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DDOT drivers caught in middle of dispute, no longer allowed on store's property

Posted at 7:19 PM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 19:23:24-05

DEARBORN HEIGHTS (WXYZ)  — The owner of a Shell gas station in Dearborn Heights said he is tired of getting nowhere with the executives for Detroit's city bus service, that he decided to ban DDOT bus drivers from his property on Telegraph at Warren.

Only the issue has nothing to do with the bus drivers. The problem stems from some passengers that loiter and "stand in the way of customers, some will panhandle, ask others to buy them items, and some will make threats," Tom Konja wrote in a letter he's forwarded to DDOT executives, urging them to relocate the bus stop.

Angela Davis, a DDOT bus driver who regularly stops in at the gas station to buy items and use the restroom during her breaks, stopped before entering the store Monday night after seeing a handwritten sign directed to drivers.

The sign alerts drivers that they will no longer be allowed on the property of the gas station starting Wednesday. And the sign indicates there will be no exceptions.

"I could understand if you said we can't use your bathroom, but you don't want our money either. You don't want our business either, and that's not fair," Davis told 7 Action News.

Davis drives the Warren line and the bus stop next to the gas station is at the end of the line where passengers exit the coach for drivers to take their 20 to 30 minute breaks.

Because of COVID, a number of options Davis and other drivers would normally have to use the restroom are no longer open to the public.

Davis expressed her frustration about the issue that driver have nothing to do with and cannot resolve.

"That has nothing to do with a DDOT driver, whatsoever," she said. "We have no control over that, and that's inhumane to us. Especially us women that have to go to the bathroom, to use the restroom. We don't have anywhere to go to the restroom and that line is an hour and 20.. 30 minutes.

"So you want me to drive way back to the east side to St. John Hospital to go to the bathroom?" said Davis who thinks banning bus drivers is a "little extreme."

And the head of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 26 agrees.

"We're caught in the middle of it and we have no control over what a passenger does once they get off the bus," said Glenn Tolbert, union president.

"We're essential workers," said Davis. "We coming out here to go to work, trying to do what we got to do."

Konja said he gets along with the bus drivers and most of the passenger, and he said he didn't want it to come to this.

"Now it has become an issue of safety for customers, the bus drivers, and my employees," he said about the problem passengers, including some who've shoplifted seconds before running to get on the bus right before it leaves.

"I'd like to minimize the problem to a low level where business can be conducted and customers are not afraid to come into the store," Konja said.

Action News reached out to a DDOT for a response and their Marketing Manager Jennifer Frye told 7 Action News, "Once a passenger deboards a DDOT vehicle, their actions are beyond DDOT's jurisdiction."