Plan moves ahead to reduce Metro Detroit bus wait times

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

The Regional Transit Authority voted Thursday to move forward with plans to support a joint coordination venture between SMART and DDOT bus services to improve wait times for commuters.

Those plans, however, could change depending on public input.

The decision allows for both bus agencies to hire additional drivers for the proposed refleX lines, which travel along the Woodward and Gratiot corridors, and would shift grant funds toward the estimated $3.9 million service. The frequency between gaps in pick-up times would decrease from 65-to-70 minutes to 45 minutes, transit officials said.

“It will improve the quality of the service. They are not waiting as long for the bus,” said Michael Ford, CEO for the RTA.

“The service is going to come more frequently. We’ve got to go, and we’ve got to hear folks. We needed some approval to move forward because they have to hire drivers, and they have to have resources to do the service. One of the key elements is having drivers.”

Ford said there could be RTA board modifications to the plan, which is to begin in July, so “the caveat” is that board members could change their minds “or change the area depending on what we hear from the public.”

This service would run seven days a week.

The RTA will be using $1.5 million from money that was originally slated for a proposed airport shuttle service in addition to $1 million already promised. Another $2.6 million is available for the second year of the service, officials said. The remaining funds would come from whatever is earned at the fare box.

The routes in the pilot program and taken from the words “regional, flexible and express,” would originate in Bricktown at Ford and Brush and extend out to Oakland and Macomb counties.

An Oakland-Detroit route, run by the Detroit Department of Transportation, would go to the Somerset Mall area; the Macomb-Detroit route, overseen by the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, would take commuters to the North River Park and ride in Mount Clemens.

Chuck Moss, an RTA board member from Oakland County, said he thinks it’s a good start.

“I like the improvement from 75 minutes to 45 minutes,” Moss said. “To be really effective, we’re going to have to get it down to a half an hour. But I think getting it started is important.”

Paul Hillegonds, RTA’s chairman of the board, said he feels it’s important to show the public that suburban and urban bus companies that traditionally haven’t coordinated well in the past can do so seamlessly in the future.

“We know the 45 minutes is not the greatest, but it’s better than the 60 to 75 minutes,” Ford said during the RTA meeting. “And I think it’s a good start.”

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