Charm City Confusicator
Who would have thought being at a discontinued bus stop could open a window on the efficiency of government? In today’s age of technology one would think there may have been an electronic warning about diminished bus service…and with the inflated labor force of government, one might expect something very old fashioned, like a sign might tell the story of “We don’t deliver what we advertise”.
One afternoon I had a hankering for some Indian food…and decided to visit one of several places offering such goodies on Charles Street. For those either not familiar with Charles Street, or familiar enough to avoid visiting a run-down, trying to make a comeback area of Baltimore, Charles Street used to be very posh, now it’s, well, let’s say trying real hard to be average.
I had an abundance of time, so rather than drive and be dragged into unwilling intercourse with the parking meters, parking Nazis or nefarious pay-for-damage-to-your-car lots the bus seemed a viable alternative. Being a cheapskate I opted for the Charm City Circulator – one of the many “freebies” I fund with property taxes. The Circulator is operated by a private company, but funded by the City of Baltimore…and that should have been the first warning.
After walking several blocks, I spied the Charm City Circulator stop…and a very welcome bench. The Circulator sign told me the bus comes every 10 minutes…but that was a lie. After about 15 minutes, I went to the Circulator web site to determine when I might expect the next bus (http://charmcitycirculator.com/content/next-bus). The handy-dandy, you-have-to-believe-it-cause-its-on=the-internet web page told me the next bus would be in 29 minutes, the one after that in 37 minutes and the third bus in 49 minutes. So, I’ve confirmed from the Charm City Circulator very own web page that the buses sorta, kinda, somewhat run every 10 minutes, more or less.
While waiting, a University of Maryland bus slowed and eased into the stop. When I didn’t board it, the bus left, and the same thing occurred with an MTA bus. I didn’t take the MTA, as I had no exact change for the fare box. I had great hopes the Charm City Circulator would be pulling into the stop in a few minutes.
What fools we mortals be! The Circulator web page told me the bus would be arriving in 4 minutes…so like a good consumer, I stood up at the stop to insure the driver knew I wanted to board the bus. But, Lo and Behold…there was no bus…and the web page now told me the next bus would be arriving in 7 minutes. So obviously either bus was invisible, or I was invisible.
What to do? I made another mistake….I decided to wait for the next Circulator….and the web page did not disappoint me…it counted down the minutes to the next bus….which did not arrive(another invisible bus?).
Taking matters into my own hands, I called Charm City Circulator and explained the problem. The answer was short. “Sir, the stop at 327 Saratoga Street has been temporarily discontinued for several months.” I asked why there was no sign to that effect. The answer was short. “Sir, the stop at 327 Saratoga Street has been temporarily discontinued for several months.” In an effort to understand the problem, I told the Circulator operator that the web site did not day the stop was discontinued…and in fact gave out times of arrival. THe response was The answer was short. “Sir, the stop at 327 Saratoga Street has been temporarily discontinued for several months. The web site could not be showing the bus arriving.”
OK….I give up…I walked to a Starbucks, got change and started to go back to the bus stop…when an MTA bus passed me, not stopping because I was not at the stop.
Undaunted, I walked from Saint Paul and Saratoga to Saint Paul and Pratt which was the nearest Circulator stop with an Electronic Sign Board that indicated when the next bus would arrive. I figured the sign would be more accurate than a web page…but, guess what? The sign was out of service.
So, after watching 3 Circulator buses drive past the stop with “Out of Service” displayed I caught a bus and finally got home.
Here it is – several days since my adventure, and the Circulator web site still shows an invisible bus arriving.