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It was time for driver to get off the bus

Some may say TriMet threw Claudeen Hendren under the bus last week. We don’t know about that, but they definitely tossed her off the bus, which in a way, seems particularly fitting.

The regional transit agency announced Thursday afternoon that Hendren, a bus driver at the center of two high-profile cases of mothers being booted from her buses, has retired.

But Hendren’s exit wasn't on her timetable. TriMet officials, who suspended Hendren last fall, said they would have fired her this summer if she hadn't left the agency on her own.

Retirement was a graceful, if painful, solution for Hendren, who will be able to keep her health benefits. We don't know whether she was or wasn't a good driver, but her record clearly shows that she was regularly in conflict with her passengers, racking up more than 200 complaints since she was hired in March 2001.

But the tipping point for her came in the past nine months, when young mothers and their crying children were twice left at a #57 bus stop after emotional verbal exchanges with Hendren.

The first incident, last fall, involved a Forest Grove mom who left the bus after a dust-up with Hendren in Hillsboro. The latest happened in June, when a police officer had to drive a mother and her four kids to their Cornelius home after Hendren refused to let them get back on the bus in Forest Grove.

Hendren and her union defended her actions in both incidents, saying she was trying to be helpful in the first and merely enforcing the transit agency's fare policy in the second.

We’re sympathetic to the union's argument that drivers who enforce the rules get more complaints than other drivers, but that doesn't change our belief that anyone working for the public in a highly visible job should do their best to diffuse any tense situation, not escalate it.

Driving a bus is a hard job. Riding one shouldn't be. It was time to get Hendren out from behind the wheel.



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