Board member, rider raises transit concerns

Tribune Chronicle / Renee Fox Carl Clemens, a Trumbull County Transit Board member, senior citizen and disabled man, uses the county tranist system to get to and from work. Clemens said inexperienced drivers have dropped him off at the wrong house five or six times and he is dedicated to ensuring the system works for the people who need it most.

A member of the Trumbull County Transit Board who is visually impaired said drivers with the board’s contractor have dropped him off in the wrong location more than once, but the president of the company says the man is exaggerating his complaint.

Carl Clemens, appointed to the transit board in 2017, filed a complaint Dec. 21 with Trumbull County commissioners, and he said it’s happened four or five other times since he has been using the service.

Clemens uses the transit system to get around because he inherited the degenerative disease retinitis pigmentosa.

In the most recent incident, Clemens said a driver for Community Bus Services, the publicly-funded transit board’s contractor, dropped him off a few doors down from his home. While Clemens is blind, some days he can still make out some light and shapes, he said, so he soon realized it was the wrong place. Another time he was dropped off at the wrong place he realized it was the wrong house because his garage door opener wasn’t opening the garage, he said.

“It’s overwhelming to be in that position, as a senior and a disabled person, it is a very insecure feeling to find yourself somewhere you weren’t expecting to be,” Clemens said.

Clemens said he has heard from other transit riders who were left waiting because a driver went to the wrong place, and said he believes the incidents speak to a need for increased training for the company’s drivers. Clemens said he doesn’t blame his driver, he blames his training.

“If they are dropping me off in the wrong place, and this isn’t the first time, there are flaws in the system that need addressed. The drivers need more training and time to get familiar with the neighborhoods they are driving in. And, there needs to be a more comprehensive complaint process with resolutions to systematic problems, not just apologies,” Clemens said.

But Terry Thomas, the president of CBS, said the company responded quickly to Clemens’ complaint and a review of cameras in the vehicle show the driver waited to ensure Clemens got into the right house.

Clemens directed the driver to the wrong driveway, but realized the mistake and told the driver he was OK to walk to the right house, Thomas said a video shows.

“The driver watched him get into his house safely. Unfortunately Carl did not report the complaint this way at all. Carl called the commissioners’ office to report the complaint, but not the transit office,” Thomas said.

Clemens and Thomas dispute whether the complaint was resolved and whether either party answered or returned phone calls about the matter.

Thomas said an employee of CBS called Clemens “every 15 minutes” after receiving the complaint, but Clemens didn’t return a call for over two