Out of the 2,451 items turned into RTS's lost and found between October 2016 and October 2017, 59 percent of them were disposed of, according to data from RTS.
One reason for this may be the fact that RTS does not contact the owners of lost items when they are found, even if there is identifying material, such as an ID.
After each completed bus run, the driver checks the seats and aisles for anything that may be lost, said Chip Skinner, the City of Gainesville assistant public information officer. Then at the end of his or her shift, the driver brings the items to a front desk or dispatch clerk.
He said most items get tossed or donated after 30 days if its owner does not come to the office to claim it. Bikes have 60 days before they are given to GPD or Gainesville Fire Rescue to be given away. Skinner said student IDs are returned to their respective institutions, either UF or Santa Fe College, where the office then contacts the student.
After the item is turned in to the RTS clerk, however, it is then up to the owner to contact the office before the time period is up.
“A wallet or laptop or something like that that’s left on the bus — we do not try to track them down,” Skinner said. “It is up to them to reach out to RTS and contact our lost and found. Then they have to give us an accurate description of the item — exactly what it is, what it looks like and distinguishing features such as stickers or anything else like that.”
He said if there is identifying information on the object, such as a name, they will sometimes try to contact the person by searching for their phone number.
“We do not search Facebook or other social media,” Skinner said. “We have limited staff and time to do this though.”
If people are unable to claim their items within the time period and do not contact RTS about picking up their items, they are thrown away, with sensitive material like IDs or credit cards being shredded.
Emily Leveque, a 19-year-old Santa Fe Art Studio sophomore, lost her wallet on RTS Route 76 in October. She said for her, the process to retrieve it was quick and straightforward.
After realizing she had lost it and contacting RTS’ Lost and Found, she was able to pick it up the next day. However, it is usually a different story for those who lose items on city buses.
“I wouldn’t change too much about it just because it went so well and there wasn’t much to worry about,” she said. “The only thing that was left to worry about is if the bus driver sees the lost item before someone just takes it off the bus.”
However, while the process was simple and fast, she thinks RTS should contact people if it is possible, because the owner might think they lost the item somewhere else, or that it got stolen or was never found.
“I think they should contact people because they might have lost something and not realized it for a week or something and not even realized it, or remembered what time or day that they lost it, and they wouldn’t know it was on the bus,” Leveque said. “So they should definitely call people if they have identifying information.”
Items turned into RTS not claimed goes beyond wallets, IDs and cellphones. Stranger items lost on the bus include a variety of knives, a microwave and a wheelbarrow.
“People just need to be cognizant when they are on the bus,” Skinner said. “That’s the biggest thing — is we’re always in such a hurry, and then we get calls from students that are in a panic.”