Detroit Mayor, transit unions trade blame for bus crisis

Sep 16, 2011

Officials from Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s office say a union work slowdown is to blame for the city’s worsening bus service.

Dozens of people lined up to speak at a Detroit City Council hearing on that subject Friday. Riders complained about severely overcrowded buses that arrive up to three hours late.

Union leaders deny taking part in a work slowdown. They say they’ve been struggling for more than a year with a shortage of mechanics, which got even worse about a month ago when the Mayor cut overtime.

Leamon Wilson is President of Detroit transportation employees’ union.

“When they did that, we no longer had the manpower to staff the garage. So days, you can go into the garage and instead of there being the normal 16 men in the garage, there’s 3 or 4. And there’s no way they can keep up with the repair servicing.”

Many riders also complained about the bus drivers. Wilson admits many drivers are “demoralized,” and says some have been subject to verbal and physical attacks.

Bus rider Neil Sweat says he’s seen all of that. He’s used the bus since his car broke down a couple months ago.

But Sweat says there’s no way he’ll keep that up through the winter months. “The bottom line is, I would rather be homeless, than carless, in the city of Detroit,” he adds.

Sweat says if the situation doesn’t improve soon, he’ll get his car fixed and leave Detroit for Grand Rapids.

Bing administration officials and union representatives are scheduled to meet about the issue on Monday.