An Iranian International Ph.D. candidate believes his nationality and his name are the only possible explanation for a Greyhound driver removing him from a bus 200 miles short of his destination.
Mohammad Reza, of Arlington, was en route from Dallas to Kansas City last week to present his research at a national transportation conference, organized by the Transportation Research Board.
Reza boarded a Greyhound bus in Downtown Dallas shortly after 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13. After a transfer in Oklahoma City shortly before midnight, the Ph.D. candidate in Urban Planning and Public Policy at the University of Texas at Arlington said that he settled in for a night’s sleep so he would be well-rested for his conference, which began at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
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Sometime around three in the morning, near Wichita, Kansas, Reza said he was awakened by the Greyhound bus driver who demanded to see his ticket.
“The first thing that I remember is I showed my phone, the eTicket that I had," Reza recalled. "But, she was very angry and she started yelling that, ‘I cannot accept this cell phone ticket. She asked me, ‘Do you understand what the meaning of printed copy is?’ I thought that maybe because of my accent – I am an international student here – or my name [that] she saw on the cell phone, the PDF file. She did not explain [why she was upset].”
Moments later, Reza claims that he did locate the paper version of his bus ticket. By that time, the driver was already telling him he had to leave the bus.
A cellphone video that Reza shot and later posted to Facebook captured some of that exchange.
"You're not going with me. I don't want to talk to you no more. Get off my bus!” the unidentified driver said to Reza, who is seen holding the paper copy of his ticket in his hand. “Police is helping you off. Don't worry. Police is coming. You're not going with me."
"I really don't know…” Reza interjected, reportedly in an attempt to determine why he was being forced off of a bus despite having multiple versions of a valid ticket.
“You're not going with me! So stop talking with me. If you're not getting off stop talking to me. Police will be here in a minute to help you off so no, I don't want to talk to you no more. Go away,” the driver said.
"What's the reason?” Reza asked while he turned and walked back toward his seat.
When asked why he recorded a portion of the exchange on his cellphone, Reza said it was because he did not know what was about to happen to him.
“It was my last chance, based on previous experiences happening with airlines. I know police are coming and I had to tell my wife or my friends what was happening inside because 3 a.m. I didn't know what was going to happen next,” Reza said.
Before a police officer arrived and sided with the Greyhound driver, forcing him off of the bus at a closed Greyhound station near Wichita, Reza said other passengers became agitated with him protesting his right to stay on the bus.
“It was a very scary situation,” Reza said about being confronted by a passenger, who he claims threatened him. “One of them approached me at my seat and loudly said [the] ‘F-word’ and told me, ‘If you are not leaving the bus we want to do something with you here in the bus.’”
Reza said the bus left him at the closed Greyhound station around 3:40 a.m. Tuesday. When an employee arrived after 4 a.m., Reza said he was told the next bus to Kansas City left at approximately 2:30 p.m. – six hours after his conference began.
Instead of missing the conference, where Reza was set to present the findings of his study for the City of Dallas that looked at disparities in the Dallas Area Rapid Transit system, which claims to show inadequacies that disproportionately impact poor people, Reza hailed a Lyft driver to take him the remaining 200 miles, at a cost of nearly $250.
Reza made his conference and presented his research. A subsequent email from the panel moderator cited a city planner in attendance who claimed Reza’s panel “was one of the highlights of the conference.”
At the end of the day, Reza opted to fly home to Dallas on Tuesday night as opposed to using the return Greyhound ticket he had already paid for.
Reza noted that he is less interested in being reimbursed by Greyhound than he is getting a clear answer to why he, despite producing multiple copies of his valid ticket, was forced to leave the bus.
“I was surprised [when I was removed] because I asked different times, ‘What is the reason? Please tell me if I did something wrong, please tell me,’ and they do not answer my questions,” Reza said.
When reached for comment, a Greyhound spokesperson insisted that what happened to Mohammad Reza is not acceptable.
“Greyhound does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and is taking these allegations very seriously,” a company spokesperson noted. “We’ve identified the driver and are currently conducting a thorough investigation into the matter.”