Lost and Found on Public Transit and Hopefully Reunited

Posted on December 15, 2014 by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

One might think with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and passengers carrying more packages than usual on buses, trains and trolleys, transit organizations’ lost and found departments could be busier than usual. For large authorities like the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), the lost and found bins are often full throughout the year, not just during the Christmas season.

Sift through some of the “treasures” found on SEPTA’s approximately 1,400 buses and you will see the typical umbrella, lunch bag and hat. “On routes that carry a lot of students, we often find textbooks and musical instruments,” said Dave Rogers, SEPTA's senior director, surface transportation. But for every flute, lone glove and diaper bag, there are even more unique items.

RELATED: Transit systems reunite owners with lost items

“We get a lot of four-footed canes,” said Fred Melhuish, assistant director, transportation, at SEPTA’s Midvale Bus District. “It makes you wonder if the person needed the cane to get on the bus, why wouldn’t they need it when they left?” Other found oddities that leave operators and dispatchers scratching their heads include bowling balls, a vacuum cleaner, dentures, a guitar synthesizer and bikes (left on a bus’ bike rack). “We had an operator turn in a box of medical records that was left behind,” said Chris Valentine, assistant director, transportation. “Luckily, there was contact information for the company, and we were able to get the sensitive materials to the right hands.”

For SEPTA surface transportation, each district has a room dedicated for lost and found. Items are placed in dated bins and held for 30 days. “We hope that someone will come forward to claim their property,” said Valentin. “If there is identification on the item, we will send a card to the owner. Otherwise, we have to wait until the owner reaches out to SEPTA.”    

Working with the lost and found is like playing detective. “For phones, tablets and laptops we look for some number we can call or an email address,” said Valentin. “When we are able to track down an owner, often they didn’t think to contact SEPTA to see if the item was left on the bus.”

“We’ve called banks, dentists’ offices, lawyers, anything to try to reunite the owners with their items, especially when it is something we know is important,” said Rogers, who recently put his sleuthing skills to use to find the owner of a wallet left on a bus on Black Friday. Using just the number for a local bank branch, Rogers tracked down the owner. Within just a few days she was ecstatically retrieving her property — and all of its contents intact — at SEPTA’s headquarters, making the holiday season happy once again.  

“More often than not, we get calls from people whose items we don’t have,” said Melhuish. “But if it was left behind on the bus, there’s a good chance it was turned in.”  

Just because something was lost on a city bus, train or trolley doesn’t mean it can’t be found. Miracles can happen all year long, not just during the holidays.

View comments or post a comment on this story. (0 Comments)

More Transit Dispatches Blog Posts

April 17, 2019

Transportation Innovation Steers Mobility for All

In the U.S., we love our cars and prefer to drive alone. More than 90% of Americans owned personal automobiles in 2017, and 21% of families had more than three cars per household, says the U.S. Census Bureau.

April 1, 2019

Why freedom of mobility is at the center of dealing with the climate crisis

The single biggest driver of change in transportation in the coming years will undoubtedly be the impending climate catastrophe.

March 26, 2019

'Going to School' to Cultivate the Next Generation of Transit Employees

To help mitigate the effects of a potential workforce shortage, SEPTA is taking its recruitment efforts to the next generation, reaching out to students about careers in transportation.

March 17, 2019

How congestion pricing, MaaS, and new transit policies will benefit all

By working in tandem, these elements will result in better public transportation infrastructure, more egalitarian access to transit options, affordable or free services, and a healthier environment.

March 13, 2019

How private-sector vendors can successfully navigate transit agencies

What I found in my public sector roles was that often private sector vendors did not understand how we operated nor how to interface effectively with us as the public agency.

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (0)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment

TruckingInfo.com

THE COMMERCIAL TRUCK INDUSTRY’S MOST IN-DEPTH INFORMATION SOURCE

Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation