What Happened To My Bus?

Metro Transit Rider Alert Sign

Metro Transit knows how to post signs for small changes! Photo by Michael Hicks https://www.flickr.com/photos/mulad/

Metro Transit seems to have quietly cut service on the express service route I have used to get to work for years.

I say “quietly” because it hasn’t been announced anywhere I’ve seen. There is no service announcement. But last week my bus just stopped coming. Did I miss an announcement? Is my bus service gaslighting me? I say “seems” because I only have my own experience to go by.

Here’s a representative screenshot of my transit app as I waited for the scheduled 8:11 departure of the 53 last week—the pictured bus is not on the 53’s route and won’t be arriving to pick me up.

Screenshot 20190211 081130

Transit.app screenshot showing that a bus is due and that none is coming. I have a half hour wait.

Still, the bus was scheduled, so for several days last week I waited for it. And was rewarded by a more than half hour wait and being late to work. The next bus that came was the next-scheduled run—my bus was not running late due to weather, it wasn’t running at all. (To make things more confusing, one day it DID come about 15 minutes late, and I missed it because I had stopped waiting and concluded it wasn’t coming).

I say this is my bus, but it’s several dozen people’s transportation to work and school. This is a popular run with the kids of the Hiawatha Collegiate charter school in Longfellow. So popular that frequently the bus is packed, standing room only, with people shouting for riders to move back and make room for more passengers.

So it’s weird to just stop running this bus, right?

I complained to Metro Transit, and finally, today, I think they have come up with a solution—one that doesn’t bode well for the future.

Img 20190212 081042

Departures are now an hour apart.

I appreciate now knowing that there will be no 8:11 departure. But is this how Metro Transit is going to handle service reductions under their new leadership? Are there other runs out there silently being cut that riders learn about by the bus just not showing up?

In my complaint, I asked Metro Transit to respond. When they do I’ll ask streets.mn to update this post.

I am hoping to hear that this is just a temporary service reduction, but at this point it is unarguably a service reduction—and Metro Transit should be more transparent, communicative, and accountable about these things. They’ve already cut one early 53 run for want of funding, but at least they announced it.

Quietly cutting heavily used runs that commuters and students rely on, leaving them in the cold, is unacceptable. There should be signs for riders at every 53 stop explaining the disruption, and when it is expected to end.

I eventually learned not to wait for this bus that isn’t coming, but skipping scheduled runs without notifying riders will hurt confidence in the reliability of transit, which is the opposite of what we need. Cutting half-hourly service to hourly service on a heavily-used commuter route without an announcement or explanation is going to push people who can afford it into cars. When ridership declines, we can look to decisions and service quality like this for an explanation.

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24 Responses to What Happened To My Bus?

  1. Eric Ecklund February 13, 2019 at 8:33 am #

    This is one reason why local bus ridership is going down and why people prefer trains over buses.

  2. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke February 13, 2019 at 8:41 am #

    Certainly one of the most frustrating things to have happen. Undermines trust, which is a huge reason for many people why they take the bus in the first place.

    • Nicole Salica
      Nicole Salica February 13, 2019 at 10:25 am #

      Erik’s comment and this one make me want to take a day off and write a thesis about how trains are more trustworthy than busses because of how much more expensive they are, but mostly how they require that the system as a whole function or none of its parts do. unlike busses which can break and nobody cares about the 20 stranded passengers.

  3. Jeremy Hop
    Jeremy February 13, 2019 at 8:59 am #

    I’d like to respond to this post from a position of knowledge. I’m a Metro Transit employee and I’ve fielded complaints about this specific trip during these last couple weeks. The bad weather conditions have been the main cause of this trip being delayed to the point where the next scheduled trip oftentimes arrives first. This specific bus actually pulls out as a route 263 earlier in the morning before deadheading west on hwy 94 as it begins the route 53 at uptown transit station. I suspect delays on that route as well as traffic on the deadhead contributed to the delays. I’ve ran the adherence report for this trip and indeed see the issues here. I forwarded this issue to our Street Operations team to evaluate how to eliminate delays for this trip.

    • Jenny Werness
      Jenny Werness February 13, 2019 at 9:07 am #

      That is so helpful! Thanks, Jeremy, for looking into this and sharing the info here.

    • Christa Moseng
      Chris Moseng February 13, 2019 at 10:53 am #

      Thanks for this info.

      30 minutes delay on a bus that runs every 30 minutes is, well, there need to be better, more reliable solutions in place.

  4. Troy Davison February 13, 2019 at 9:09 am #

    It’s hard to believe they are cutting back on the 53. I have used it many times. I don’t use transit as much as some but I think personally I am going to do my part this year to push the MN lawmakers for more transit funding. Not giving notice just adds insult to injury. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Ben February 13, 2019 at 9:27 am #

    How’s this for Green New Deal? Fund better wages (they’re not bad, but could use help) and recruitment for more drivers.

  6. Andrew Degerstrom
    Andrew Degerstrom February 13, 2019 at 9:51 am #

    I take this same 53 trip as well, and it has always operated, just very delayed because of the weather conditions. I actually catch it at Uptown TC, and It does indeed operate first as a 263 before deadheading to Uptown TC. During weather conditions like we’ve been experiencing, there can be a dramatic snowball effect with bus schedules, especially on commuter/express routes. A bus can easily finish it’s first trip so delayed that it is already 30+ minutes behind schedule for it’s next trip. And it’s not just happening on the 53, but across the entire network. NexTrip also becomes very unreliable during severe weather conditions. This article does a good job explaining why http://www.startribune.com/metro-transit-eyes-upgrades-to-nextrip-service/505281532/. You can also sign up for Rider Alert text messages for specific routes you take, so in the event a specific trip is cancelled for some reason, you will be notified.

  7. Carl February 13, 2019 at 10:05 am #

    Was your bus showing up on NexTrip anywhere? On more than one occasion during recent cold weather I was waiting for a 12/612 that tracked on NexTrip up until about 5 minutes before arrival and then disappeared from NexTrip and never showed up. That was infuriating.

    • Christa Moseng
      Chris Moseng February 13, 2019 at 10:58 am #

      The sign at the stop would say that a bus was scheduled, right up until it didn’t show up. I didn’t check nextrip online.

  8. Joseph February 13, 2019 at 10:47 am #

    Echoing all the comments above. This trip wasn’t eliminated, just very delayed due to weather. I’m a 53 rider myself and take this trip often. Today it arrived at Chicago-Lake only about 5 minutes late. If it was eliminated, there most certainly would’ve been communication in advance.

    (full disclaimer that I work for Metro Transit but not directly on Rt. 53)

  9. Matt Steele
    Matt Steele February 13, 2019 at 11:06 am #

    I don’t know if I experienced the same thing with long-term trip ghosting, but here are two disappointing experiences in the past few months:

    Last December, I got off on 38th St station expecting to take a 14E (northbound, but it goes south and west first) which showed up on NexTrip mobile. Once I got to the station, it was on the NexTrip sign as well… Until it wasn’t. The trip just vanished, and there were no more 14E trips that day. I ended up taking a Lyft 2 miles from the LRT station to my home.
    About the same time as the service cuts, my regular bus which takes me to the Blue Line was reduced to half hour headways during the PM rush hour. The 46 schedule at the Blue Line is something like 4:59, 5:29, 5:59. It was tough enough to plan at 15 minute headways, but the thought of waiting 25+ minutes at a cold LRT stop causes me to take Lyft home from work more than I used to. The bus works well when I time it right, but it’s a disaster if I don’t. Meanwhile I see the A-Line buses departing from the station every 10 minutes, and there’s always a bus at the station waiting for riders. No wonder people use it.

    There’s no secret to great transit ridership – we need more reliable, schedule-less service whether it’s Arterial BRT or the METRO network. It seems like we’re headed in the other direction on many of our local bus routes, but I hope we can turn that around.

    • brad February 13, 2019 at 3:57 pm #

      I had the experience twice recently where NexTrip showed a 23 bus coming, but when it arrived, it was “Drop off only” (even though it was empty) and drove by all the people waiting at the 38th St station. Presumably it was really late and trying to get back on schedule, but it’s not like there was a regularly scheduled bus right behind it–the next one didn’t come for 15-20 minutes. Like you say, if NexTrip and buses aren’t reliable, it’s going to impact ridership.

  10. Keith Morris February 13, 2019 at 11:46 am #

    They should be cutting back the 21 and increasing the 53. The 53 is definitely a step up from the 21. When there are both showing up I always opt for the 53 even if it’s a couple minutes later because it’ll most likely pass the 21 on the way.

  11. Ashley February 13, 2019 at 11:52 am #

    To be fair, there was an announcement in last week’s Metro Transit email newsletter about March route changes. But I agree, these changes are generally not well advertised. I’m also curious to see just how widespread March’s cuts will be.

  12. Leslie MacKenzie
    Leslie February 13, 2019 at 2:35 pm #

    My husband takes the light rail and the 21and increasingly had to wait long periods of time during rush hour commute. He often just gave up on the 21 and walked a mile home, in bitter cold. He called to find out why so many buses weren’t showing up and was told that lack of bus drivers meant cuts had to be made so fewer 21 buses (why not just cut the stupid 21E?).

    No one told riders. It’s a real hazard to leave people “out in the cold” with buses that don’t arrive.

  13. Sarah February 13, 2019 at 3:55 pm #

    I had a similar experience with the 21 last week, where my usual bus just wouldn’t show up (it would display as scheduled on NextTrip with no real time data, then just disappear from the list).

    I called Metro Transit after the third day of this, and they told me the first day it had experienced mechanical issues, while the second and third days the driver had been unable to make it in due to weather, and they didn’t have enough backup drivers. Then it started coming again, though it’s been delayed pretty much every day.

    This unpredictability is super annoying, but I honestly don’t know how avoidable it is. I take the bus when my other options (biking or driving) aren’t really feasible, and I’m honestly not surprised that the driver of my bus had trouble getting to work himself, especially if he drives. Yes, busing and bus riders are broadly undervalued, even by Metro Transit leadership (this is infuriating), but our bus system is also part of our larger car-based transportation system that is maddeningly vulnerable to disruption by totally commonplace issues like weather, crashes, construction, etc. I see that as the bigger (and unfortunately, much harder to solve) issue here.

    • Christa Moseng
      Chris Moseng February 21, 2019 at 12:25 pm #

      Thanks for this comment, and I think you’re right.

  14. Henry Pan
    Henry Pan February 15, 2019 at 9:56 am #

    I find it weird that the 263 is deadheading on 94 to Uptown to become the 53, especially for that short of a distance. Why not take it down 3rd to Franklin to Hennepin?

  15. devin February 15, 2019 at 6:36 pm #

    Areas where there are many duplicative routes so cut those routes to save on drivers.
    Highland residents has many options to the Blue/green/A line with a transfer .

    Cut the #134 which is mostly deadheading this will save about 7 drivers who are mostly driving non-revenue hours . #21-23-46-53-63-70-74-84 -87 they cannot fill all of these buses why not get riders to switch to these buses instead of offer one-seat ride for #134 riders?
    All the UM commuter routes have access to green line which is never which is never full with 3-car trains there is plenty of space.They are boasting 28 routes to UM which is very expensive and mostly deadheading and waste of money now that GREENLINE is running .
    There many buses not showing up , in the winter this is unacceptable ,they should have a plan Many commuters can easily switch to alternate routes ,many of these riders have access to a car .
    The local riders that depend on the buses are the riders that have no access to a cars.

  16. Frank Phelan February 16, 2019 at 12:02 pm #

    How about if people can sign up for texts/e-mails for specific routes? This could be for both major schedule changes, as well as “Route 123 buses are experiencing weather related delays this afternoon.” Construction related detours and delays could also be publicized.

  17. Phil February 18, 2019 at 8:43 am #

    I don’t know what your issue is but that bus isn’t cut, that bus does in fact show up. I was on it this morning and it was quite empty. Perhaps you weren’t at the bus stop on time or simply not paying attention. Also if you’re waiting for it on snowy mornings I guarantee you that it was late from an earlier trip on an ACTUAL express route.

    • Christa Moseng
      Chris Moseng February 21, 2019 at 12:24 pm #

      Maybe it was empty because it only shows up occasionally because it gets delayed ferrying more important suburban commuters. It’s nice that it’s still running!

      Don’t be rude.

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