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TTC bus driver suspended over coffee break probe

A hybrid TTC bus stops on Landsdowne avenue in this May 2008 photo. The TTC has suspended an employee after a video surfaced showing a driver taking a mid-route seven minute coffee break.

Sami Siva

For the past three weeks, Reuven Politi has caught the all-night 310 Bathurst bus home. And on 10 of those nights, he says the driver has stopped at a County Style doughnut shop for a break lasting anywhere between six and 10 minutes.

Aggravated by the delays, Mr. Politi used his BlackBerry to videotape the driver exit the bus, walk into the shop and order a coffee. When he got home even later than usual early Wednesday, Mr. Politi uploaded two videos to YouTube, creating a viral sensation that documents yet another embarrassing example of a Toronto Transit Commission worker doing a less-than stellar job.

Yesterday, the union representing TTC workers said the unidentified bus driver had been suspended pending an internal investigation.

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Officials are investigating the driver's behaviour because of "the way it was done," said TTC spokesman Brad Ross.

Mr. Ross said drivers on late-night routes are allowed to make stops to use the washroom or grab a coffee. But they are supposed to first inform their passengers and ensure that the breaks are short.

In Mr. Politi's most popular video, which lasts seven minutes and 12 seconds and had been viewed by more than 30,000 people yesterday, the driver grabs his coat and silently leaves the bus to go into a Country Style. While he is gone, Mr. Politi asks one of the five or so passengers: "What do you think about it? Normal that they're doing this every night?" The man responds: "Yeah, every night."

When the bus driver returns, a woman yells at him for almost a minute, her arms waving. At one point, the driver appears to put his finger to his lips, as if to shush her.

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Mr. Politi said he is relieved the bus driver is no longer on the route because he is finally getting home on time.

"It's important to understand it was a routine. He did it every, every weeknight for two weeks. A total of 10 times," he said. "It's not a driver that is tired and stopping for a minute for a coffee, [I have]no problem with that. It's a routine. Every night."

Mr. Politi, who recently began working a late-night shift as a security guard at a condominium in North York, said he started timing the duration of the driver's breaks after noticing a pattern, finding they lasted an average of eight minutes. He videotaped him twice; the video lasting over seven minutes was taken on Jan. 29 around 3 a.m.

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He said his patience wore thin early Wednesday when the 2:46 a.m. bus was already running 15 minutes late. He said he asked the driver not to make his usual stop at a Country Style near the intersection of Bathurst Street and Wilson Avenue so he could get home and go to sleep. He also warned him that he would lodge a complaint about his behaviour.

"He told me, 'We're in the 21st century, kid. We are not in the 16th. I can do whatever I want'," said Mr. Politi, who is 33.

When the bus driver returned after about 10 minutes, Mr. Politi said he provided his badge number and said: "You can complain on me. I don't care. Nobody can touch me. I'm a union member. I don't like this f--king job anyway. If they fired me, you can replace me. You see on the roof there is a video camera, everything is recorded. You can take this video camera and stuff it into your ass. Nobody can touch me'."

Mr. Politi, who came to Canada from Israel almost six months ago, takes three buses to get home from his new job and said the transit service is otherwise good.

"Except for this stinky fish in the aquarium, everything is very good. The buses are very dirty, but I don't know if it's connected to the TTC or the people."

Mr. Politi's video comes two weeks after a subway rider snapped a photo of a sleeping ticket collector, which has come to symbolize what many transit riders see as sub-par service. Since then, other photos have surfaced, including one of a streetcar driver stopping mid-route to use an ATM.

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