CATS says children 12 and younger should ride its buses with an adult.
The transit system said that's not a hard rule, but a guide for parents.
“We don't know the kid's name, how old they are,” said Olaf Kinard, a marketing manager for the Charlotte Area Transit System.
A 12-year-old girl was raped Wednesday morning after she got off a CATS bus. The girl had taken a CATS bus near her home to uptown, where she switched to another bus at the transit center.
Police said Marcus Maurice Kennedy, 28, boarded the same bus and tried to talk to her but was rebuffed.
The girl got off the bus at 8a.m. on Dalecrest Drive in northern Charlotte. Kennedy got off at the same stop, followed her and forced into bushes and raped her, police said.
Bus drivers interviewed Thursday said they have probably carried some riders as young as 11, 12 or 13 without adult supervision, though it's not common.
Eva Montoya, who has driven CATS buses for five years, said she doesn't think she's ever carried anyone younger than 10 or 11 without an adult. She said it's difficult to watch young riders while driving the bus.
Kinard said that CATS drivers are taught to make sure young riders are OK. He said last year, a CATS driver found a young child at a bus stop and then called police and waited until they arrived.
Nora Carr, a spokeswoman for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, said the school system has no way of knowing how many students might be riding city buses to get to school bus stops. A 12-year-old taking multiple city buses to get to school is virtually unheard of, she said. “It's certainly not something we would recommend.”
Kinard said CATS drivers will more than likely pick up a child because the bus may be safer than leaving them alone at a stop. CATS participates in a program called the National Safe Place Campaign, which teaches children to ask a bus driver for help or assistance.
In the aftermath of Wednesday's incident, CATS is offering video footage for police. It's also conducting its own probe.
“We look and see if there's anything we can reassess,” Kinard said.