Channel 4 investigates speeding JTA bus drivers

Mass transit director says 'Our first priority is safety'

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. - Erica Simmons, an Atlantic Beach mother of two, called Channel 4 over the summer asking for help. She says she's afraid her young children -- ages 1 and 4 years old -- are going to be hit and killed on Cavalla Road.

Simmons says JTA buses speed on their street day and night. It's a short road -- only the length of about two city blocks -- and the speed limit is just 20 mph. To speed there, you'd really need to floor it, since there are stop signs on either end of the road.

Armed with radar equipment, Channel 4's Jennifer Waugh and and photojournalist Joe Drumm set up on Cavalla Road and clocked driver after driver going too fast.

We went at different times of the day over a six-week period. We parked in a driveway on Cavalla Road with our radar equipment inside our vehicle, so we wouldn't draw attention.

The road is lined with homes and there are no sidewalks to buffer front yards from the buses that use the road as a cut through from busy Atlantic Boulevard. The bus stop they service is right around the corner.

Not every bus or trolley speeds, but we found a concerning number that do.  City buses, even trolleys, were going over the posted limit. While some are five miles over the limit, we caught others ranging in speeds from 27 to 30 mph – 10 miles over the posted speed limit.

Simmons says she called Channel 4 after she says she complained to JTA several times without action.  While interviewing Simmons, a bus could be heard barreling down the street.

"Wow, that guy was flying alright, so is that what you kind of experience?" asked Waugh.

"Yes, all the time. It seems like all of them speed," said Simmons.

We took our video to JTA to get some answers.

"What can you tell this neighborhood about what you're going to do about this?" Waugh asked Clinton Forbes, director of mass transit.

"Our first priority is safety," said Forbes. "We have a zero tolerance for our vehicles going over the speed limit," he added.

Forbes told us JTA was already aware of the problem on Cavalla Road and showed us a list of radar checks done by a JTA supervisor who clocked one driver going 32 mph.

"These are the four buses counseled by the supervisor and we sent out notices to all operators," said Forbes.

That was on August 17. But back out there two and a half weeks later -- September 5 -- we still found some bus drivers going over 20 mph.  We caught a shuttle going 29 mph.

Forbes also told us while JTA wants its drivers to stay on schedule, he knows that sometimes they can get delayed, but he tells them to be safe first and not to speed to catch up.

Simmons received a call from Forbes about an hour before his interview with us, promising more action.

"I personally called our resident about the speeding and we will have a supervisor monitoring that road on a daily basis," said Forbes.

Forbes also says he hopes to move the bus stop so that the buses do not have to drive through that residential neighborhood. He says JTA is trying to buy a piece of land nearby to relocate the bus stop.

An Atlantic Beach Police commander told us they received a complaint about speeders last month and they have gone out there seven times without finding any speeders. Of course, the commander pointed out that they were in a marked police car, which slows drivers down.

Anyone having trouble with JTA buses speeding in your neighborhood should call police, but you can also call JTA at 904-630-3100 to complain.  If you don't have any luck, Forbes says you can call his office directly at 904-630-3149.

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