Customer complaints about WMATA buses running red lights went up in 2013 from 2012, and so did accidents. WUSA9 looked into one man's series of unanswered complaints with WMATA.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) -- Every day, DC resident Max Bennett goes by Union Station on his way to work, and all too frequently he sees buses running red lights, he says, and cutting it too close for pedestrian safety.
Documents obtained by WUSA9 show that Bennett isn't t he only one who's noticed.
WUSA9 filed open records requests for complaints filed in 2012 and 2013 "specifically referencing WMATA buses running red lights. The result: more than 500 complaints.
Drivers respond with middle finger
In one complaint from February 2012, a motorist claims that they confronted a Washington Metro Area Transportation Authority bus
operator who went through a red light, and the bus driver "responded by flipping the bird and laughing." That was just one of 13 complaints we identified of bus drivers responding with their "middle finger up."
Of complaints WUSA9 obtained, Bennett recognized nine as complaints he'd filed online with WMATA in 2013.
His first complaint is dated March 1, 2013. WMATA recorded it "closed" June 4.
Jack Requa, Assistant General Manager for Bus Services with WMATA, says that safety is their #1 priority.
We told him Bennett says no one from WMATA ever contacted him to let him know how the complaints were resolved, even though he specifically asked to speak to someone about the issue.
"Our customer service dept usually tries to get back to the complainant," Requa told WUSA9. "I'd have to go back through the records with them to see if that took place."
A WMATA statement issued to WUSA9 says that the agency acknowledged Bennett's concern, "indicated that follow-up action would be taken, and then took appropriate follow up action."
According to WMATA, the problem at Bennett's intersection was a green left turn arrow that was too short. "We asked the District to see if we could get a longer left turn light so that we could make that turn safer," Requa says, "and we're waiting for the results of that request."
A WMATA statement claims they made that request to the District on June 4, 2013. WUSA9 timed the green arrow four days ago - during non-rush hour - and it lasts seven seconds.
When contacted by WUSA9, spokesman Reggie Sanders with the District's Department of Transportation confirms that WMATA alerted the department to the too-short green arrow at Massachusetts Avenue and E Street NE in June 2013. That same month, DDOT extended the green arrow for rush-hour peaks, from 7 seconds to 12 seconds long.
Bennett still sees buses running red lights at the same intersection with the same frequency, he says. "I kind of wonder what will get a response, and I kind of think that it's someone getting hit, unfortunately."
WUSA9's analysis shows that WMATA received more complaints about red-light-running buses in 2013 than in 2012, and there were more accidents in 2013, too. Requa says that complaints have gone up in the last year because WMATA has made it easier for customers to file complaints, and he says that the increased rate of accidents is due to other drivers' errors, not WMATA's.