DC: Metro Riders Complaining Less Unless They Ride Metrobus

Metro riders apparently have less to grumble about this year, according to the number of complaints coming into the transit agency unless they ride the bus.

Metro received an average of 3,313 complaints a month this year, dropping 10 percent from an average of 3,690 per month last year. Fewer complaints have come in for Metrorail and MetroAccess, falling about 18 percent each.

But Metrobus is actually getting more complaints 5 percent more even as the overall gripes are dropping. In the first eight months of 2011, Metrobus logged an average of 1,368 complaints per month, up from 1,299 the year before.

That means Metrobus is now the agencys least popular service as measured by complaints, topping MetroAccess for the first time in years. The buses carry far fewer riders than the rail system, meaning those riders are complaining disproportionately even more.

Metro cannot point to any single reason why the complaints about buses have risen. It doesnt seem to be any one particular thing, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said. Maybe people are more comfortable in reaching out to provide feedback, which would be great.

The number of buses being used each day has not changed, and newer buses are on the road. Construction and congestion continue to waylay them. And buses continue to have the worst on-time performance, with one of every four buses showing up late.

Thats reflective of the fact that we live in the most congested city in America and its difficult to keep buses on time, Stessel said.

Many of the complaints are from buses skipping stops, Stessel said. He explained that bus drivers skip over stops when their buses are too full to add more riders or if another bus is right behind them. The skip-hop policy to prevent bus bunching is relatively new, he said, but it alone cant account for the difference.

All together, the agency logged about 123 complaints per day last year and is averaging about 109 per day in 2011. Still, Stessel notes that the number of complaints is relatively small given the millions of rides the agency provides.