Complaints about unsafe bus drivers and poor service at the Southern California Rapid Transit District have jumped dramatically in recent months, contributing to an overall 19% increase in complaints over the past three years.
In the six months that ended Oct. 1, complaints about driver safety--for example, cutting off motorists, running red lights and speeding--were up 68% over the same period last year. Complaints about buses not adhering to schedules were up 42% and complaints of buses failing to stop for passengers were up 11.5%
Overall, there were 15,481 complaints about RTD service in the 12-month period ending Oct. 1 of this year, up 18.8% from the 13,029 total of 1984. Ridership has fluctuated up and down in a range of about 10% during the period.
The largest number of complaints over that period was about buses missing printed schedules. However, the biggest increase--48% from two years ago--was in complaints about driver safety. RTD officials acknowledge the rising numbers of complaints but they say the figures are distorted by the recent surge in complaints that accompanied more than the usual news media attention given to accidents, reports of drug use and safety problems.
Complaints Followed Stories
"I think really that the attention the district got resulted in an across-the-board increase in the tendency to call the district," said Scott Mugford, who oversees the RTD complaint section. "We've had a lot of people calling who said under normal circumstances" they wouldn't have called, but were moved to voice complaints by media reports of RTD problems, Mugford said.
The statistics do show that complaints had been declining for several months when they started back up in early summer, about the time of the first reports of accidents involving RTD drivers who had used drugs. In August, the rate of driver safety complaints nearly doubled after an RTD bus carrying passengers flipped on the Hollywood Freeway.
But while the recent rash of complaints accounted for some of the increase, there had been a rise in complaints between 1984 and 1985--before the attention focused on RTD--including a 17% increase in complaints about driver safety.
In addition to indicating a heightened awareness of RTD troubles among riders and motorists, Mugford said that some of the complaints highlighted the district's shortage of drivers, overcrowded buses and difficulty meeting the demands of its 1.5 million daily boarders. "It pretty clearly shows that with the heavy ridership we are experiencing, a lot of people out there are experiencing problems," he said.
There is some encouraging news in the statistics. Over the last two years, despite a recent increase, complaints about riders being passed up at stops--a problem given a high priority by the RTD board--have declined nearly 15%. And complaints about discourteous drivers, which had risen about 24% between 1984 and 1985, leveled off this past year.