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Oregon Transit Agency Disciplines Driver Over Crying Baby

PORTLAND, OREGON-- A bus driver who berated a mother and her crying 2-year-old into getting off a bus last month in a Portland suburb has been disciplined, the area's mass transit agency said Friday.

The driver had been on leave while the Sept. 29 incident was investigated.

The woman, a TriMet driver since 2001, received "appropriate discipline" but remains employed, agency spokeswoman Mary Fetsch said. Fetsch refused to identify the driver or say how she was disciplined.

TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane said the "unfortunate incident" is "not representative of the overwhelming majority of our operators who do an excellent job every day."

The mother, Magdalena Rabadan, called her husband for a ride home. She earlier told KATU-TV through an interpreter that despite a language barrier, she understood the driver wanted her to quiet her daughter, but there was nothing else she could do. Other passengers eventually followed her off the bus in support.

The driver responded unreasonably to the crying child, the agency determined. Fetsch has said drivers can take steps if they believe their safety is in jeopardy but policy prevents them from removing people "of a vulnerable population."

In the past year, not counting this incident, the same driver has been the subject of 36 customer service complaints and five operational complaints, such as a bus not showing up, TriMet said.

Operational complaints may be outside an operator's control. In response, the transit agency said it has "provided training, counseling and clear expectations related to customer service."

In a conversation with a dispatcher immediately after the mother-baby confrontation, the bus driver described the baby as not "just crying."

"It was screaming all the way from Beaverton, and I just finally stopped the bus," the driver said.

"I said we need to get the baby to stop screaming because I just can't drive with it screaming ... that is not safe."

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The conversation was recorded by Al Margulies, a fellow bus driver and blogger who monitors scanner traffic. Marguilies played the recording to The Associated Press, and TriMet has confirmed the accuracy of the recording.

The driver told that dispatcher that when the woman and child had gotten off the bus, four or five passengers insulted her, so "I said you guys can get off, too."

Eventually, all the passengers got off the bus, TriMet said.

The dispatcher told the driver: "In the future, if there is a baby crying on your bus there really isn't a whole lot you do. It's public transit."

The agency talked with the mother, five witnesses and the driver and reviewed video from the bus. TriMet also released an eight-minute video showing the interaction between the operator and mother.

There is no sound on the video but the mother is seen rocking and patting the crying child.

The driver made an announcement asking the mother to quiet the child, the agency said. The video shows her walking to the back of the bus to talk with the mother. The driver said she would not move the bus until the child was quiet, TriMet said.

The driver walked to the front of the bus to grab candy from her bag while the passenger gathered her things and left with her baby by the back door.

The mother later told TriMet she left voluntarily because she did not want to hold up the bus. The operator left the bus, offered the child candy and asked the mother if she wanted to get back on the bus, the agency said. She declined.

Earlier this month, The Oregonian reported on another incident of an angry driver kicking a mother and fussing child off a bus. In August, TriMet sent an out-of-service bus to pick up Amy Pittman and her 2-year-old son, Jasper, after a driver yelled at them and ejected them miles from their suburban home, the newspaper said.

Fetsch said that unidentified male driver also received unspecified discipline.

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