Bus co. admits mistake after leaving 92-year-old at abandoned building

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- A bus service company admitted it made a mistake when it forced a 92-year-old Beaverton woman off of a TriMet bus and left her at an abandoned building with no way to get home.

Dona Moore, a great-grandmother who uses a walker, wanted to go to the fabric store because she was working on a quilt for her daughter. She called for a TriMet LIFT bus - a shared-ride public transportation service for seniors and the disabled - to drive her to Jo-Ann Fabric in Beaverton. TriMet contracts with First Transit, which dispatches and operates TriMet's LIFT buses.

Moore said the LIFT bus picked her up at the assisted living facility where she lives, Hearthstone, and drove her to a Beaverton Jo-Ann Fabric. The problem, however, was that store had moved and the remaining building was empty. There were no other businesses nearby. Moore didn't have a cellphone to call for a ride.

Moore said the bus driver told her, "Well, you have to get out here."

After she said she told the bus driver she didn't want to get off the bus, she said the driver told her she'd have to figure it out herself.

"So he called his office and said 'What do I do with this lady?' And (the person on the other end) said, 'She has to get off,'" Moore told KATU.

Then Moore said the bus driver said he would carry her off the bus if she didn't do it herself.

"I thought, 'that doesn't sound too exciting so I better get off," Moore said.

So she did. She set her walker down, leaned against it, and waited. She didn't have a cellphone to call anyone.

"This is a really bad thing," Moore said. "It's disconcerting to think that I'm (nearly) 93 years old and I have to sit out all by myself on the street corner."

After the On Your Side Investigators made calls to TriMet and First Transit, both agencies said they launched investigations.

In an email statement to KATU, TriMet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt wrote, "TriMet and First Transit are still investigating this incident. It's clear that the First Transit dispatcher did not follow standard operating procedure and did not provide appropriate direction to the operator. TriMet is ensuring that First Transit provide retraining to make sure such an incident doesn't happen again."

Meanwhile, First Transit spokeswoman Stephanie Creech sent this statement to KATU: "Safety is a core value of First Transit. The safe transport of all of our passengers is a responsibility we take very seriously. We deeply regret the concern caused by this incident. As is protocol for an incident such as this, First Transit is working closely with our partners at Tri-Met in conducting a thorough internal investigation."

As it turns out, Moore didn't have to wait terribly long to get home.

"I just got lucky," Moore said.

There were only three riders on the LIFT bus that day, according to Moore. In a twist of fate, one of those riders was the daughter of a caregiver at Moore's assisted living facility. Unbeknownst to Moore, that rider called Hearthstone and arranged for Moore to be picked up.

An administrator told KATU she picked up Moore within a half-hour of the call.

"It was an experience," Moore said.