C-Tran office houses odd assortment of items left on buses

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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Lost something on C-Tran?

Call 360-695-0123.

When the PR guy for C-Tran freely admits that something to do with his agency is "sad and bizarre" -- it has to be truly weird.

Not surprising, then, that spokesman Scott Patterson was referring to a baby octopus in a pickle jar … or, one of the most strange things drivers handed over to C-Tran's lost and found at the end of a route.

While many folks have the luxury of leaving their odd personal items in their back seats, those riding Clark County buses risk leaving their oddball cargo in a very public place.

Among the other greatest hits left on C-Tran buses? A full-size mannequin; teeth; a drum found just after the Paddy Hough Parade; and a giant walking stick with bright paint, stickers and a skull head on top.

On a recent trip to C-Tran's headquarters, where they store lost items behind a padlocked fence, the collection included: umbrellas, a few strollers, a cane, six bikes — and a large bird cage, complete with an inflated latex glove attached to the perch.

"I want to meet the individual who left that on the bus," Patterson said, laughing.

While cellphones, wallets and purses are probably the most commonly left behind personal items, perhaps the most perplexing object that riders often forget is their bikes. Passengers — who presumably have ridden their bikes to the stop, or must need to ride

them somewhere once they get off again — load their bikes on the front of the bus. They're given a reminder card by the driver. But during the summer, about six bikes a month are left to run the entire route, Patterson said.

"I can only imagine some of the reasons they leave them on the bus for," he said.

Last week, the bikes ranged from a few beat-up-looking BMX number to a girls' Huffy to a sweet vintage Schwinn.

Patterson had mentioned the high incidence of people leaving bikes behind when talking up the good points of a proposed bus rapid transit route on Fourth Plain. On those larger, longer buses, passengers roll their bikes on board with them.

Still, the spokesman said he doesn't see that being a cure-all for absentmindedness: "If people leave them on the front of the bus at this rate" there's no way they'll remember them 100 percent of the time under any system.

No matter what's left behind, it goes to the transit agency's offices at the Vancouver mall, where they stay for about two weeks. Then, they're off to C-Tran headquarters off Fourth Plain Boulevard, where they spend at least a month. After that, to local charities they go.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542; http://www.twitter.com/col_cityhall;andrea.damewood@columbian.com.