Detroit wins $26M for 50 new buses

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

The U.S. Transportation Department is awarding the city of Detroit $25.9 million to buy 50 new buses — a move that will boost the city's struggling transit system.

The Ladders of Opportunity Initiative grant comes through the Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration.

"Today's announcement is great news and will make a tangible difference in the lives of Detroit families," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing. "This project is another example of the incredible things happening in Detroit and throughout the region. Reliable transportation is critical for families who need a safe and dependable way to get to work, school or the doctor's office."

The Ladders of Opportunity Initiative program aims to modernize and expand transit bus service to help connect disadvantaged and low-income individuals, veterans, seniors and youths, with local workforce training, employment centers and health care services.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in May at a forum on Mackinac Island that he had been pushing the Obama administration for bus funding and had spoken about it by phone with Vice President Joe Biden.


In December, the Federal Transit Administration approved $41.6 million for the Detroit Department of Transportation that would allow the city to overhaul 60 buses, improve facilities and acquire security equipment.

FTA is also investing in several capital projects to improve Detroit's bus and passenger facilities. Some of the money is targeted for the Central, Gilbert and Shoemaker bus facilities and repairs, as well as a $6 million upgrade for the Rosa Parks Transit Center.

The struggling system has seen expenses rise and passenger trips fall, while several high-profile incidents on buses have raised concerns about the safety of drivers and passengers.

In an April 2013 report, the Detroit bus agency said ridership has declined 13 percent since 2008 to 32.8 million total passenger trips in the 2012 budget year — down from 37.8 million in 2008.

Fares collected now cover 11.9 percent of the costs of running the buses in 2012, DDOT said, down from 14 percent in 2011.