by Travis Mateer
Public scrutiny in the form of local media attention can effect change, especially when the scrutiny is of a taxpayer funded service, like the bus.
Missoula’s bus service, Mountain Line, could have avoided this NBC Montana news story about a parent filing a complaint after a bus driver skipped a bus stop TWICE if they had just responded to the woman and addressed her concerns. Instead, it took a City Council member AND the media to get a response from Mountain Line.
This is what happened AFTER the woman filed the complaint:
Goss filed a formal complaint that day. By Monday, she still hadn’t heard back.
“So I called and checked in, and the lady I talked to on the phone acted like she had no idea what I was talking about,” said Goss.
That’s when Goss reached out to us. We called Mountain Line to find answers.
On Tuesday, Mountain Line told us they would review the footage, but they had to wait for the bus to get back to the station that night.
Wednesday morning, they told us the bus driver didn’t stop at the second stop for safety reasons.
“As the operator is approaching the teenagers at the stop, you can see that one is pushing another into traffic,” Mountain Line general manager Corey Aldridge said. “It was right after that the operator got back into the lane of traffic and continued on.”
On the footage, you can hear the bus driver: “There were a bunch of Porter kids at the bus stop, and they were pushing each other into the street as I went by them, and they hit the bus,” the bus driver radioed in.
But the bus didn’t stop at the first bus stop either, even though it was supposed to. That time, there was no reason given.
It shouldn’t take this much energy for a taxpayer to get an answer as to why a bus driver didn’t do the ONE JOB they are supposed to be doing, which is picking people up and dropping them off at bus stops.
While it’s disappointing a tax-funded bus service isn’t being responsive to customer complaints, it’s not surprising. Over two years ago, in January of 2019, I wrote about Mountain Line suddenly removing benches at several bus stops near the Poverello Center.
After several citizens made this an issues at a City Council meeting, Mountain Line issued a statement that included this (which I covered in this post):
Mountain Line was recently made aware of complaints regarding leaning benches at three bus stops in our system. Our agency is always tasked with trying to balance the needs of various interests, and this balancing act is never easy. Accessibility and the safety of our riders are just a few of the concerns we grapple with everyday. The benches in question were installed at three bus shelters on W. Broadway in early 2018. This action was in response to frequent, almost daily, complaints at these shelters, from riders and local residents alike, of litter, public drunkenness, illicit drug use, and people sleeping in bus shelters. Missoula Police were contacted on several occasions to deal with individuals who refused to move at the request of our staff and became belligerent. Divided benches were used, but they were continually vandalized. Since the installation of the leaning benches, these problems have decreased substantially, but we may have unintentionally created another problem in its place.
In the past few days, many people, both in Missoula and elsewhere, have expressed their dislike of the design of these benches. Upon hearing the concerns of the public, it is apparent that our solution may have not been the best remedy to these problems. In response, we are examining other ways to ensure the safety of our riders while keeping our stops accessible and friendly. We ask for your patience we continue to work through this process and thank you to those who have voiced their concerns.
If you are driving on West Broadway you will notice that NOTHING HAS CHANGED. Nope, over two years later, and those same bus shelters have the same bullshit “leaning benches” installed in them.
As a PUBLIC service, Mountain Line needs to understand that sometimes PUBLIC means unruly kids and unruly homeless people. If you’re a bus driver and you don’t like unruly kids and/or unruly homeless people, then GET A DIFFERENT JOB. I hear nearly everyone in Missoula is hiring.
And if you’re a higher up at Mountain Line, like General Manager Corey Aldridge, I suggest getting a little more proactive when it comes to complaints, because when you’re not, there does appear to be some local media outlets willing to bring their lens of scrutiny to the situation.
And for that I am thankful.