Surprise! Charm City Circulator service nixed on two routes today and tomorrow—but Lyft steps in to help

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Image via Wikimedia Commons user ETLamborghini

In a Wednesday evening news drop, Baltimore’s Department of Transportation announced in a bad forecast-like release that “there will be no services tomorrow, with a chance of no service on Friday” for two routes on the city’s free Charm City Circulator bus service, and “significantly long waits” on the other two routes.

The announcement, which arrived just after 8 p.m. with little notice for Circulator riders, comes nearly a month after the city announced it was suing the bus system’s old operator, Transdev North America, and is transitioning to a new vendor, RMA Worldwide, which is now operating the Circulator bus.

The no-service announcement applies to the Green and Banner routes route, which runs from City Hall to Johns Hopkins. (Note: DOT said in an update Thursday evening that “customers of the Orange, Purple and Banner routes will experience longer waits,” and that “Green route services are temporarily suspended” through Friday. Service on all routes remains “limited” through Sunday.)

Lyft has stepped in to fill the gap in service, DOT announced this morning.

As the tweet notes, anyone who types in the promo code “CIRCULATOR” on the ridesharing app will get two free rides between circulator stops. There are some limits: Lyft is offering rides to up to 1,000 users in all, with a $15 ceiling for discounts on each ride.

A spokeswoman for Lyft said the company is paying for it, rather than the city.

DOT spokesman German Vigil said in an email earlier Thursday that the Circulator had seven buses running, including one on the Banner Route–one of the original two where the agency said buses wouldn’t be running today. “We are taking immediate actions to restore full service to all routes as soon as possible,” he said.

In a statement last night, DOT Director Michelle Pourciau acknowledged “this is a major inconvenience to all those who use the Charm City Circulator,” and encouraged riders “to be patient and plan alternative travel arrangements.”

“DOT is working diligently to return services to normal and deeply regrets the inconvenience that this disruption of service will cause to customers,” she said.

The city had promised “bus bridges” to fill gaps after ending its contract with Transdev when it announced the lawsuit last month. The filing alleges the company overbilled Baltimore for tens of thousands of hours of service when buses weren’t actually running, and ultimately overcharged the city more than $20 million.

A Transdev North America spokesman called the lawsuit “meritless litigation.”

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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