This morning I checked Nextbus on my phone and the 14th Street buses (the 52, 53 and 54) were 4, 6 and 8 minutes away. Great. I got to the bus stop at 14th and Spring at 9:07, which still left me 3, 5 and 7 minutes (assuming time is linear, which is a longshot when using Nextbus sometimes.)
Then 13 minutes later, no buses. About 15 minutes later, a 53 shows up, which is not the best because it turns east at L Street and I work near F Street. But I was sick of waiting and angry at Nextbus and Metro for being way off on their estimates/predictions/random numbers posted to the internet so I started to get on and saw that the bus was completely packed. The driver says to the throng of people on and trying to board (who generally don't move back, but that's another annoying issue) that he can't move if he can't see, and another bus is right behind him. Another guy and I get off to wait for that next bus. One minute goes by, then 2, then 5. Still no bus.
At this point I'm tweeting up a storm to @metrobusinfo with no response. Why is Nextbus so wrong? Where is the bus? The only bus that showed up was packed, where's the next one that should have arrived 15 minutes ago? Is there only one bus that serves this entire route, so it has to make a loop? Does it actually exist? Are there buses at all? Do any of us exist? Why are we here? Is this some kind of nightmare? It was like I was in a David Lynch movie, but thankfully a bit less creepy.
Then 26 minutes after the I got to the stop, 22 minutes after the first bus should have arrived, a second (and with it, a third, naturally) bus arrives. It's not packed and I get on. It's going its usual turtle-ish rate to downtown. (According to my calculations from before, the 14th Street bus usually takes about 30 minutes to go the 2 miles to downtown. That's 4 miles per hour. That's how fast a person walks.)
But then it gets slower and slower. Traffic is backed up. People start to get off in droves. I abandon the bus at K Street, about an hour after I got on. It's just sitting there. As I walk down the street I see some of them are closed off, apparently due to the Iraqi prime minister at the Willard Hotel and the mayor at the new Marshall's at 14th and F. I have no idea why the mayor needs as much police protection as I saw at a Marshall's grand opening. Maybe he's afraid he's not going to find the belt he wants and flip out or something.
So anyway, today was a commute from hell. But even when things are going well, in a relative sense, they still suck. Traffic is bad in the mornings starting at DCUSA, sometimes backing up all the way past Spring Road. Why? I don't know. That's crazy. And the bus stops way too often, usually every block -- sometimes the stops are a few dozen feet from each other.
I know there are bigger problems in the world. But why the bus is so terrible so often boggles my mind. A decent bus system needs to be consistent to work properly and serve the people who ride. The riders need to know they can reliably get to X destination if they have Y minutes . That isn't the case with the 14th Street bus, and it is maddening to me. It's almost random whether you're going to get where you need to go when you need to be there. It drives me crazy. I hate it. Some of that randomness happens from being in a city, but I feel like there has to be something Metro and the city can do. Fewer stops. More buses. Fix the blockage at 14th and Irving. I don't know, something, anything.
I'm going to buy a bike helmet and join the growing crowd heading down the 14th Street hill. Hopefully some idiot won't walk into the bike lane while looking the wrong direction.