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Detroit revives bus to grocery route after rocky start

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Detroit — After a rocky start last fall that attracted only a few residents, city officials this weekend re-launched Fresh Wagon bus routes linking residents to fresh, affordable and healthy produce.

City officials on Saturday expressed confidence that the re-launch of the service, which is in partnership with Eastern Market, will work better in the spring and summer months.

Organizers said about 60 residents used the service from September to December last year.

“With Fresh Wagon launching during the winter months, we really haven’t had an opportunity to see how successful it can be,” Dan Dirks, director of the Detroit Department of Transportation, said during a media event at the bus stop at Russell and Wilkins where the DDOT Fresh Wagon bus drops off residents.

“We are confident that...we can make this summer season a rewarding one for Fresh Wagon,” Dirks said.

Fresh Wagon is a series of round-trip Saturday morning bus routes to Eastern Market from various city neighborhoods. The initiative first launched during DDOTs service expansion in September 2015 and grew out of a partnership between DDOT, Eastern Market and the city health department to offer riders easy access to fresh food options.

Dirks said that DDOT, Eastern Market and the city health department are “committed long-term” to making the program a success this time around.

“If these routes don’t quite work, we’ll change them. If we need to add stops, we’ll do that,” he said. “We’re going to make this work, because we know it’s needed.”

Detroit is a sprawling city that has flirted with the term “food desert” for years. Many residents don’t have access to vehicles and rely on public transportation to get them to stores, officials said.

“Food insecurity is an issue (in Detroit). It touches all neighborhoods,” said Velonda Anderson, WIC manager at the Detroit Health Department. “People need stores they can easily get to, that have quality and a variety of good fruits and vegetables.”

The six Fresh Wagon buses, each named for an apple variety, stop at 11 spots throughout the city, from Honeycrisp in northwest Detroit to Ida Red on the east side and McIntosh deep in Southwest. All routes lead to the Russell and Wilkins intersection at Eastern Market.

While pick-up and drop-off times vary, the buses all stick around for about an hour-and-a-half before heading home. The ride costs $1.50 each way, which is the standard DDOT bus fare. Seniors can board for $1 round-trip.

Beginning next month, Fresh Wagon riders will receive a $6 voucher that can be exchanged for special coins, which can be spent on any Michigan-grown fruits or vegetables at Eastern Market. The vouchers can be redeemed at the Shed 5 information booth and the welcome center outside Shed 3. The vouchers are valid until Dec. 31.

Also starting next month, residents who want to learn more about the service can meet city and Eastern Market employees at various Fresh Wagon stops for “ride-along” trips to Eastern Market.

HFournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier

Fresh Wagon ride-along trips:

9:45 a.m. May 20: Northwest Activity Center, 18100 Meyers

10:15 am. June 30: Farwell Recreation Center, 2711 E. Outer Dr.

8:25 a.m. June 17: Bethany Lutheran Church, 11475 E. Outer Dr.

9 a.m. July 1: Waterfall Church, 12040 Visger Rd.

8 a.m. July 15: Boys & Girls Club, 16500 Tireman Ave.

9:30 a.m. July 29: Cambridge Towers, 19101 Evergreen Rd.

Saturday Fresh Wagon schedule

Honeycrisp Route:

Pick-up point

9:30 a.m. at Cambridge Towers: Evergreen and Seven Mile

Depart Eastern Market for return trip

11:55 a.m. at Russell and Wilkins

Fuji Route:

Pick-up points

10 a.m. at Northwest Activities Center: Curtis and Meyers

10:08 a.m. at Nicky D’s Coney Island: Livernois and McNichols

Depart Eastern Market for return trip

12:30 p.m. at Russell and Wilkins

Gala Route:

Pick-up points

10:30 a.m. Farwell Recreation Center: East Outer Drive and Eureka

10:35 a.m. Hotline Cleaners: Seven Mile and Dequindre

10:45 a.m. Cameron Court: Chrysler Service Drive and Hague

Depart Eastern Market for return trip

1 p.m. at Russell and Wilkins

Ida Red Route:

Pick-up points

8:25 a.m. Peace Lutheran Church: Warren and Chatsworth

8:30 a.m. Bethany Lutheran Church: East Outer Drive and Chatsworth

Depart Eastern Market for return trip

11:05 a.m. Russell and Wilkins

McIntosh Route:

Pick-up point

9 a.m. Waterfall Church: Visger and Beatrice

Depart Eastern Market for return trip

11:35 a.m. Russell and Wilkins

Granny Smith Route:

Pick-up points

7:56 a.m. YumYum Donuts: Warren and Greenfield

8 a.m. Boys and Girls Club: Tireman and Grandmont

Depart Eastern Market for return trip

10:35 a.m. Russell and Wilkins

Source: Detroit Department of Transportation