Detroiter recruiting businesses for work shuttle program in I-94 corridor

Noelle Gray
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city's Department of Transportation is relaunching a shuttle service to get Detroiters to work in the I-94 Industrial Corridor and hoping to recruit more residents and employers who could benefit.

The Microtransit pilot program, which launched in 2020 through a federal grant, provides rides to and from work sites in the corridor primarily east of Hamtramck and along its south and southwest side. 

The service has partnered with a few companies so far and is in the midst of hosting virtual open houses to draw in others. DDOT is working with the city's Office of Mobility Innovation to expand this phase of the pilot, which will run through June 2022.

The Detroit Department of Transportation Microtransit shuttle service waits to load commuters to their destination in Detroit, Michigan, on Friday, November 19, 2021. 

DDOT is offering workers an opportunity to join the shared ride service which offers flexible shuttle services to and from work.

"The need specifically for the I-94 Corridor came from an analysis of where the concentration of employers is in the city," said Hind Ourahou, senior mobility strategist for the city's Office of Mobility Innovation. "That is combined with where it is difficult to get to work using public transit."

The program has three, six-passenger vans operated and provided by Transdev North America, a transit management system operator. 

Due to COVID-19 guidelines, only three masked passengers can be scheduled for a shuttle ride at one time. 

The shuttles run on a 24-hour basis to accommodate a variety of worker shifts. A shuttle ride can be reserved up until 5 p.m. the day before and residents can book as many rides as they need up to a month in advance. Riders are picked up at DDOT bus stops and dropped off at stops closest to their place of employment. 

The shuttles are $2 each way or riders can pay with a DDOT transit fare card.

Once employers confirm their participation in the service, employees can book rides through the Link App, by visiting a dedicated webpage, or calling a live representative at (313) 208-7370.

Megan Owens, executive director of Transportation Riders United, a regional nonprofit advocating for public transportation, said the service is a beneficial option for Detroiters.

"There is a huge need for something like this, partially because Detroit has a lot of low-density areas where there are some people in jobs and such but not a lot, and the regular buses are efficient when they can move a lot of people," Owens said. "This type of microtransit could potentially be a great way to ensure that people in low-density neighborhoods still have access to the places they need to go."

When the program first was offered in 2020, shuttles were operating within the industrial corridor and Detroit Metropolitan Airport. But due to pandemic-related restrictions on travel, officials said, emphases this phase is being placed solely on the I-94 corridor.

'We would love to expand to the airport, because that is another area that is in need of transportation for employees, and we can as soon as we have an employer that is interested," Ourahou noted. 

In the corridor, the program has partnered with Marwood International on Sherwood, Detroit Chassis on Lynch Road, and Dakkota Integrated Systems on Van Dyke.

Human Resources Manager of Dakkota Integrated Systems and Detroit resident, Demeteral Beaman, shares the benefits of the shuttle service in Detroit, Michigan, on Friday, November 19, 2021.

"We started the program a few months ago and there are a few people who use it," said Demeteral Beaman, human resources manager for Dakkota Integrated Systems, a Tier One supplier. "It is a fantastic program and it is something we definitely talk about in our orientation."

DDOT's next virtual open house will take place from 3-5 p.m. Wednesday. A session held earlier in November, Ourahou said, has not yet resulted in additional companies signing up.