TriMet contractor First Transit has pattern of problems

TriMet contractor First Transit has pattern of problems »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. -- On Your Side Investigator Anna Canzano has uncovered a long list of complaints against a service many people's elderly parents or disabled riders use to get around.

She began looking into this after KATU News reported Thursday on a great-grandmother left at an abandoned building in Beaverton with no cellphone and no way of contacting her family.

The vehicles in question are marked and branded as TriMet buses or vans, but they're actually operated by drivers of the company First Transit based in Cleveland, Ohio. TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch told Canzano the agency has contracted with First Transit since February 2011 to serve the elderly and disabled.
 
Fetsch also told Canzano via email another incident KATU News reported last July involved a First Transit driver -- a 58-year-old woman with cerebral palsy dropped at a hair salon in Portland. Her disability made it impossible for her to tell the driver she was supposed to go home, not to the hair salon.
 
Portland attorney Devin Robinson says it scares him to hear about situations like these.
 
"It's just a matter of responsibility and when you are putting the public at risk, it's just not right."
 
Robinson sued First Transit in 2012 on behalf of a woman who got hurt trying to get to the Burlington Coat Factory in Happy Valley. She too was riding one a lift bus.
 
"The driver missed the driveway and instead of doing what reasonable folks would do which would be to drive around the block or find a safe place to turn around, he decided to just hop it over the curb," said Robinson.
 
Canzano found 23 negligence or personal injury lawsuits filed against First Transit in Oregon. Another case involved a First Transit driver impatient with traffic hopping a curb and injuring a wheelchair-bound passenger onboard. Yet another involved a First Transit driver rear-ending someone because they were distracted by their communication with a dispatcher.
    
It's a pattern of problems Robinson believes should be exposed and addressed.
    
"I hope this is something (First Transit) will take a look at and make sure they're not putting already vulnerable members of the public at even further risk."
 
Fetsch told Canzano TriMet continually monitors the performance of First Transit related to safety, on-time performance and customer service, but has yet to respond to Canzano's questions about precisely how that monitoring takes place and whether a system is in place to do so.
 
First Transit spokeswoman Stephanie Creech told Canzano Friday via email the Beaverton incident involving the 92-year-old woman is the subject of an ongoing internal investigation but would not offer a timeline for the investigation. Creech also refused to release the driver's name or any details about the driver's performance record with the company.