Light rail bus shuttle gets panned
The Maryland Transit Administration's light rail system is operating this week without its central section because of work on the train infrastructure and road surface along Howard Street. That has required the closing of the line between the Camden yards and Cultural Center stations.
The MTA deserves credit for scheduling the work, which is expected to last through this weekend, during a heavy vacation week while the Orioles are on a long road trip. But a reader named Youssef, who preferred that we not use his llst name, had trouble with the bus shuttle tthe MTA offered as a substitute.
I had a wonderful experience this morning that I think you, the public, and MTA should know about. I normally take Metro to Lexington Market and transfer to Light Rail northbound to Hunt Valley. I arrived at the Light Rail station to find a sign that directed me to the corner of Howard and Saratoga to wait for the northbound shuttle. Other passengers were waiting there as well.
There is a bus stop on each side of Saratoga street at this intersection, and the sign at the Light Rail station didn't specify which one would be handling shuttle traffic. Nor were there any signs at the bus stops to direct shuttle passengers. I waited for 20 minutes without any sign of a shuttle. I asked the driver of a #15 or 23 bus (can't remember which) if she knew where the shuttle was, and she told me that she didn't know but if they were going to be anywhere, they'd be on Eutaw St. I walked down to Eutaw, and still saw no shuttle or signs. At this point, I had to choose whether to further pursue a potentially lost cause and be horrifically late for work or cut my losses, ride Metro back to my house, and drive. I chose the latter option. (Un)fortunately, the Light Rail is such a slow line that I have to leave my house 50 minutes earlier when I ride the train than when I drive, so I still made it to work on time.
I just looked at the MTA website and the route described for the northbound shuttle never touches the intersection of Howard St and Saratoga. I can't even begin to imagine what series of decisions (or lack of decisions) led to an incorrect sign being placed at the rail station, but I sure can imagine how MTA's spokesmen will react to the situation: an unfortunate and unacceptable miscommunication that they will work very hard in the future to correct. I think I speak for most riders by saying that this cookie-cutter PR response will not be met with understanding or acceptance.
Getting There has asked MTA spokespeople to look into the shuttle arrangements and see why they didn't work out for this customer. I haven't inspected this system but know that clear signage has in the past been a challenge for the MTA. One would hope that any time it has to set up a bus shuttle, that a supervisor would go out and verify that all the signs are clear and highly visible.
For the record, here is the information from the MTA web site regarding the shuttle bus route.
Southbound: Regular route to Preston Street and Howard Street, then straight on Preston Street to Dolphin Street, left on Eutaw Place, straight on Eutaw Street, right on Lombard Street, left on Greene Street, straight on Russell Street, left on Lee Street, then left on driveway to loading area at sidewalk adjacent to the MARC station.
Northbound: From The Camden Yards MARC Station, straight on Conway Street, left on Howard Street, left on Fayette Street, right on Eutaw Street, right on Mulberry Street, left on Howard Street, right on North Avenue, right on St. Paul Street to Penn Station Driveway, then straight on St. Paul Street ,right on Preston Street to Howard Street.
UPDATE: Here is a response from the MTA on what may lie behind the shuttle problems.
After the shuttle bus route had been planned and the signs were installed at the affected stations, the city decided to make street repairs at the same time. Those repairs forced MTA to reroute service around the Lexington Market north and south stations. New signs were made moving all boarding locations to Eutaw Street. The new signs are now in place at the stations and MTA employees are providing assistance to customers.
My first reaction is that ""now" is several days too late. The right signs needed to be in the right place before rail service was suspended. If they weren't, the responsible party should be called on the carpet. I'm sure the city is a trial to deal with, but that's no excuse for poor service.