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Rantz: Seattle bus driver literally rolls ‘sleeper’ off bus during morning commute

A driver of a King County Metro Bus rolls a sleeper off the bus, onto the street in Seattle. (KTTH, Jason Rantz)

A Seattle bus driver rolled a man off his bus, in the middle of a busy morning commute, highlighting another disadvantage of the Seattle bus experience.

Seattle leaders routinely ask — and try to force — drivers to give up their cars for King County Metro service, which they think can end up being a more efficient use of your time. You’ll be able to check work emails, read the latest chapter of the novel you don’t want to put down, or even just catch up to podcasts on the KTTH smart phone app! Only, you actually give up a lot, like a car that won’t smell of human waste or showing up late to work because a driver has to deal with an inebriated passenger.

On May 16, around 8:30 a.m., I was walking past a bus stop on Fairview in South Lake Union when the driver of a C Line bus, with the help of a passenger, was slowly rolling a man off the bus. They left him on the side of the street.

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The man appeared to be homeless. He barely moved as the driver dealt with him. It’s unclear if he was high or drunk, though an incident report labels him a “sleeper.” He must be a heavy sleeper because I didn’t see him move at all as he was literally rolled off the bus.

I reached out to King County Metro when it happened to make sure they were calling 911, and they said they were handling it.

This incident got me wondering about the policy bus drivers adhere to when dealing with these types of customers. I won’t lie: it looked like a callous way to handle the homeless man. It seems like they could have called the police and had them meet them at a future stop, if the only thing this man was doing was sleeping, as the driver indicates on the incident report. But, it also made me curious about how bus drivers are supposed to deal with these issues.

“We ask our operators to have the safety of customers at the forefront as they are determining how to handle a situation with an intoxicated rider,” Metro spokesperson Jeff Switzer said in an email to the Jason Rantz Show.

While I told him I was following up on this incident, I asked about general policy when dealing with a rider potentially under the influence.

“This can involve calling the Transit Control Center to speak with a coordinator, and if needed police will be called to assist,” Switzer said.

Bus drivers are given discretion “in extreme circumstances to [deny service] to people who pose a potential security problem or are severely ill or extremely intoxicated or impaired or who have extreme personal hygiene problems.” They cannot, of course, discriminate against a passenger on the basis of a protected class.

The process, however, appears onerous even when they might have a legitimate reason to deny service. Each time it happens, Switzer says “drivers must call a coordinator immediately and later submit a security incident report at the base.”

I can certainly envision a driver letting someone on with severe hygiene problems, for example, as to not cause a scene or have to fill out paperwork. It could be why there are so many customer complaints about olfactory nightmares.

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But what about if someone is already on the bus when the issue happens? In this case, the man obviously fell asleep on the actual bus.

“If an issue emerges after the customer already is on board, the operator can follow these same steps of calling the control center,” Switzer says. In this case, “the operator reported calling the control center, who called the Sheriff’s Office, but then the operator reported to the TCC [Transit Control Center] that they were able to wake up the rider and the Sheriff’s Office request was canceled.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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