On weekdays, the MTA Route 27 bus runs every 20 minutes from roughly 4:30 a.m. to 2:45 a.m. between the Reisterstown Plaza subway station and Port Covington, with stops in Hampden, Remington, Station North, downtown, and a few other locations. Or at least, it’s supposed to do that. But for frequent riders of the line, it’s matchless unreliability has become legendary. People who’ve had to deal with it on the regular tend to type in all caps when answering questions about it. For real.

Baltimore playwright Lola Pierson took the 27 in her high school days, but after one too many times waiting in vain, she gave up and started walking her route instead. “The 27 wouldn’t come for like an hour, and then three in a row would come!” Pierson recalls. “Plus, they would do route alterations and not tell you, so you’d end up somewhere totally crazy with no way to get home.”

Artist and musician Lesser Gonzalez Alvarez has taken to incorporating the bus line into his commercial illustrations. “I draw it into all of them and curse it to hell,” he explains. “On Howard Street where I used to try and grab it to get to Hampden, there are a seemingly endless number of 19s, all of them carrying at most three people. One after another they come, and then finally you get a 27 that’s either 30 minutes late or 30 minutes early.”

Rob Brulinski was so fed up with trying to catch the 27, he vented his frustration by hanging facetious “Missing” fliers around town. Maybe you’ve seen them. The anger that inspired them is almost palpable. The missing-person premise quickly unravels and rage wins out over humor about halfway down the bullet points.

I got in touch with Brulinski and asked him a few questions about the 27 and his hilariously bitter flier.

How long have you been taking the 27? Where do you get on and off?

I would take it between Mt Vernon to Hampden for work (11 a.m.-7 p.m.). I have been taking the 27 line for 3 months now and public transportation (bus, metro, light rail) for three years. Don’t even bother with a route that requires taking a bus to another bus, it has never worked for me… ever.

How often does it give you trouble?

There’s no science behind it, but at least three times a week and especially when you really need to be somewhere on time. Also on chilly and rainy nights!

What kinds of things go wrong?

Oh where do I start? Late February, I was headed to an 11 a.m. job interview and waited at the bus stop from 9:20 a.m. – 10:40 a.m. thinking that I was pretty much screwed. Thankfully a friend picked me up.

After work on a Tuesday night, waiting at the bus stop in the pouring rain with another person, it never came, and we ended up splitting a taxi cab ride.

Friends attempt to catch the bus to my place in Hampden but end up just staying home because it never shows up on time and then passes them! I really like it when the bus just drives past me while I’m standing at the bus stop. I always make sure to wave my $1.60 in the air at them, AKA hailing a bus.

Do you still ride it?

I’m hesitant to rely on it. The weather has gotten a bit better, so I walk to my destination or hail a cab from Penn Station for around $7.

What was the last straw before you resorted to satirical fliering?

The last straw was last Saturday night, when my friend stood at the 27 line bus stop (at the Cultural Center) for nearly two hours and when she finally saw it (around 10:30 p.m.), it simply passed her! It wasn’t full or out of order. In the past, I’ve posted to the Maryland Transit Facebook page several times and even participated in those stupid text message surveys, but nothing has ever changed. So I thought to myself, F— it, I’m making “Missing” flyers, and hopefully it’ll work out better.

14 replies on “The MTA Bus Line So Unreliable That One Rider Put Up “Missing” Posters”

  1. from Geoff Graham: “Once I was waiting for it in the pouring rain while it was 20 minutes late in the middle of Hampden, and a dude in a pickup truck just gave me a ride to where I was going. He was all laughter and like, “That damn bus ain’t gonna get you nowheres.”

  2. First, the #27 only comes every 20 minutes during peak hours. Off-peak, they’re scheduled every 34-40 minutes. That means if there’s a single early, late, or no-show bus…you’re going to have a bad time.

    Second, the MTA is well aware of the issues with the #27 line. I wrote multiple complaints to the MTA in 2011, and they only responded when the Baltimore Sun came to my aid. Their response was basically “we are aware of the issues and don’t plan to fix them. Sorry we’re not sorry.”

    Following those complaints and that response, I filed a public information act request to get the on-time performance data on the #27 line. They are supposed to send me the information monthly. I’ve only received it twice, and both reports show OTP for the #27 at around 75-80%.

    That doesn’t sound so bad, until you realize cut runs are not a part of on time performance. That means if a bus never leaves the depot, it is counted as on-time. If the bus never comes, it’s always on time according to the MTA.

    It’s just hopeless. I wasted hundreds of evenings waiting for the #27, watching #19 after #19 pass me by. Finally I gave up on Hampden and moved to Lauraville, where I can ride those #19s downtown instead of watching them drive by.

    If you’re stuck in the catchment area of the #27, just buy a bike and ride it everywhere. You’ll actually get where you’re going, and you won’t be miserable doing it.

    1. You’re right. 20 minutes is a gross estimation. I can’t believe that they exclude abandoned runs from their on-time performance data!!!! Or worse, they actually count them as “on time!”

  3. Exactly my experience as well, but I’ve only had experiences on northbound 27s coming out of downtown. My wife and I were forced to rely on MTA buses for a whole day recently to run several errands around town. We rode an ontime 27 from Remington to Park Heights, an ontime 27 back to Remington, an ontime 11 to Canton, and an ontime 11 back to Mount Vernon. Only when we tried to catch the 27 from Mount Vernon to Remington did we encounter any problems…an hourlong wait as five 19s went by. Good to know we’re not alone in this.

  4. As a daily 27 rider… or rather, a daily 27 rider when it shows up and I don’t have to walk or cab to work/home instead… I think this rules. Maybe it’ll be more effective than the multiple unanswered complaint emails I’ve sent the MTA while standing in the freezing cold waiting on a bus for over an hour.

  5. In a city with almost no roaming cabs, you’re still more likely to flag down a cab than wait out a late #27.

  6. This is so great and so true. In the winter I blame the Miracle/Horrorshow on 34th St. for the unreliability but that doesn’t excuse it.

  7. inside sources reveal this article was included in the mta daily press clippings email sent out to anyone with an mta email address

  8. 410-539-5000 is the number to call and place a complaint….. I work for MTA and this is embarrassing.. Hope it will help

  9. I urge everyone that has complaints about the 27 line (or any MTA bus line for that matter) to call 410-539-5000 and make a complaint. Every single time, because the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If there is a complaint about a certain bus, try to get the four digit number displayed in the lower left hand corner of the windshield. This is the block number, used to identify specific parts of the line. Blocks are how the schedule is organized. i.e., block 27-1234 is due southbound at North and Howard at 3:30 pm (as an example). These complaints are investigated and attempts to make corrections are made. Not making excuses, but the MTA has budget and personnel constraints, but if enough people make compaints something is done.

  10. Imma do this for the 99 it never shows up at old court every Monday and Friday it makes me late for class.

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