A reader submitted a rant about Basin transit we felt worthy of posting.Comic Taking Bus

Note: Staff at The Klamath Rant have never ridden the Basin Transit system, primarily because we have cars. When our cars are in the shop, or when we need a ride from the airport, the service doesn’t seem to go where we would want it to. We have been involved in advertising on the back of the buses from time to time.

This rant from an actual rider rings true, so here it is:

Basin Transit Service (BTS) recently acquired two new buses. These replace only two of the worn-out fleet that has been in operation since 2000. BTS purchased the buses with federal and local tax payer funds of $749,000. The new buses have been on the road for approximately four months, and are already showing signs of poor maintenance. The brakes have been squeaking for quite some time, and nothing is being done about it. They are not being kept clean. I noticed while riding in a recent rainstorm, water leaks inside the bus. Several puddles on the floor from no other source the apparent evidence. These are minor concerns compared to the older buses and BTS overall.

BTS is, and has been my primary source of transportation for approximately five years. Being in a wheelchair I face challenges most are unaware of. Initially I kept a log of issues, but that rapidly became frustrating and discouraging. I am more observant than most, as a result, and through personal observation and overheard conversations the following, in no particular order, is a list of the most egregious offences: The most inconvenient for me personally are ramps that don’t work properly. This problem can range from the ramp not deploying at all which is exacerbated by, but not exclusive to the winter months. Weather is often blamed for improper maintenance. More often than not, the ramp will deploy but will not come up to the level of the bus floor and lock into place. Sometimes it will appear to be locked only to drop with weight against it. I have exited the bus several times and had the ramp drop with me on it. Other times they don’t deploy at all. This in my opinion is a direct result of poor maintenance.

A few more dangerous and/or disgusting issues include: wheelchair securement straps that don’t work properly. This causes wheelchairs to “slip and slide” from their original position and on manual chairs tip in any direction. This along with bus seats that drop down against the side of the wheelchair is dangerous and could potentially cause harm to both the passenger and the wheelchair.

Take a seat, if you dare. Inebriated passengers often urinate and/or defecate on the seats. Others chew tobacco and spit where convenient, on the seats or on the floor. The seats are not cleaned properly, just sprayed with a solution and left to dry. This is one of the rare occasions I’m thankful to be in a wheel chair! Then there’s the matter of exhaust smells inside the bus! These fumes are dangerous to both the passengers and the driver. I know I get light headed and a headache on a trip across town, I can’t imagine having to smell it for an entire shift. Schedules that are not met are a constant frustration. When you call the office to address the issue, you are advised to leave earlier to arrive at your desired location on time. This is a viable request, but not often feasible especially from a feeder route. I have left my home an hour early, but because of drivers not being on time or ramp issues and having to go in the opposite direction of my desired location first, still not arriving at my final destination no less than 30 minutes late.

Buses that consistently have mechanical issues are problematic. I’ve been on board several times when “bells and whistles” go off. Reminiscent of a smoke detector going off in your home, the noise is excruciatingly loud for the passengers let alone the driver. The driver is advised to wear ear plugs, not only illegal, but does not address the mechanical problems. These problems include but not limited to, warnings indicating failing systems to the fire alarm system which has been disabled on one bus because the head of maintenance couldn’t or wouldn’t properly analyze and resolve the problem. This particular warning system signifies a fire in the cabin of the bus. If a fire were to ever occur on the bus the potential liability could decimate BTS.

I’ve witnessed on numerous occasions different drivers having seatbelt issues. Several buses have seatbelts that don’t work well. They tighten and lock, and won’t hook, or unhook properly, which leaves the driver distracted and/or unprotected and could be extremely dangerous. Under these circumstances I have heard drivers being advised to ignore the seatbelt law.

The heating and cooling systems are problematic as well. In the winter the buses can be quite chilly. In the summer the buses can be far hotter inside than it is outside. The temperature inside is frequently ten degrees hotter than the outside temperature. Drivers are told that the air conditioner doesn’t work or not to use it because it will set off the warning system. Break downs happen but many could be avoided with proper maintenance. If repairs were done properly and intelligently it would save considerable amounts of money as well as time.

A prime example, instead of simply replacing tires that shred at $$$ each, why not investigate the “why” most likely an alignment problem, and fix it correctly instead of putting expensive “band aids” on every few months. I remember a driver telling me he learned the bus routes by following the oil spills on the road. Most all frequently used stops (not to mention at each transfer station) there is an excessive amount of oil on the road. The downtown transfer station could rival Valdez. It is cleaned with water weekly. Afterward, water and oil pool at the curb cut, unless I’m in a hurry to catch a bus I use the driveway entrance and go around to avoid the sludge. Ironically, when the buses are washed there is a water retrieval and recycling station. This simply means the water is separated from the oil and debris for reuse. The oil is considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of according to DEQ guidelines; instead it is pumped into an open field under the direct order from the general manager.

Recently a beloved driver to her passengers and a friend to her colleagues quit BTS. She was fed up with the non-working buses and the hostility directed toward her when she asked for properly working equipment. She was told to have her passengers stand. She drove DAR (Dial-a-Ride). A person only qualifies for DAR if they have physical or mental impairments that prohibit them from safely utilizing the bus. This request was not only dangerous to her passengers but illegal as well. Unable to resolve the situation amicability, she left a job she loved. These are just a few of the atrocities I am aware of either from personal experience or keen observation. I shudder to think of all I’m unaware of! Where’s the accountability? There is a Board of Directors. Do they utilize the BTS? Do they perform drop-in visits or ask for audits for accountability? What exactly is their responsibility? Are monthly meetings simply social gatherings of the General Managers cronies to pat him on the back and congratulate him on his exceptional service and dedication? I am thankful to have BTS. Unfortunately, like many other tax funded entities I feel it is extremely mismanaged and long overdue for improvements to be implemented.  – Submitted by Jana

End Note

Thanks for the rant, Jana. An additional dimension of this story is it seems ironic and odd how government has the resources to excessively enforce the handicapped parking requirements (City and county Planning departments) that place so many underutilized spaces in front of buildings at the cost of the property owners–but appears to fail so completely in looking after the access and comfort of handicapped citizens using Klamath’s subsidized mass transit system.

Small businesses are hounded by a myriad of public officials to stripe, sign, maintain and clean handicapped spaces while we have many handicapped citizens that don’t drive. Rather than focus on facilitating better access in logical ways across the board, our atypical bureaucracy mires itself in the dysfunction of policing that which needs less policing than the officials in charge of direct government service delivery. People like Jana that rely on public transit live in a forgotten world of vehicles that give the illusion of service to the disenfranchised. Those of us that don’t ride assume those hulking machines are doing what they are supposed to, but apparently they are only parading our advertising through a landscape of ignorance.

How could this service be this bad? It boggles the imagination, then suddenly makes sense after exploring some simple linkages. Basin Transit is organized as a special service district under the auspices of the City of Klamath Falls. Enough said–almost. Who is on the board of Directors through 2017? Sandra Fox, the Director of Planning for the City, serving as Vice Director, no less. One of the people most responsible for destroying the Klamath Falls economy is guiding operational policy for the transit service. Fox was the driving force behind the Klamath Boat House debacle (see past articles on the boat house), when staff pushed to remove property rights and destroy property values of a local family business. The City chastised a private owner for engaging in the same activities the City itself promotes within Moore Park. Sandra Fox and the City Attorney attacked the Westfall family on the premise that their use violated over 100-year-old land grants without bothering to seek judicial clarification on the subject. In a desperate attempt to retain any property value, at great personal expense the Westfall’s sought their own judicial determination, which would inadvertently benefit the City.  Get this: it turned out the land being leased wasn’t even within the boundary of Moore Park–it was on land completely void of any restrictions. No apologies, no restitution. And the Westfall’s still face regular arbitrary price hikes from a City that hates businesses and seems determined to ensure this beautiful water-bounded landscape will never have a secure location for enjoying any sort of meal on the water.

Granted, Sandra Fox’s involvement with Basin Transit can’t possibly be the reason for all the systemic problems with the service, but it makes one wonder…why would the City send as an emissary one of the most notoriously biased, dysfunctional, incorrect and wrong-headed staff members to direct BTS?

Other questions: Why does BTS insist on spending funds on buses disguised as trolleys when it could be focusing on better bus maintenance? The trolleys are clearly a tourism ploy, so why isn’t Tourism funding those? And who are the dumbasses or dumbassets who decided we should have trolleys that are not trolleys? Trolleys by definition run on tracks. When the City of Klamath Falls opted to let go of all the tracks that used to be installed in downtown streets (rail is known to be 20% more energy efficient due to less friction than tires), it lost the right to claim trolleys of any sort. This bus disguised as a trolley folly is just stupid, but from what we’ve heard, they are maintained better than the buses. Is it any surprise that the vehicles with more tourist bang work better than the vehicles people actually rely upon for daily transportation?