DDOT announces new routes, service expansion by Jan.

Christine Ferretti, and Leonard N. Fleming

Detroit — The Detroit Department of Transportation will provide more 24-hour service and express routes for faster commutes between the city’s neighborhoods and downtown as part of expanded service announced Thursday.

The changes will take place in two phases. The first begins on Saturday and the second in January.

When fully implemented, DDOT will add 1,500 trips per week for riders. The department is also hiring more than 80 drivers and plans to add another 20 buses to its fleet in the spring.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said during a news conference outside St. John Hospital and Medical Center on Moross the formerly troubled system is finally meeting its bus schedule and initiating its largest service expansion in two decades.

“We have a third of families in this city that don’t have a car,” he said. “And today we’re making a significant step forward in providing them the level of service that they deserve.”

St. John employee Lorrie Elliott rides DDOT to get to her job at the hospital campus on the city’s east side. She gets up early to catch the bus, since wait times can be unpredictable. But with the addition of more routes, she’s hopeful.

“If the time frame for getting on the bus was shorter, it would be great,” said Elliott, who works first shift on the hospital’s environmental services staff.

Mayssoun Hamade, director of Food & Nutrition for St. John’s, said the service expansion will be beneficial for the hospital team’s ability to make it to workShe said 20 percent to 30 percent of the environmental services and food staff use the bus service every day.

Leadership of the city’s bus driver union said before the press conference that it’s happy with the 24-hour service, but added more services right now doesn’t make sense.

Fred Westbrook, president of the ATU Local 26, said the city first needs to “fix what’s wrong” with a number of Detroit’s innercity routes — such as Livernois, Schaefer, Conant and Puritan — that have some riders enduring hour-long waits for a bus.

“Why aren’t they fixing the frequencies on those routes instead of adding these special services,” he said. “Now these people got to go through another winter waiting an hour for a bus and if the bus breaks down that’s two hours. We just don’t see eye to eye with some of the service changes that they are making.”

Duggan on Thursday said he agrees with the drivers that times have to get better and said steps are planned to accomplish that.

“We need to cut the times along many of these routes,” he said. “I expect to come back this summer if our finances hold as they look now and do another service expansion ... and continue to cut those times.”

The DDOT improvements, promoted by Duggan and tweaked by bus officials after public input this summer, are part of a number of changes at the agency. The changes include 24-hour service on certain routes and Saturday service to the Eastern Market near downtown from six neighborhoods, as reported earlier this month by The Detroit News.

The estimated cost is $10 million from the general fund. The dollars were accounted for in the city’s bankruptcy plan of adjustment.

The improvements come at a transitional point in transportation in Metro Detroit, with the M-1 rail line slated to open next year and the Regional Transit Authority putting a millage on the November ballot to fund transit improvements.

The three express routes, essentially buses that will eventually end up on an expressway, and two direct routes, which will be used more during peak hours in the morning and afternoon, are among the biggest changes.

In September, DDOT will offer the Ryan Express and Joy Express: The Ryan will connect residential neighborhoods to downtown via East Outer Drive and Interstate 75. The Joy route will connect neighborhoods to downtown by Evergreen and Joy and Interstate 96. Both will run during peak hours in the morning and afternoon.

Two of the direct routes slated to start in January — a southwest Detroit service and another from the West Village area — are unique because they won’t stop downtown but rather in Midtown locations such as the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State University. There will be anywhere from six to eight trips in peak hours, officials have said.

Twenty-four hour service will be offered on three routes in September and three more routes in January. The fall routes include the Crosstown from the Pierson Loop to Warren and Telegraph; the Dexter on Jefferson between Griswold and Shelby; and Seven Mile, with trips every 60 minutes.

In January, the new 24-hour services will be the Jefferson, Michigan and Van Dyke/Lafayette routes.

To address safety concerns, the city’s Transit Police force has had a presence on the DDOT system since 2014 and officials are hoping to expand the effort. Additionally, Dan Dirks said all of the city’s buses are equipped with surveillance cameras.

The level of physical assaults on drivers have gone down since the changes have been implemented, Westbrook said.