Detroit— Dan Dirks, the former general manager of the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation system for nearly a decade, was named the new director of the city’s bus system, Mayor Mike Duggan announced Friday.
Dirks, who ran SMART from 1998-2007, has 25 years of local and national experience in public transportation, city officials said in a statement. Dirks is set to coordinate all of the city’s transportation services, including the city’s Department of Transportation, the Detroit People Mover and M-1 Rail. He will work closely with Gary Brown, the city’s group executive for operations, to improve service.
He is expected to start Wednesday.
“A reliable public transportation system is critical to our efforts to keep Detroiters in Detroit and to make it a welcoming place for visitors and for new businesses to locate,” Duggan said in a statement. “Dan knows the challenges we face at DDOT because he faced and overcame similar challenges during his time at SMART. He will be able to bring about a noticeable improvement and better coordination in transportation services we provide our residents.”
Dirks looks forward to coming home to Detroit and helping to move forward the city’s transit system.
“I am honored by the opportunity to work with Mike Duggan again,” Dirks said. “I look forward to collaborating with the employees of DDOT on an action plan to turn this bus system around and make it a quality service.”
Since 2007, Dirks has been consulting in the transit industry. A native Detroiter, Dirks holds a bachelor of science degree in secondary education from Wayne State University and has completed course work in urban planning.
DDOT has been managed by Dallas-based MV Transportation Inc. since August under Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. MV Transportation employee Paul Toliver has served as the director, but will now report to Dirks for the rest of the contract, which ends in September.
Duggan said earlier this week he got permission from Orr to hire a new bus director after he saw buses running behind schedule as residents waited in subzero temperatures.
Transportation advocate Megan Owens was pleased with the move, but said Dirks is walking into a challenging department that has had four directors in the past three years. Still, Owens said the relationship between Dirks and Duggan is important because there's been tension in the past between the city administration and the department.
“It is great that the new mayor recognizes just how important DDOT is and his anger while people were waiting in the cold is a passion that we need,” said Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United, a Detroit-based bus advocacy group. “He's coming into a (department with a) lot of challenges. (We want) a clear plan for improvement. We know it's not going to happen overnight, but a plan will be helpful in how they are going to make improvements and something that's readily available.”
Owens adds there’s an opportunity for Dirks to be an advocate as regional transit moves forward.
“This director and team needs to be a strong voice on the Regional Transit Authority,” she said. “There’s a lot happening, and that’s going to happen that Detroit needs to be a strong player and voice in.”