Monday, June 8, 2009

We'll Stop If We Feel Like It

We're starting to hear more and more about Metrobus drivers who are apparently freelancing routes, are unfamiliar with the routes they are driving, and are even blowing right past stops leaving riders confused, angry and more aerobically fit. If you combine this with all of the non-working escalators, you might want to consider canceling the gym membership.

From Philip in Virginia:
The 18P, 18G and 18H buses all run between the Pentagon and various parts of the Springfield/Burke, Va., area. All three buses converge at the stop nearest to my house, meaning I can take whichever comes first. Theoretically, there's a bus about every 10 minutes in the morning. Of course, I've occasionally waited 20 minutes or more, and now I slug a lot.
In the afternoon, all three will pass my neighborhood. When I started this commute back in early 2008, it was known that rush hour 18P buses wouldn't stop prior to Greeley Boulevard in West Springfield, skipping about the first six stops from the Pentagon. There was a notation--a triangle symbol, I think--on the PDF bus schedule indicating which buses ran this limited-stop schedule.
Early this year, I noticed that the latest bus schedule doesn't show that symbol. I've also noticed that the Trip Planner directs users to take rush-hour 18P buses for stops prior to Greeley.
Once in a while, I get to the Pentagon bus station, and the 18P is the first to arrive. Knowing that the schedule had apparently changed, I figured I could now take the 18P.
The first couple times I did this, I had no trouble at all. The driver stopped when I rang. The worst I got was a couple of glares from other riders who were annoyed that I was delaying their trip by 30 seconds.
A couple weeks ago, I happened to get an 18P that, amazingly, had copies of the 18 bus schedule on it. I grabbed one and stuck it in my briefcase. When I rang for the bus to drop me off at Old Keene Mill Road & Tiverton Drive (two stops prior to Greeley Blvd), the driver obliged, but told me that he wasn't supposed to stop prior to Greeley. As I hopped off, I told him that the schedule seems to have changed, and now shows that all 18Ps make all stops.
A week later, and I caught another 18P from the Pentagon. This time, I pulled the cord to signal for the same stop, only to find that the stop-cord is disabled! I noticed another rider frantically pulling the stop cord with no result.
As the bus rolled on toward Greeley, I walked up to the front (so had my frantic fellow passenger) and told the bus driver that the schedule seems to have changed.
He was polite, but firm in his position that the 18P at rush-hour is limited stop. I offered him a copy of the current schedule, along with my business card, and asked if he could check with a supervisor. He declined, and told me to contact Metro.
Of course, I'd already tried that, without any response beyond an automated email. Fortunately, it was a nice day to walk the several extra blocks back to my home.

Apparently the 96 is also being freelanced, according to Mazzie:

On March 31st, I took the 96 bus to work, like I do almost every day, from U Street to Union Station. Across from Union Station, instead of continuing though Columbus Circle like it always did, the bus took a right turn on to Louisiana Ave, NE. A bunch of Hill kids leapt to their feet, disoriented and angry, and the bus driver said it was a route change.
I got off at the next stop and walked an extra block or so to work, but couldn't be too grudging because I got a nice view of the Capitol and the cherry blossoms.
But when I got to work, I checked the hideous and ridiculously complex maps and timetables on line, checked their page for route changes, and found nothing.
So I took a deep breath and called them. I spoke to a very nice woman, who put me on hold several times, only to finally report that she hadn't heard or been able to find any notice about a route change.
To this day, the maps haven't changed, nor has the route change been announced. The route change effectively cuts out a block they used to drive around, so I figure the bus drivers had a meeting and decided they didn't want to do it anymore.

Have you been a victim of Metrobus freelancing? Tell us.

Related posts:
Metro launches NextBusStop program
Protecting drivers
Bus vs. Car
Wacko rider, angry driver

Photo: dcmetroblogger

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Anonymous said...

As a regular occurrence on southbound 7C, we the passengers, end up telling the clueless novice driver where to go. What a f## joke!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this explains why DC is the fittest city in the country!

Rob said...

I've had this happen on the 10A and 10E a couple times. Drivers just seem to randomly pick which stops to use or which route they want to take. Thankfully, we seem to have regular drivers and not the neverending cycle of newbies anymore.

Anonymous said...

As the first anonymous said, on the 3T we had a driver one day who didn't realize they were supposed to take the I-66 ramp to get to the Metro station, they just rolled on down route 7. We had to direct them to turn at the Giant to get to the WFC station the back way. Thankfully it was just once though.

Anonymous said...

I've run into this problem before...the driver either misses the stop entirely, or possibly misses the EXIT RAMP to the stop. A straight shot down 395 to 495 is not that complicated. So he took the wrong exit, and we had to double back...twice. I know people make mistakes but good god, did they not train the driver?

Philip from Virginia said...

I was the source of the story above about the 18P bus. Finally got a response today, 3 weeks after my original submission. The schedule is correct, it's the drivers who are wrong. (Shocking, huh?)

So here's the question... if I hop on an 18P bus tomorrow, what are the chances that the driver will know the correct schedule and let me off?

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