Bus Bucks: Here Comes the Bus - There Goes our Money! - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Bus Bucks: Here Comes the Bus - There Goes our Money!

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - You pay to ride RTA's buses and trains, but look at how many people are getting paid big bucks by the agency at a time when RTA says they may have to cut routes!

A 19 Action News investigation found the agency has paid out more than six-million dollars in the last three-years to settle lawsuits over accidents.

Kenneth Hilpert of North Olmsted is involved in one of those big buck lawsuits. Hilpert's wife claims that an RTA bus driver started moving before she sat down throwing her onto the floor and "caused severe and permanent injury." The RTA settled the lawsuit for fifty thousand dollars.

Hilpert's husband says "it was the bus driver's fault. They should've waited until everyone held or before she sat down."

Another RTA bus driver, Andrea Smith, accidentally hit and killed a man in a crosswalk. The RTA paid that family 1.7 million dollars to settle the lawsuit.

19 Action News found people getting paid after RTA drivers hit customers waiting for a bus and for drivers crashing into cars. The investigation also found that there were one hundred and fifty six lawsuits settled by RTA over a three year span.

In one of the most extraordinary cases, the money RTA paid out to the victim came from the same budget it depends on to provide service to the riders.

With all this money being distributed, 19 Action News wondered why so many checks were written and why there are so many accidents like this one, another deadly crash that  killed a man in a crosswalk.

Myron Grace, a witness to the fatal crash back in March 2009 said "I saw it happen…the side of the bus bumper was impacted from hitting this person.. that's how hard it (the bus) hit him."

19 Action News went to RTA headquarters looking for answers and filed multiple requests to speak to someone about the incidents and payouts, but RTA said no to all of them. Instead, the agency released a statement saying the RTA carries twenty-three million passengers a year and that "accidents do happen" and that the agency has a pretty good idea how much money they should budget every year to settle claims and lawsuits.

In recent weeks, the RTA has been holding hearings saying money is so tight that they may have to cut bus routes.

Now, riders worry about services getting cut or fares going higher because the agency needs the funds.

Richard Perkins, an RTA passenger told 19 Action News that "it's not fair for the commuters and stuff and for me… I take the bus all over Cleveland and if they raise the prices, it'll really cut into my budget."

The accidents have led RTA to make various safety improvements that are focusing on drivers and buses but, over the three years the number of people getting paid by RTA hasn't changed much.

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