2 Investigates: Public buses caught running red lights

by: John Bachman Updated:

Channel 2's John Bachman obtained video of buses running those lights over and over again.

ATLANTA - A Channel 2 Action News investigation uncovered public transit buses running red lights and drivers with multiple violations.

Channel 2's John Bachman obtained video of buses running those lights over and over again.

Channel 2 producers took those tickets and spent weeks compiling a database to find out just how often buses run red lights and who were the worst offenders.

After Channel 2 cameras spent several days at intersections with red-light cameras and found bus after bus running red lights.

Bachman pulled records to see just how often public transit drivers run through red lights.

In five years, Gwinnett County bus drivers were caught by red-light cameras 17 times. In Cobb County, they were caught a total of 20 times. MARTA bus drivers received a total of 217 tickets in those same five years.

"We cannot condone in any way unsafe driving and we do not," said Mary Ann Jackson, MARTA's assistant general manager of bus operations.

Jackson said that number is too high.

"Certainly we want to strive to do everything possible to bring that number down to zero, which is where it should be," said Jackson.

Jackson points out that MARTA services both DeKalb and Fulton counties.

Their buses run 26 million miles per year. Cobb and Gwinnett counties run 7.2 million miles per year combined.

More miles on the road mean more chances to get a traffic ticket.

"Right here in the city of Atlanta at Buford Highway and Lenox we operate through there hundreds of times a day, so there is more exposure," said Jackson.

After pulling the red-light tickets we were able to watch driver after driver running red lights. Bachman found 17 MARTA drivers had two or more red light citations, some racking up two on the same day.

"The first offense is a written reprimand, the second offense is a five-day suspension and the third is termination," said Jackson.

Jackson said if the traffic violation is serious enough, especially if it causes an accident, a driver could face immediate termination.

"We move people so safety is the No. 1 priority," said Judy Pardonnet, spokeswoman for Veolia, the private transportation company that is contracted to provide the bus service for both Cobb and Gwinnett counties.

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"It really depends situation to situation and on the individual and if their behavior has been corrected. Multiple violations will not be tolerated," said Pardonnet.

"Our client was injured while he was a passenger on a MARTA bus that collided with another vehicle at a red light," said Alex Nguyen, an attorney.

Nguyen said his client was on a bus when it allegedly ran a red light. The citation against the driver was later dismissed, but Nguyen said his client was badly injured as a result of the accident.

"You're taking fees for customers to ride and they are expected to provide a safe riding environment," said Nguyen.

MARTA said most of it's drivers are safe drivers and to ensure the safety of their riders they hold their employees to strict standards.

"If you're found to have violated, then you're going to be disciplined," said Jackson.

MARTA, Gwinnett and Cobb County all said that taxpayers are not on the hook for red light citations. The driver is held accountable and must pay the fee.