Transit riders are sometimes seen carrying unusual items on the bus or train. (A man in San Francisco was recently spotted carrying a refrigerator!) Some of these things accidentally get left behind. In February, a CityLab article, The Secret Life of Stuff We Lose on Subways, made us wonder: What are the most unusual items left behind on transit vehicles here in Austin?
First off, some stats: on average, nearly 12,000 items turn up at Capital Metro’s Lost & Found each year. Of that, less than 3,000, or only 23 percent, of these items are typically claimed. Many items are deemed of little value by their owners and not retrieved. The Lost & Found office receives hundreds of knitted caps and single gloves during the winter, for instance.
To everything there is a season — a time to gain, a time to lose
As with hats and gloves, Customer Service notes that the items left behind are often seasonal. Musical instruments are often lost by students at the beginning of the school year. Likewise, a few guitars are invariably found on vehicles each year during SXSW. Sunglasses are often received during the summer months and umbrellas make their way to Lost & Found on rainy days.
Smaller items, like wallets and cell phones, are commonly left on board. An average of 700 wallets per year are turned in to Capital Metro’s Lost & Found and only 66 percent of those are claimed. Each year, the department sees roughly 500 cell phones, and only 43 percent of those are reunited with their owners.
Bicycles are sometimes forgotten on bus bike racks. In 2015, more than 500 bikes were recovered and just over half of those were claimed by their owners.
And then there are the more unusual items, things like a push lawnmower, artificial limbs and teeth, and even a small boat anchor. The anchor, coincidentally, made its way to Lost & Found during the same week that a few fishing rods and a folding stool drifted in–as if someone’s seafaring kit was tossed ashore.
With each lost item is a story. A large set of keys, filed in a leather carrying pouch, once came up missing. The owner checked in with Customer Service personnel periodically over a two-month period before the keys suddenly appeared and were handed back to the “key master.” Then there was the time that MetroRail service was delayed for over an hour because of a suspicious black box left on the train. Turns out, it carried someone’s less-imposing lost lunch. (Baloney sandwich, anyone?)
So, what happens to the thousands of unclaimed items left behind on Capital Metro vehicles? If unclaimed for three weeks, items in good condition are donated to social service organizations for reuse. Unusable or unclean items are disposed of. In the case of lost wallets, owners are contacted if phone numbers or addresses are available. If a wallet is not collected 20 days after an owner is contacted, personal information found within the wallet is shredded and destroyed.
Whether a wallet, bike, book or guitar, Capital Metro understands that these things are missed. We’re happy when we can reunite riders with their lost property, restoring their faith in others and allowing them to carry on.
What can a rider do if an item is left on one of Capital Metro’s buses or trains?
Contact Lost & Found to see if the lost item has been received and then visit Capital Metro’s Transit Store to retrieve it. A potential owner will be asked to describe the property in detail, present photo ID and sign for the return of it.
Lost & Found Contact Information:
Capital Metro Transit Store: 209 W. 9th Street, Austin (Hours are Monday – Friday, 7:30 AM – 5:30 PM)