DDOT, SMART propose fare, transfer changes

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News
DDot buses. The federal program funds technologies that are ready to be deployed to boost traffic capacity for commuters and businesses.

Detroit – It soon will be easier to take public transportation throughout Metro Detroit, according to officials who announced proposed fare and transfer changes Thursday in the region's two bus systems.

At a press conference, Mayor Mike Duggan announced the Detroit Department of Transportation is proposing changes with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation that include the option for unlimited rides in both systems during specified time periods. 

The goal is to make riding public transportation less complicated, sparing riders from having to scramble for change for transfers and buy different tickets for each bus.

"In the 1990s, I was general manager of SMART, and I couldn’t understand how it operated by only selling tickets by the trip instead of having a pass for a portion of time,” Duggan said outside of the Rosa Parks Transit Center. “So now we’re going to provide four hours of unlimited rides on both DDOT and SMART for $2.”

He then added, “Isn’t that progress?” and some public transportation riders who attended the press conference applauded.

Robert Cramer, SMART's deputy general manager, called the changes "long overdue."

“So many of our riders also ride both (DDOT and SMART) together," he said. "This will improve the experience for them.”

 DDOT received input from stakeholders about the proposed changes and conducted a federally-required study to ensure any new policies are not discriminatory.

The proposed changes include eliminating all transfer fares, reducing the number of pass options from 25 to six, and eventually adding a mobile fare payment app and additional retail sites for ticket purchases.

The four-hour unlimited pass would include a reduced fare of 50 cents for qualified riders. Passengers also would have the option of a 24-hour regional pass with unlimited transfers between the two systems for $5 with a reduced fare of $2.

Voters in Macomb County and participating communities in Oakland and Wayne counties voted Aug. 7 to renew the millage to fund SMART, through 2021. But in Macomb County, the margin of passage was just 39 votes, leading Leon Drolet, a Macomb County commissioner and chair of the Michigan Taxpayer Alliance, to file a request this week for a recount.

The recount, covering 398 precincts — some Election Day and some absentee precincts — will cost $9,950, or $25 per precinct. It is expected to take place in the next few weeks.

SMART is southeast Michigan's only regional public transportation provider. The system provides nearly 10 million rides annually, with 70 percent of passengers using it to get to work.

A resident with a home valued at $200,000 will pay $100 per year under the 1 mill tax. In Macomb County, that is an increase of 78 cents per year, and in Oakland County, $1.37.