HILLSBORO -- TriMet wants to question a mother who was asked to get off a bus in Hillsboro because her baby was crying, as part of the ongoing investigaiton into the incident.
Tuesday TriMet officials sent out a statement to the media, asking them to help spread the word that they wanted to get in contact with the mother. "It would be beneficial to hear directly from her regarding the incident. We request that she contact us at 503-238-RIDE (7433)," said Communications Director Mary Fetsch.
Witnesses said the bus driver forced the woman to get off the bus with her baby on Sept. 29 because she said that the child's crying was too loud and distracting.
The driver was placed on administrative leave Monday, as TriMet investigates, according to Fetsch. The driver's name has not been released, only that she has been with TriMet for 10 years.
On Tuesday, several people who had been on the bus filed official complaints against the driver.
Were you on the bus or know the mother? We'd like to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
The writer for a local blog called "Rantings of a TriMet Bus Driver' posted a transcript of conversations between the bus driver and dispatch that night, which TriMet confirmed was accurate. In it, the driver said, "It [the baby] wasn't just crying, it was screaming all the way to Beaverton... I just can't drive with it screaming... that is not safe."
Then, the dispatcher replied, "That's not something we can enforce. If somebody's kid is crying, you still have to drive the bus."
Jennifer Chapman told KGW that she was riding the bus through Hillsboro when the driver came on the loudspeaker system and said, "You need to quiet the baby down. Give him some keys or something. I can’t drive with that noise."
The other passengers could not believe what they had heard, Chapman said.
"People started looking around," she said, "and like, it’s not bothering us, why is it bothering you? It's not that loud, gosh you must not have kids."
The driver then stopped the bus and approached the mother, Chapman said, with body language she took to be menacing.
"This is 8 o’clock at night," Chapman said, "It’s dark, and it’s right by the Hillsboro jail. She was by herself."
Chapman said she spoke up.
"I said, 'You can’t do this, that’s not right.' And she said, 'If you don’t like it, get off my bus.'" So Chapman did, along with two other men."
All three stood with the mother and baby while Chapman tried to tell the woman that what just happened was wrong. Chapman said she spoke in Spanish, which appeared to be the mother's native language.
The bus drove off, and stopped about another block later.
"Then I look down the block," she said, "and I see people coming off the bus, just one after another. And I asked them what was happening, and they said every single person spoke up and she kept kicking them off the bus. And every single person left that bus."
The driver waited about five minutes, then drove off with an empty bus, Chapman said.
TriMet officials said they were aware of Chapman's complaint and were investigating the incident. A spokesperson also told KGW Monday that TriMet policy states drivers should not remove members of the "vulnerable population" from a bus or MAX train. That "vulnerable" category includes women with babies, the elderly and teens.
If there is a problem with someone that fits the vulnerable category, the bus driver is supposed to contact their supervisor, who will come out to assist them, according to TriMet.