Bronx resident Charita Headley — who worked for the MTA as a bus operator until July 2015 when she was terminated for extended absence — began smoking on the M101 bus at East 96th Street on her way up Third Avenue to East Harlem at about 7:10 a.m., police said.
When she lit her cigarette, the driver told her to stop and get off the bus, but she refused, according to police and the MTA.
When the driver got to East 97th Street, he began moving his passengers off the bus and onto another one — giving Headley, 34, the opportunity to jump behind the wheel and take off, police said.
There were no other passengers on the bus with her when she drove away, according to authorities.
She was finally stopped three blocks north at East 100th Street, where another MTA bus driver intentionally blocked her path with his bus, police said.
An MTA dispatcher then reached through the driver's side window of the bus Headley was driving, turned the engine off and opened the front door, according to the MTA.
When she got off, Headley told police she believed people were following her.
Headley, who police described as emotionally disturbed, was arrested and transported to Metropolitan Hospital for evaluation, officials said.
No one was injured and there was no property damage as a result of the incident.
Headley was charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, police said.