fun kids. Their mom, on the other hand, irritates the hell out of me. It's not just that she doesn't pay the fare but that she pretty much ignores the three kids. She's always on her cell phone, loudly, for the entire trip. One time she had an Ipod or something, but she never seems to interact with her kids. Maybe that's why they get along so well. They are all they have. Mom has all the toys. The kids never have anything. Makes me wanna take them home and spoil them rotten!

Anyway, Miss never-pays-a-fare got on my bus on Monday. Decent weather, no kids...the chance I'd been waiting for. After I tied down the wheelchair, I stood there as she went through her pockets and purse repeatedly. I knew she didn't have a transfer. I also knew she just got off the 21. She never pays. Realizing I wasn't going anywhere without payment, she smiled and threw her hands up and said "no money". I told her not this time. I went and checked with the other driver to see if she had paid on his bus. He had relieved the other driver so he didn't know. Knowing she would have a transfer if she had paid and that she NEVER pays, I got back on my bus and called Control. I told them I had a chronic fare evader (that's what we call them) on the bus and would like the police to come handle it.

Realizing I was calling the police, the lady tried to hand me 36 cents. I told her no way. I had let her go far too many times already and she needed to know this was not acceptable. The police arrived. One officer recognized the lady and asked if I had called about her before. I told him I have had fare problems many times but never called because she usually had her kids with her or the weather was bad. This time I had had enough and there were no kids to scare and the weather was good. I requested that he give her the $180 ticket because the warnings were not working and there needed to be consequences for this repeat behavior. He indicated that he understood and said "By the way, it's $240 now. It went up." As usual, a passenger offered to pay her fare when he saw that I was unhooking her wheelchair tie downs so the officer could remove her from the bus. The officer told the guy that this was an ongoing problem with her and it needed to be taken care of. I was very glad the officer saw my dilemma and was taking action.

The lady was taken off the bus and from what I hear she did get the $240 ticket. I had her get on a couple days later and ,for the first time, she paid her fare! She actually overpaid. She put in a dollar instead of the 75 cent mobility fare. Seems even with the ticket, she's got money to blow. I've spoken with other drivers that know her and they said she's been paying on their buses too. I guess she did the math and realized $240 would have paid a whole lot of 75 cent fares!

No more free wheelin'!!

12 Comments:

Blogger PowerWCRulez said...

Yep, if she have a low income recpients, I suggest her to get contact with county social worker, she can get free pass card from the county services, I do same thing. Mobility Go-To easy can replenishable from 31 day mobility magnet pass card. My county usually send me a magnet pass card, I go to MTA store to replenishing onto my Go-To Mobility card. I agree everyone must pay the fares to avoid a fare invading.

6:18 PM  
Blogger jhop said...

She got what was coming to her. Too bad those kids are stuck with this loser of a mom.

10:47 AM  
Blogger WebShadow said...

Thank you for standing up to her (pardon the pun). I hate fare evaders as well. I paid to ride the bus on the weekend and enjoy it, lounging around and watching what goes on. The bus I was on had 5 people I counted who tried to duck the fare.

The driver, needless to say, kicked all of them off. The weather was nice enough they could walk if they weren't willing to pay the fare. I also refused to give them anything.

The worst is the people who try to pull the, "Can I get on and ask a friend to pay for me?" and then ask me. I pulled a, "I'd pay for you if I knew who you were."

Also learned that some drivers are more light-handed about the swearing on the bus. I was getting fed up with the person (business type lady with a laptop) who kept kicking the back of the seat.

After half an hour of this, I snapped, whipped around in my seat, and asked her to stop.

She did, for a minute.

Then, almost as if testing her luck, she lightly prods the seat. Normally wouldn't bother me, but she'd tried her luck too much. When she dealt a hefty kick to my back again, I opened my backpack, pulled out my netbook, and told her, "Do that one more f-ing time and you'll be eating the Acer."

The bus driver kicked her off, and I got off at the next stop, apologizing for the language. He replied, "She does it to everyone. I was waiting to see who'd stand up to her first."

I'll remember that quote for a long time. Also, the look of shock on her face was priceless as she realized she'd been caught in the act twice for kicking my seat on purpose.

Kids I can tolerate cause they know no better. She had a laptop in hand and had we been able to recline seats, I'd have just about laid out in her lap to prevent her from using it.

Ah, I'm sorry for the long post. Was coding a robot earlier, ended up reverting to my strategy in that: more is better. Add to that the rant, and well...

Sorry! Got to stop doing that.

5:24 PM  
Blogger WebShadow said...

Oh, and $240 = 320 $0.75 fares.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous BostonRed said...

This is a case of more Bad PR for the MTC.
We are now in the middle of economic downturn and we hear of "heartless" bus drivers giving out ticket to poor women in wheelchairs,when they are not killing them in the streets of Minneapolis.

There Must be a federal law,to outlaw this type of economic violence from occurring in the future.

Bostonred

7:24 PM  
OpenID ordinaryjanet said...

I think you did the right thing. There are programs to help the handicapped when they need it, and if she bothered to use that cell phone to find out, she could get help with the bus fares. Or get a card so she doesn't have to dig around for loose change. Just because she's in a wheelchair doesn't mean she gets away with crap like that-she gives all handicapped people a bad name.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Timecruncher said...

4 years I spent behind the wheel in Louisville, and 18 more in Cincinnati, plus some part-time years at the northern Kentucky system. Loved every minute of it and had similar issues with only a small fraction of the riders. I (ahem) do scheduling now.

Most disabled riders are great. They appreciate when you offer help, they have their cash fare or pass ready, and they're ready to board and give you no trouble during the tie-down procedure.

There are a few who will try to play the "woe is me" game, and oftentimes other passengers will pay their fare for them.

You handled this deadbeat effectively and I applaud your attitude about the incident. You repeatedly gave her chances and did what was appropriate.

Many transit systems simply will not back up their drivers on fare evasion issues, and it sounds as if MTC has a working procedure in place that eventually will keep the bums off of the bus. It would be a great place to be a driver if you had more than one or two weeks of Summer...

In these times of tight budgets for transit service, nobody deserves to ride for free just because they think they are 'special' and don't need to pay their fair share. Especially when special fares for E & D passengers are already reduced by at least 50% under Federal guidelines.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

I like how you stand up for yourself and for the principles you work under. Great blog!

11:15 AM  
Blogger Jeanne Ree said...

Thanks for all your comments! Seems everyone "gets it" except BostonRed. There are all kinds of programs for the disabled that will help them if the reduced ( 75 cent all rides,even express, all the time ) fares aren't low enough. We don't discriminate. Fare evasion is fare evasion and I let this woman off far too many times before getting her a ticket. I warned her every time that she would get the ticket. She chose to continue to cheat the system and paid the price. I don't feel bad. I don't think lack of $$ is her problem either. She not only uses a cell phone/Ipod her entire ride, lately she's been putting in $1 instead of the 75 cents. Obviously, she's not broke.

Anyway, good to see most people here get that there are rules in life we ALL have to live by.

By the way, what's with the low blow BostonRed??? Do you realize that in nearly a decade there have been only 3 pedestrian fatalities involving a city bus? Do the math. There are hundreds of buses on the roads nearly 24 hours, 7 days a week putting hundreds of thousands of miles on the roads each year. Accidents are bound to happen. Especially when people are distracted with Ipods, cell phones or whatever. That is why they are called accidents. It is every drivers nightmare to be involved in a fatal accident. Too bad when one happens some people like to hold it against all drivers like we are out there doing it every day. It is a miracle it doesn't happen MUCH more! Instead of dogging out an entire transit system for one unfortunate accident, maybe you should say a prayer for the family of the lady that died and one for the driver who also has to live with this tragic ACCIDENT on his conscience for the rest of his life.

Also, "economic violence" could be defined as those fare evaders that try and cheat the system and cause fares to go up for all the honest fare paying customers. Guess it depends how you look at it. Riding without paying a fare is illegal and the consequences are a hefty fine to deter this crime. It is only fair to enforce this with EVERYONE.

Thanks again for all your comments. Though we may not all always agree, I believe everyone has a right to express their opinion.

2:00 PM  
Blogger John Charles Wilson said...

Sounds like this lady didn't have a money problem. More likely she didn't pay because she felt she "deserved" special treatment and was playing a dominance game. When she lost decisively, she started paying her fare. I'm beginning to understand why you have such disdain for fare evaders. Most of them are jerks in addition to cheating the fare....

1:28 PM  
Blogger Jeanne Ree said...

John - True...seems often the people trying to get away with cheating do seem to have their fare. I can't count how many times I've had people claim to be short on their fare and when they find out they aren't getting a tranfer they reach into their pocket and pay the rest of the fare!! It can be irritating.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes I am a MTC bus driver, why the heck do you drivers care so much about the fare. It doesn't change what your making and you are just putting yourself in danger. Just drive the bus and shut your mouth. Most drivers I meet are so rude!! Say hello to customers, they are people, if someone is short don't act all anal about something that is your not suppose to do anyways. IT is policy just to state the fair. Some day that driver who called the police will get knocked out trust me.

9:56 AM  

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