DDOT bumps up bus routes with expanded services

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city of Detroit on Monday launched the second phase of a major bus service expansion, including more 24-hour and express routes from city neighborhoods to major job centers in its core.

The added services — three new express and 24-hour routes — are the latest in the last six months. This newest expansion phase, officials said, will add 650 trips per week to the Detroit Department of Transportation schedule, bringing the total of new trips added since September to 1,300.

“To many Detroiters, this is major change in their lives,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said during a Monday news conference inside the Rosa Parks Transit Center. “Everybody in this city knows that the key to getting people out of poverty is get folks access to good-paying jobs. So many times in the city the jobs are not where the folks live, or you can’t get to them.”

Prior 24-hour service additions included a Saturday service to Eastern Market near downtown from six neighborhoods.

The new 24-hour services include the Jefferson, Michigan and Van Dyke/Lafayette routes, bringing the total of 24-hour routes to nine. Just over a year ago, officials noted, there were no 24-hour DDOT routes.

“It’s hard to imagine a city without 24-hour bus service. But not very long ago, that’s where Detroit was,” Duggan said. “We’re just going to keep going until we build the kind of reliable bus system that people of Detroit deserve.”

DDOT has added 120 new drivers as a result of the expansion. They also added 80 new buses about a year ago, and will get 20 more by summer, said DDOT Director Dan Dirks.

While waiting for a ride at the transit center Monday, Midtown resident Michael Wilson said he usually expects a 20- to 30-minute wait. It’s a vast improvement, he said, from the bus breakdowns and delays that had some waits spanning up to two hours a few years back.

“I’ve seen the change,” said Wilson, 50, who has lived in the city for more than 40 years. “I think it’s very important.”

Direct routes to Midtown and the city’s New Center are now in place for southwest Detroit and the West Village areas. There’s also a Grandmont/Rosedale route. The city has said the additions are unique because they won’t stop downtown but rather in locations such as the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Hospital and Wayne State University.

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

The DDOT improvements, promoted by Duggan and tweaked by bus officials after public input over the summer, are part of a number of changes at the agency.

Additionally, a smaller expansion planned for April will add another new route, 200 more weekly trips and bring the full-service expansion to 1,500 added since the fall. Cost for the entire expansion is pegged around $10 million, which was accounted for in the city’s bankruptcy plan, officials said.

In the coming years, a single fare card may be developed for use on all of the city’s modes of transportation from city to SMART buses, the QLine, people mover, cabs and rideshare services, Duggan said.

Fred Westbrook, president of the ATU Local 26, which represents the city’s 500-plus bus drivers, said he supports expanded and improved service on the city’s main bus lines. But for a number of routes, including east side lines like Conner, Conant, Chalmers as well as Schaefer, Puritan, Livernois and Southfield on the west side, riders are still experiencing lengthy waits.

“I do understand their concept of expansions and getting people across town and downtown and out of town, on those main lines quicker by adding express service,” he said. “But I hope in the near future that they work on those lines where the frequencies are an hour-wait for the bus.”