MTA rider has bus service blues
Baltimore resident Eric Stull is a hard-working guy with two jobs and a rough commute from Northeast Baltimore to Timonium via two bus routes. But lately the Maryland Transit Administration hasn't been making it any easier. Here's his story:
- I thought I’d give you an account of my experience riding MTA buses in Baltimore in recent days. I live in northeast Baltimore, near the intersection of Old Harford Road and Northern Parkway, which is where I get off and on the #55 bus. From the #55, I connect at the Towson Town Center to the #8 bus, which takes me to or from the Lutherville Station, where I walk to or from my work in Timonium. The length of the journey is eight miles, and on most days, I do this only one-way, usually homeward in the evening, catching a ride to work with my wife in the morning. When I commuted regularly by bicycle to work, as I have often done over the last four years for many months at a time, most recently from last April until the middle of November, at which point I had to stop because of cycling-induced pain, pedaling took forty-five or fifty minutes on average. After first attempting to read the schedules and plot my own course, I started using the MTA website’s Trip Planner to plan my bus-riding time most efficiently. Both before and since beginning to use the Trip Planner, my journey routinely takes an hour and a half or more. The chief reason for this seems to be that some scheduled buses simply do not come.
Last week, on Wednesday the 5th, I left work a few minutes after 5PM to walk to Lutherville Station to catch the 5:26 #8 bus, so as to make the transfer to the #55 at 5:42. The #55 was thence to set me down at Northern Parkway and Old Harford Road at 6:08. A few minutes later, as I imagined, I would be joining my wife and four boys, who had prepared a birthday dinner for me. Following this schedule was one of the options the Trip Planner had recommended when I put in my information. I arrived a few minutes beforehand, caught the #8, made it to the transfer point a few minutes ahead, watched expectantly as a #55 arrived a couple of minutes later – only to go immediately out of service. By the time I actually got on a #55 more than forty-five minutes later at 6:26, I had seen three or four #48’s stop in front of me, two or three #11’s, and at least two #19’s. I asked the drivers of the #11’s if they were about to run the #55 route, which sometimes happens, since the Town Center is their switch-point, but neither was about to change from the #11 route. The clock was about to strike 7 when I arrived home that evening.
Two nights ago, on Tuesday the 11th, the 6:16 arrived at the Town Center sometime well after 6:30, which meant that, having left work at about 5:30, I arrived home at 7. Last night, Wednesday the 12th, both buses were on-time: I caught the 6:54 #8, made the transfer to the 7:07 #55 (not the #48 which would shortly turn into the #55, as the Trip Planner advised), got off the bus at 7:30, and walked home. This was the best of my last four rides: one hour from door to door. This morning, fresh off last night’s success, I attempted to take the bus to work, because my wife had to take two of our boys to an appointment at 8:45. I checked the Trip Planner, picked the 8:49 #55, which would get me to the #8 in time to make it to Lutherville by 9:30. So, I walked to the stop at 8:45, then waited until 9:15 without seeing a single westbound bus (and only one eastbound) on Northern Parkway. At this point, likely to be horribly late for work if I waited much longer, I decided to walk to the office on Harford Road where I expected my wife still to be. On the way there, I decided to call the MTA to complain, as I had done last Friday to complain of last Wednesday’s fiasco. As I finished giving an earful to a nice lady on the other end, my wife walked out of the building with our sons and drove me to work, where I arrived at 10, about a half-hour later than I had hoped.
Fortunately, I do good work and have an understanding boss, but like many people with families, I have to work two jobs to support mine (rather meagerly); like other people who stake a claim on at least nominal sanity, I value my free time. Does the MTA value it? Does it care if I get to work, for that matter? I have gotten on nearly all the buses I have taken these two months during or just after what most people would call rush hour, i.e., between 8 and 9:30 in the morning and 5 and 6:30 in the evening. If the MTA doesn’t care about ordinary people’s work or free time, I can’t imagine why it operates a bus system.
So what about it, MTA? What's the problem wiith the No. 55 bus?