It was déjà vu for some bus riders trying to get to the first day of school in Chatham County. Countless parents turned to News 3 after late and missed busses and busy tones for those who called Reliant Transportation.
What should have been an exciting first day back to school quickly turned into disappointment for some bus riders. Some Hodge Elementary students were supposed to be picked up at 7:09 a.m. but 40 minutes later and multiple calls to Reliant there was no bus in sight. However, the driver of the route came without her bus.
“We got there this morning 30 minutes early and some drivers took other peoples buses and you know when you sign in they say you’re going to have a bus but no bus no keys,” said driver Eliciyah Brown.
Instead of blowing off her route, this bus driver wanted to make sure these kids would be okay.
“They are too little to be standing at the bus stop you know so I just want to give the parents courtesy that you might need to take your kids to school this morning,” said Brown.
A neighbor took the Hodge Elementary students who were already late for their first day.
Over on the south side of town, the bus stop at Spanish Villa Apartments on Abercorn Street ran more smoothly. The bus was less than 10 minutes late and ready to get a 3rd grader off to Heard Elementary.
“It’s a new bus so that’s exciting because she said the seats were a little wobbly last year so that was a big concern because you know they are not strapped in or anything so new bus, new driver, it showed up so it’s a good thing,” said parent Fipe Wilkens.
Parents said the service around the county didn’t feel consistent.
“I have tried calling but it’s just a busy signal and I can’t get through to anybody,” said parent Becky Post.
Becky Post along with Sheila Whitman and their kids waited at a stop near Chatham Parkway for two hours.
“If I had left them to get on the bus and went on to work then they would still be standing out here,” said Whitman.
Whitman said only time will tell if this new bus company is better than the last.
“I hope that they can become reliant, if that’s what their name is that’s what they should be doing,” said Whitman.
We took these problems to MV/Reliant management to see what they had to say.
Robert Hatchett , the Vice President of Business Development, said the morning run went as expected. He said the company knew they were going to have some problems on the first day of school.
Hatchett said they had eight buses break down compared to 35 last year with First Student and out of the 370 routes that were dispatched there were 25 to 35 buses that ran an hour or more late.
Hatchett said staff came together after the morning service to re-evaluate.
“I’m sorry for any inconvenience to any parent obviously that’s not what we want. We want to be on time and have them be able to have a service they can trust and depend on. We are going to be that service for them. it’s not going to happen immediately but we ask them to be patient with us and let us know if we are not getting there in a time they expect us to,” said Hatchett.
Hatchett said they are also committed to fixing the communication problem. He said there’s 15 people in the call center and they have around 20 phone lines. Staff is evaluating if they have enough people answering calls.
“I can promise the parents that the communication effort is going to be better. We’re committed to making sure we understand how much call volume we are receiving, we are tracking hold times, wait times, tracking the number of people we don’t get to because of call volume and then we are addressing that in our debriefs after each route period,” said Hatchett.
You can call Reliant Transportation at 912-544-5350