Detroit-to-Ann Arbor bus service could launch soon

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — An hour-long bus route from Detroit to Ann Arbor and vice versa is expected to begin service in the first quarter of 2020, if given the blessing of the Regional Transit Authority's board next month.

Detroit-to-Ann Arbor mobility was a priority of the 2016 regional transit millage, which failed. 

The D2A2 route would start in Detroit at Grand Circus Park, downtown, and end in downtown Ann Arbor at the Blake Transit Center, according to transit officials.

The D2A2 route would start in Detroit at Grand Circus Park, downtown, and end in downtown Ann Arbor at the Blake Transit Center, according to transit officials.

If approved, most riders will pay either $12 at the farebox or $10 if they book a seat beforehand. Seniors and people with disabilities can ride for just $6. Monday through Friday, 16 routes will take off from Ann Arbor and 16 from Detroit. On Saturday and Sunday, just eight trips are planned between the cities. 

"This is long overdue," said Mario Morrow, spokesman for the authority. "We've been waiting for this one for a long time."

The RTA held the first two public meetings on the D2A2 route, as it will be called, on Wednesday. The first meeting was in Detroit and attracted roughly 135-150 people. The second, held in Ann Arbor, drew more than 50, Morrow said.

The purpose of the pilot effort, according to the presentation offered at the Wednesday meetings, is to "evaluate the ridership market that exists between these two communities," and to give planners at "valuable data that can be used to help calibrate their regional travel demand models."

Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United, attended the Detroit meeting on Wednesday.

Between the meetings and issues raised by transit enthusiasts via social media since, Owens said three areas of concern emerged: late-night service (the plan is for buses to take off between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., and for service to end an hour later); cost; and the lack of intermediate stops in such cities as Dearborn and Ypsilanti.

"I'm extremely excited about the opportunity," Owens said Thursday. "It's appalling that it's been so hard, for so long, for people who aren't driving to get between Detroit and Ann Arbor. There's so much happening in those communities."

A consistent, reliable bus route between the two cities would "let people take their commute back," said Owens, as riders would be able to read, do work or be on social media "and not just be staring at the bumper in front of you."

As construction projects continue on Interstate 94 between Detroit and Ann Arbor — inclement weather prevented a planned road-work closure this weekend between Michigan Avenue and I-96 — planners hope the service could point toward the effectiveness of an express route as a "congestion mitigation tool," according to the presentation.

Morrow said modern technology will allow drivers on the route to avoid traffic, choosing either I-94 or I-96, based on which route is clearer. The pilot is funded by $2 million in annual grants from the state and federal governments.

The RTA is partnering with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority on the D2A2 route, which will be operated by Michigan Flyer.

The buses are wheelchair accessible. Seats will have armrests and footrests. The buses will have Internet access, USB charging ports, overhead storage bins and bike storage.

The public comment period will close on Monday, and people can offer feedback by emailing

The RTA's board is expected to consider approving the pilot project at its Feb. 17 meeting.