Herein is contained a very oblique sort of rant, and it’s boring too.  Just skip over this entry.  You’ll feel better about yourself.

The MTA runs a number of bus routes.  Each one is numbered.  I regularly ride the 31.

The 31 runs from Penn Station to Halethorpe.  It goes down Cathedral Street, proceeds from there to Lombard Street, to Wilkens Avenue, runs along Maiden Choice Lane, through UMBC, and along a couple of other streets to its destination.  Oh, except that it doesn’t always go through UMBC.  Sometimes it just goes past it.  Oh, and sometimes it takes Leeds Avenue instead of Maiden Choice; this also skips UMBC.  The buses do have signs that indicate which way they’re going, except that they rarely mention whether or not they’re going through UMBC; you get to guess.  And half the time, the signs are broken or so dim that they can’t be read.

And did I say that the buses went to Halethorpe?  Well, sometimes.  Sometimes they go to Halethorpe Industrial Park, which is the same route, but goes a little further.  And sometimes they go to Beltway Business Park, and sometimes they just stop at UMBC and turn around there.  Mostly, this is indicated on the sign.  But when they go to Beltway Business Park, sometimes they turn onto Sulphur Spring Road and sometimes they head through Halethorpe and up Washington Boulevard.  The signs give no indication which of those it is.

So, the bus signs could say: “31: (UMBC|Halethorpe|Halethorpe Industrial Park|Beltway Business Park) via (UMBC|Maiden Choice|Leeds)” and they still leave out information.

Oh, and the schedules?  They indicate which subroute is being used by leaving out times.  Not going through UMBC?  No time in that column.  The bus that goes to Beltway Business Park via Leeds and Sulphur Spring has a schedule that reads: “[5 columns] <time> - - - - <time>” Yeah, all those blanks are really useful for the people catching the bus in the middle there.

And there’s stuff I don’t understand after over a year and a half riding the bus.  I don’t know what to make of the one line that has a time for UMBC, but not for Leeds and Maiden Choice.  There are footnotes on some of the lines.  “A - Via Goodwill” There’s one line with that footnote, and it skips every column between Wilkens & Caton and Beltway Business Park.  If you’re on that route, better hope you catch that one bus.  “F - Via DeSoto Road” Goes that way southbound in the early morning and northbound during the mid-afternoon.  I don’t know why.  “C - Cathedral & Franklin” “D - Charles & Saratoga” Apparently, sometimes the bus doesn’t go all the way to/from Penn Station.  Again, I don’t know why.

So that’s the simple approach adopted by the MTA.  I regularly see people confused by the plethora of meanderings that the buses can take, and I can’t really blame them.  I don’t have a useful alternative, and I can only assume that there are reasons for the current setup, but neither of those stops the status quo from being just the tiniest bit sucky.