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January 13, 2010

Charm City Circulator: Dumb, dumb, dumb!

UPDATE: The city's very  smart deputy transportation director, Jamie Kendrick, was reached by cell phone while aboard a Circulator bus. He agreed the misleading information described below is a problem, and said it would be rectified quickly.

Perhaps time will prove me wrong, but the new Charm City Circulator seems like a smart idea on many levels. But two days after its debut, a ride on the newly opened Orange Route uncovered one of the dumbest examples of government misinformation that could be imagined.

At the front of each bus, the city is distributing brochures with the Circulator's routes and operating schedules. The brochures are very complete, including information about all three routes. There's just one small omission: The brochures don't inform riders that two of the routes -- Purple and Green -- aren't operating yet.

The Sun/Jed  Kirschbaum

So let's say you're a visitor from out of town -- or a  local resident who didn't read Tuesday's article in The Sun. You hop on the Orange Route and pick up this map that shows you can connect to a Purple Route bus that will  take you up to Mount Vernon or Penn Station. So you go stand at the corner where the city itself has told you you can catch a connecting bus. And you stand and stand and stand, puzzled at  the bus that never comes.

It appears some city bureaucrat decided it was OK to give riders bad information for several months -- until the Purple and Green routes' spring debut -- just to save on printing costs. Dumb, dumb, dumb!

These buses still bear the name of Mayor Sheila "Cleaner, Greener" Dixon and are a part of her legacy. If she would like to burnish her tarnished image a bit before she leaves office Feb. 4, she should personally stop every Circulator bus and clean out every  handout that could leave a potential Circulator rider stranded on the street.

By the way, when my bus today reached the Inner Harbor stop on Pratt Street, the recorded announcement said it was the transfer point for the Purple Route. Dumber, dumber, dumber!

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:11 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: City bus service


Mike, Mike, Mike --

Thanks for the feedback. it's a fair criticism that can be corrected quickly on the printed piece and soon (but less quickly) on the voice announcement system.

We're on it, but rest assured it wasnt a "city bureaucrat who decided it was OK to cut costs" -- it was just a dumb mistake. Nothing more, nothing less.

Posting variable information—the mayor's name—on the side of the vehicle...brilliant. It looks like it's painted directly on there, versus being on some sort of less-than-permanent plaque or something.

I mean, it's not like the mayor changes more than every couple of years, and I'm pleased with whatever Dixon did to get us the Circulator, but puh-leeze...the megalomania of these people is unreal. Why stop at the the DOT director's name...the deputy mayor's name...shoot, maybe they can install an electronic display so that they can scroll the names of the entire city council and update them on a lark...

This reminds me of how the governor's name is posted on all of the "Welcome to Maryland" highway signs. At least the SHA puts the governor's name on a separate, smaller panel below the main welcome panel so that it can be replaced separately...

By the way, in regards to the maps showing the not-yet-open lines, I don't think you should beat up the City for trying to save money on that front.

However, I agree that it could be handled better. For instance, they could have printed "Opening Spring 2010...check for updates" on the handouts, and put removable stickers bearing the same message on signage. (That's what WMATA Metrorail does for its in-car and in-station maps that they print before an extension opens...)

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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