What is going on with public transportation in this city?

What in the world is wrong with the buses these days? Are people afraid of the Metro after the crash? It’s been one awful commute after another for the last week and a half. This morning, two buses passed without picking up passengers. The one we finally got on didn’t pick anyone up until U Street, passing crowded stop after crowded stop. And on the way home, I don’t even know what happened. I Street was a parking lot, so the bus actually turned right on 15th instead of 16th. I saw this, started walking, and actually beat the bus to 16th and L. It turned left on K, right on 16th, and I was at 16th and L when it arrived, and while I walk briskly, I never ran. It looked like something was blocking traffic on 17th – I imagine I could figure out what with a little Googling, but it’s not that important to me. On most weeks, I would just give up and work from home all week. But I actually have to be in the office at least tomorrow, and probably Wednesday, as well. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Isn’t that what you’re supposed to be fixing?

Metro Use A Rarity For Half Of Board | WashingtonPost.com

[Ward One Councilman Jim] Graham said frequent night meetings make mass transit inconvenient.

Taking transit is not convenient for their jobs, [Metro board members who don’t actually use Metro] said.

So, what they’re saying here is, “We’re so grossly incompetent that we can’t even make Metro work for ourselves. Good luck to all you poor schlubs!” What kind of schedule do these people keep that Metro isn’t convenient? I don’t believe that they have Metro board meetings at 4AM on Sundays. Seriously, this is like the CEO of Bank of America keeping his life savings under his mattress because the branches are too inconvenient. Maybe the reason that Metro has a $29 million deficit is because it’s not serving the residents of the DC Metro area. And maybe the people responsible for fixing it could actually use it and see for themselves what the problems are. Instead, they’ll probably just raise fares again, making it less convenient for everyone. Next year we’ll have a $40 million deficit, and more people who don’t use it will make more bad decisions.

Please stop bunching the 16th Street bus, WMATA

I just missed the bus this morning. As usual, I was waiting for the interminable light to cross 16th at Harvard NW when the bus went by. Then another, and another. Three buses, bumper to bumper, and all gone by the time the light changed. So I waited. Not too long, six or seven minutes, but then three more came. From Harvard to Euclid there were 12 people on my bus, then 11 until we got to M. After I got off at H, I think there might have been one person left. No one got on while I was riding. There was another bus right in front of us that picked up all the passengers. And I got on the bus at about 7:20AM, not peak rush hour, but plenty of people are on their way to work at that time. It’s frustrating that, had the buses been spaced out just a little bit, I would have gotten one of the first bunch that went through. And WMATA would have saved some cash. Eleven fares probably don’t even cover costs on the bus.

I have ridden the 43, and it was good

A little while ago, I found out about the new 43 bus that goes underneath Dupont Circle instead of through. Today, I rode it for the first time. I almost didn’t – my usual S2 came by as I was waiting to cross I Street. I didn’t rush because I didn’t think I would make it, but then the light changed, and I still didn’t rush, and then three people made the driver open the door before the light turned green. So I would have made it with even the slightest bit of extra effort. But no matter. The 43 bus came by just a minute later. I’ve been wanting to try it, but unwilling to forgo the S2/S4. It was wonderful. But I fear it won’t last long. I got on at 3:30PM on a Monday, early rush hour, but already busy on the S2/S4. There were maybe 15 people on the bus between 15th and I and 16th and Columbia. Maybe this is normal for the route, but I can’t imagine WMATA is happy with those numbers. I did run into a problem with the stop request strings and buttons – none of them worked. I thought perhaps standing by the back door would work, or maybe that the requests were being relayed to the driver but not displayed on the big screen. But I was wrong. Luckily, a kid who wanted the stop after the one I wanted pulled on every string in the bus until one of them worked, and the bus stopped just one stop later than I wanted, and I didn’t even have to go up and ask the driver. I will definitely ride the 43 again. I won’t pass up an S2/S4, but if the 43 comes first, it’s a great alternative.

I’m going to punch Mother Nature in the Face. And also WMATA.

In what I’m sure will be a recurring theme for the day for DC bloggers, I’d like to take a moment to complain about the cold. I don’t get cold easily. In fact, just last night the wife and I were discussing that it would be awesome if I could sell my excess body heat – I certainly don’t need all of it, and others (including the wife) would be happy to have it. In any event, I bailed on my usual walk to work after less than a block. Most days I enjoy the walk. It gives me time to think and prepare for the day at work. But not when it’s this cold. Weather.com tells me that it’s 11 degrees out, and it feels like -4. That would explain the frozen snot in my nose. So, I took the bus. Not usually a problem, except that I was on one of the really old models, and it broke down at V Street. The driver didn’t announce anything. We just sat for a minute, and then someone got off, then another person, and soon the whole bus had cleared. Luckily there was another bus right behind, so we didn’t have to wait. But tell me – have you ever been on a bus that broke down in pleasant weather? I’ll bet you haven’t. Then I find out that they’ve opened the roadblocks for Obama, and my normal bus stop is back in use. Except I was on an S1 instead of an S2/S4, thinking it didn’t matter due to the road closure. You got me again, WMATA. And then, just as I thought things were picking up, some woman tried to run me down on while I crossed H St. I didn’t have the light, but there were no cars except this woman, pulled over and letting someone out. So I crossed the street, at which point she started to drive. Now, H Street is four or five lanes at this point. I’m not that big a guy. She could quite easily have worked with me and let me cross (In the crosswalk, though against the light) without making me stop. Did she? I think you know the answer to that question. In any event, I’m at work now, and inside, thankful that my job doesn’t require me to do otherwise.

My pants are wet for you, Barack

More “as a result of you”, but that’s not such a snappy headline. As many of you may know, they have closed off a bunch of streets downtown until the Inauguration. I hear it’s because Obama has moved into the area earlier than expected, so there wasn’t a spot for him on the White House grounds. I don’t know if this is the case, and don’t really care. My problem is that they’ve interrupted the S2/S4 bus route, and I had to get off at 16th and K NW this morning. In the rain. And now my pants are soaking wet from the walk. And WMATA is no help – it took me 20 minutes last night to find any information about the detour beyond “there is a detour”, and I still don’t know what the next stop after 16th and K is. It’s somewhere near 13th and H, I think, but I generally get off at the stop I know rather than hope that the next one is better. In any event, this is just one more reason that January 20th can’t come soon enough.

No more four car trains at rush hour!

Don’t get me wrong, four car trains are great if they save a little energy at off-peak times.  But how can you use them on the Yellow line at rush hour?  The Yellow line, unlike the Orange line, actually has seats available most of the time.  But not this morning.  This morning, I was waiting as usual at Mount Vernon Square where the Green line dropped me, at my usual spot.  My usual spot is near the back end of the train, because that’s where the Columbia Heights escalator drops me, and I’ve never really had a need to move.  The end cars are usually empty compared to the rest of them.

This morning, the WMATA powers-that-be decided that they’d just skimp a little and send a four car train.  I have no idea why.  It’s quite possible they had a really good reason, but I frankly don’t care.  This means that everyone standing in front of where they expected cars five and six to be has to run down the platform and get onto the last car.  This makes it somewhat crowded.  The fourth car was full by the time a few people pushed on at Archives, but it didn’t get really bad until 300 clowns going to the Pentagon jumped on at L’Enfant Plaza.

I’ve been riding the Green and Yellow line since the end of March, and this is the first time been jammed into a train like this.  Yes, I realize I shouldn’t complain.  But when there is plenty of room on the train for five months, and then suddenly one day I have a sweaty Marine pressed into my back and a large shoulder bag pressed into my groin, someone is wearing really bad cologne, and people are making dumb “stuck in an elevator” jokes, then WMATA has failed.  Perhaps they were too busy playing with their new maps to notice.

But I notice.  And fear not, WMATA, I will continue to notice, and to complain.

Also, a note to people who pile on to an already full train at rush hour – there will be another train in six minutes or less.  Seriously.  You can wait.  You’re just going to work.