ROCKLAND — The ticketing policy at Concord Coach Lines is generating controversy after a 14-year-old Pakistani-American boy was left alone at a bus stop in Rockland earlier this month when the driver wouldn’t let him board without an ID.

Ahmed, of Brookline, Massachusetts, told The Courier-Gazette that he believes he could have been racially profiled and left at the Rockland bus station. Ahmed is an American citizen born in Michigan, and his mother is an immigrant from Pakistan.

“I never wanted to scream racism until I realized how unfair it was,” said Ahmed, whose surname the The Courier-Gazette did not publish because he’s a minor.

He said he has never been confronted by racism before, and added that there is no way to know for sure that the incident was motivated by racism.

Steve Harbert, safety director for Concord Coach Lines, said the company does not feel the bus driver, whom he declined to identify, did anything wrong.

“There was no profiling,” he said. Harbert said he has driven a bus before, and “when you look out at the people, you just see them as a crowd.” He said the drivers do not see the people in terms of the color of their skin.


Ahmed said he was visiting a friend for a summer vacation in Maine and had a ticket home on a Concord bus out of Rockland.

Ahmed said in a phone interview that he had the receipt for the ticket on his cellphone and he was going to board the bus with his friend’s grandmother.

As he was waiting to get on the bus, a couple in front of him were pulled to the side and asked to show identification. Later the bus driver told him he could not travel on the bus unless he had identification. When Ahmed’s friend’s grandmother tried to ask about the incident, the bus driver told her to get back on the bus, Ahmed said.

Ahmed said the driver for the most part ignored him and when he did notice him was very cold in his tone and seemed irritated.

He said that being 14, he does not have any identification.

The other couple were allowed on the bus and Ahmed went inside to try to talk to someone at the ticket counter, hoping to clear up the misunderstanding. The people at the window simply said they did not make policy.


While he was inside, the bus left without him, leaving him stranded. He had to call around to people in his friend’s family for a ride, and though he was supposed to be home by 3 p.m., he ended up not making it home until 10 p.m., having been given a ride by friends.

Attempts to reach the grandmother of Ahmed’s friend were unsuccessful Saturday.

Concord Coach Lines said drivers ask passengers for identification “as collateral” in places, including Rockland, where they cannot have their tickets printed.

“When the passenger in question informed the driver that he didn’t have a printed ticket or an ID, the driver boarded the rest of the bus first, and then was told the passenger had already left the boarding area when he tried to find him again to determine a solution,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Concord Coach Line’s policy, according to its website, says that children under age 17 must be accompanied by an adult with photo identification.

Boston Globe columnist Nestor Ramos broke the story online Aug. 22 under the headline: ” ‘I was the only one left behind. And I was the only one who was brown.’ ”


The Concord Coach statement said that “during peak travel time in the summer, it can be difficult for drivers at these rural locations, such as Rockland … to board dozens of people at a time, sort and load their luggage, take their tickets, answer their questions, handle issues, and then leave on time. In the process of trying to accommodate so many people, drivers can find themselves overloaded. When this happens, drivers tend to have less time to come up with a creative solution to getting everyone on the bus.”

Ahmed said, however, that it was not the hectic scene described. He said no one would listen to him or explain the situation to him. No one from the bus company has contacted him since the incident, he said.

The flap is the second controversy regarding Concord Coach Lines in the past few months.

Concord Coach Lines told the Portland Press Herald in June it was a “mistake” for an employee to falsely tell passengers in Bangor they needed to be U.S. citizens to ride the company’s buses. The employee had never been asked that question before and was taken by surprise, according to the Press Herald report.

Asked if there was an issue with the company’s culture, Harbert said that incident was totally unrelated.

Press Herald staff writer Joe Lawlor contributed to this report.

Daniel Dunkle can be contacted at:

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