Students stranded in storm
In one month, Charlottesville Transit Service passengers can look forward to electronically equipped kiosks to let riders track bus locations and arrivals in real time. Unfortunately, the new "bus finder" system wasn't unveiled in time to help a handful of students left waiting outside in a cold rain for a bus that never came.
Devin Benson, a 17-year-old Murray High student, took the last bus to Piedmont Virginia Community College February 12 for his practices-of-criminal-investigations class– and wound up with no class and no return.
Benson arrived around 5:20pm. Because of bad weather, the college canceled its evening classes at 5:25, says Benson, and he waited with three or four other students at the bus shelter.
"I waited at least an hour," he says. "Someone else with a cellphone called and was told the bus was canceled. Ice started forming on the back of my backpack."
When the students heard the bus was canceled, "We tried to go back in the school," says Benson, "but they'd locked the doors."
While Benson was eventually able to catch a ride with a relative, he says one student had to hire a taxi while another one hitchhiked.
"The last 5:45 day route couldn't get up the hill," explains CTS manager Bill Watterson. "We told several people who contacted us to meet at the bottom of the hill at the Visitors Center."
Devin's mother, Denise Benson, is incredulous that the students were left stranded and were never told that the bus had been canceled. She says she had no problem getting up the hill when she went to pick up her son around 6:45pm.
"It wasn't bad at all– I was surprised PVCC was closed," says Benson.
"There's no foolproof method,"Watterson says. "When you have a weather event, buses will be delayed. The best way is to call CTS."
Such incidents might become a thing of the past after March 24 when 25 bus stops get the electronic finders. In the meantime, Watterson advises curious passengers to call 970-3649.