A driver in Portland’s public transit agency berated a woman and her crying baby into getting off a bus, saying “I can’t drive with that noise,” another passenger said Monday.
Over the loudspeaker, the female bus driver told the woman to distract the baby to quiet it down, passenger Jennifer Chapman said. Other passengers muttered that the driver should “just drive the bus, just do your job,” she said.
But after the crying persisted, the bus driver asked the woman to leave the bus.
When the mother and the baby got off the bus, other passengers also left en masse in protest.
According to witnesses, the child was younger than 2 and was fussing around in her mother’s lap at the time.
The bus driver pulled over, walked to the back of the bus, pointed at the mother and then the baby, and asked her to get off. The woman then walked off the bus with the child, followed by the other passengers.
In a conversation with a dispatcher immediately after the confrontation, the bus driver described the baby as not “just crying.”
“It was screaming for more than 40 straight minutes, and I just finally stopped the bus,” the driver said. “I said we need to get the baby to stop screaming because I just can’t drive with it screaming … that is not safe.”
The conversation was recorded by Al Margulies, a fellow bus driver and blogger who monitors scanner traffic. Marguilies played the recording to The Associated Press, and TriMet has confirmed that the accuracy of the recording.
The driver told that dispatcher that when the woman and child had gotten off the bus, four or five passengers insulted her, so “I said you guys can get off too.”
The dispatcher told the driver: “In the future, if there is a baby crying on your bus there really isn’t a whole lot you do. It’s public transit.”
Transit agency policy says drivers can take steps if they believe their safety is in jeopardy, or if they believe a person or persons are creating a disturbance. The driver has been working for TriMet for 10 years.
Mary Fetsch, a spokeswoman for the transit agency in the Portland metropolitan area, said TriMet’s policy is not to remove people such as women with children from a bus. The driver, who was not identified, has been placed on administrative leave while the agency investigates the complaint from the incident, Fetsch said.
Agency officials confirm the driver now faces suspension or possible termination.
Was the bus driver wrong in asking the woman to leave the bus? And is the transit agency’s disciplinary action too harsh?