OC Transpo investigates complaint driver ridiculed woman over safe stop request

OC Transpo is investigating after a bus driver allegedly ridiculed a woman who asked to be let off the bus at a safe stop this weekend.

Passengers are allowed to ask to be let off closer to their destinations after 7 p.m

The safe stop program was created after a series of sexual assaults were reported near transit stations.

Carleton University masters student Sarah Douglas was riding a route 18 bus to her home in Lowertown Sunday and asked the driver to make a stop on Rideau at Cobourg instead of Augusta.

"She smirked and kind of laughed at me and said that it's unsafe and that if everyone asked, she would have to let people off all over the route and that she'd have to make exceptions for everyone if they asked," Sarah Douglas, a Carleton University masters student told CFRA.

"I told her it was after 7 p.m.," Douglas said. "She said 'the program's only for people in danger' and she asked me if I was in danger. I said 'Well actually yes this is a dangerous neighbourhood.' She then said, 'Oh well. If you think so.'"

Douglas said she told the driver she would take note of her bus number and report her to OC Transpo and said the driver said she would do the same.

Douglas said the driver eventually did let her off at Cobourg, but that she felt rattled by the incident.

"It's concerning and it really made me disappointed to think because, I think as women we understand how difficult it can be to be outside by yourself at night and so I thought a little more empathy would have been there," said Douglas.

On March 14th, police arrested a man nearby in connection to a sexual assault took place on Wilbrod near Chapel.

"I've lived in the neighbourhood since 2009," Douglas said. "While it's a lovely neighbourhood and I do love living there, it's undeniable that it is kind of risky, and at night one of the things I do to protect myself is I use the Safe Stop program so I can get off the bus a bit closer to home, so I can walk home safely."

She said she has used the program in the past and never had a problem.

OC Transpo said it is investigating a complaint made by Douglas.

"The situation described by the customer is not consistent with our expectations of customer service and as such, an upon receipt of this customer's complaint, OC Transpo immediately began investigating the concerns raised by the customer in order to take the necessary corrective action(s)," said David Pepper, OC Transpo's Manager of Business and Operational Services in a statement emailed to CFRA by city media relations.

OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi told CFRA he was taking the issue very seriously.

"I want to reassure the community that that program is critical to all of us, our operators believe it it, our union believes in it, our community does, our Transit Commission has endorsed it and we will continue with it and we will ensure that we meet everybody's expectations in that regard," Manconi added.

He said passengers should not hesitate to request a safe stop.

"Nobody should hesitate during those hours and nobody should hesitate to know that when a driver, he or she is in their seat, they have everyone's back on that bus," said Manconi. "They are there as a resource and they are there to take care of everyone on that vehicle."

Manconi personally called Douglas and spoke with her about the complaint.

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