Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Plus One Gold Star

The Washington Post reports that after thirty years, DC’s transit has moved from its 30-year marathon of meeting timeliness expectations 25% of the time to a whopping C-level 73%. Some of the worst routes are late 50 percent of the time. As someone who is late to everything—always on time but always rushing to work and class—even I think this is kind of lame, if only because it’s lasted for three decades. But…is a Baltimore bus ever that on time? When is a Light Rail car on time to its station. Remember that time it took me an hour to get from Mount Vernon to Camden Yards? I could have walked but stupidly, in the heat, I thought it might be faster than huffing and puffing after hours of partying. Or that time a tree fell on the tracks and I was almost two hours late to work? Metrobus says that it’s on track with every city. Watching the buses in Chicago on vacation and comparing schedules, discussing the intense emotional pain of “just missing” the thirty minute late train (or ten minutes early—is your glass half full or half empty?) from Brooklyn to Manhattan in the morning rush just confirms that transit service nationwide is reliable. This sucks.

DCist puts it this way:

But let's be honest: for a service that close to 450,000 people depend on daily, not being able to stick within a 9 minute window for more than one out of every four trips is utterly abysmal. We haven't even gotten to the worst of it: some routes, like the U5 and the Y5, are Metro's version of Russian roulette - you've got close to a coin flip's chance of having your bus arrive anywhere close to on time.

If we’re going to flip a coin for our bus shouldn’t we be in a city that encourages fate based on the face of currency? Why don’t we just move to Gotham then? (Did you like how Batman Begins covered transit? I did. Just as clean as a rail car, too!)

I agree that it’s an abysmal record but I wonder if the standards are too high. I relied on Baltimore’s easiest (excluding unforeseen crime scenes on the route) and most popular bus lines to get around the city and I still had to plan ninety minutes in my trip. By car my trip usually took less than five minutes or no more than fifteen, presuming I hit all of the lights. Or maybe my expectations in DC are appallingly low, having been left stranded in all weather (and denied a bus bridge in an ice storm) at all times of day. Maybe I should expect better things of city transits?

But as soon as I do that my connection at Shady Grove will stop running with its precise accuracy, in a rainstorm, and I’ll get to work two hours late with the beginnings of pneumonia. Which can only lead to one thing, you know: The Drink.

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