Friday, September 28, 2007

You cannot get off the MBTA bus

Due to my balance problems I am unable to stand on a moving bus, so when I board the bus I always ask the driver to "Please wait until I am seated before you drive forward." I am using an access pass, so the driver sees my pass and reduced fare. Usually the driver does wait, and as soon as I reach the seat I call out, "all set" or something like that. This takes very little time unless the bus is very crowded. Of course, if I board before other passengers I do not need to ask the driver to wait , because I have time to find a seat before all have boarded.

Sometimes, however, when I ask the driver to wait until I am seated, s/he doesn't wait. If I am in mid step the forward momentum of the bus will send me flying, and I can crash into the seats, onto the floor, or be knocked into other passengers, and even fall onto babies in strollers. Therefore, if I have a chance, when I feel the bus moving, I try to sit immediately onto the floor, so I am not thrown down and risk serious injury. Then, when the bus stops, I can get up and get to a seat.

However, yesterday I recieved a big shock when I asked the driver to wait. Not only did he not wait until I was seated but he drove forward immediately, even before I could reach the disability seating area located just after the wheel wells in the front of the bus. I promply sat on the floor, and told him, "I can't stand on the moving bus." He stoped, and assisted me to my feet, and I then located a seat.

Then, unbelievably, he started to take the names of witnesses to prove that I had sat down on the floor deleberately, and led them to believe that I was trying to claim that I had fallen. Within minutes the passengers were all screaming and shouting at me, some wanted me in jail and others wanted me killed. I immediately tried to explain, but no one would listen. Then I called Jim Monahan, bus operations, at the MBTA and tried to tell him what was happening. The screaming and yelling was so loud I couldn't hear what he was saying to me. I did hear him ask me to wait until an inspector arrived. I did wait.

The passengers kept up the verbal assaults, and the driver was talking into the bus "phone." At no time did the driver try to calm the passengers or protect me from their verbal assaults. An inspector arrived, and after he took the names of numerous witnesses, and heard the most awful "stories" about me, he finally spoke with me. Even then the passengers well screaming and shouting insults. I finally asked one witness to show him exactly where I sat down on the floor. I made sure he saw that it was right in the front of the bus, well before the disability seating, and then pointed out the bus was pulled away from the curb and had driven forward. he asked me repetedly if I had fallen, and I repetedly told him that I had not, and that I never told anyone that I had fallen.

Then another bus came and all the passengers were transfered to the new bus, except me. So I requested that they put the floor down so I could get off and onto the new bus, but they refused. I was kept on the bus, even as a couple more buses went by, for 45min against my will. I had to call my neighbor to come and help get the MBTA to but the floor of the bus down so I could get off. The MBTA personel were outside the bus and laughing and making fun of me. Later that day I met someone who told me they were videotaping the behavior of bus drivers toward passengers, "It's unbelievable what they do to people!"

The MBTA police informed me it is not illegal for them to refuse to let me off the bus like that. he thought it was a huge joke.