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Detroit busses DDOT

A DDOT bus in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit is tweaking bus service again as the city plugs away at revamping its notoriously bad transit system.

The latest changes kick in this coming weekend.

They include schedule modifications, some additional trips and other adjustments across eight bus routes, to “increase reliability” and “alleviate crowding.”

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Department of Transportation will begin running 24-hour bus service for three of its busiest routes Saturday.

The popular routes are part of more than 15 that will begin adjusted schedules this weekend. The changes are the product of public meetings with riders and aim to improve the system’s efficiency while expanding service.

Neil Greenberg of DDOT said the changes are within budget and that the department is getting "more use out of existing resources."

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

For the first time in five years, Detroit and its bus drivers have agreed to a new labor contract.

The four-year deal includes an immediate 4% base wage hike, gradually growing to 13.5% over the course of the contract.

It also introduces “fare box sharing.” If the Detroit Department of Transportation gains riders and grows revenues, 30% of that increase will go to drivers, up to a certain amount.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit bus service is improving — but still has a long way to go.

That’s the message Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan carried to a group of 27 new city bus drivers Friday.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“Detroit’s back,” Vice President Joe Biden shouted at the audience in a city bus depot today.   

Sounding like the presidential candidate he insists he is not (yet), Biden touted federal and local efforts to help Detroit rebound.

Biden was in Detroit to formally announce a milestone in the city’s bus service. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan planned to have a lot more buses on the streets by this point. There’s been progress in some areas: more buses, better maintenance. But the bus system is still not reaching its goals.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The next two years are make-or-break ones for the future of regional transit in Metro Detroit, according to an expert panel at Tuesday’s Detroit Policy Conference.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan riveted his town for nearly an hour last night with a state of the city address glowing with infectious, can-do optimism. 

Things are getting better, he insisted, facts and figures rolling off his tongue. The city is selling vacant properties no one thought possible to sell. Police response times are much better. Detroit has twice as many ambulances as it did.

Dwight Burdette / Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding the city of Detroit $26 million to buy 50 new buses. 

Long wait times and broken-down buses have been a problem in the city, as it's struggled to keep its aging fleet in working order. 

"Like any good triage, you've got to tackle the biggest things first," Megan Owens said. Owens is executive director of Transportation Riders United, a non-profit that aims to improve public transportation in downtown Detroit. "The biggest things are having enough working buses, and having enough people to drive them." 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week the Detroit Journalism Cooperative is looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy. Mayor Mike Duggan suggested he’d get a lot done in six months. We’re nearly there and took a look at progress with mass transportation in Detroit.

One out of every three Detroit households doesn’t have a car. They rely on the bus system. But it’s broken.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

As state lawmakers look to boost investment in Michigan's roads, transit advocates are calling on Lansing not to forget the state’s public transportation systems.

House Speaker Jase Bolger has proposed legislation that would reconfigure gas taxes and add other measures to raise about $450 million a year for road repairs. On Tuesday, Senate Majority leader Randy Richardville said he wants to triple that amount to about $1.5 billion.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Detroit buses are being outfitted with new security cameras.

Mayor Mike Duggan says the intent is to deter crime against passengers and drivers.

“For far too long, our drivers have not been safe driving the buses. And at times our passengers have not been safe riding the buses,” says Duggan.

Duggan says city bus drivers particularly don’t deserve some of the treatment they’ve been getting.

Detroit cancels bus runs Monday, cites `sick out'

Oct 20, 2013
Sarah Hulett

Operators of Detroit's public buses say riders may have to find another way to get around Monday because of what officials say is a threatened "sick-out" protest by unionized drivers.

The union says it isn't behind the job action and can't do anything if drivers call in sick.

A recording on the Detroit Department of Transportation's phone line Sunday evening says that the union has "scheduled a sick out Monday" and "bus service will not be in operation."

A DDOT bus in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) — Bus drivers in Detroit want better security after they say at least eight drivers were hospitalized after attacks by riders in the past nine months.

Fred Westbrook, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26, tells the Detroit Free Press that Tuesday's rally also was organized to let riders know that drivers are frustrated about crowded buses, buses running late and a lack of police protection.

Ideas for improving security include creating a transit police for the Detroit Department of Transportation. Another rally is planned for October.

Officer Dan Donakowski tells The Detroit News that police met Monday with DDOT representatives and offered training to drivers. He says drivers also plan to provide police with information about routes where assaults have taken place so police can step up efforts.

A rift over transit money is once again dividing Detroit from its suburban neighbors.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments voted Friday to shift money from Detroit’s bus system to a suburban line.

SEMCOG has temporary oversight of federal transit funds for capital investment while the new southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority gets up and running.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A vote this Friday could determine how federal transit money is split between Detroit and its suburbs—and Detroit officials aren’t at all happy with what’s being proposed.

Right now, that federal money is divided based on ridership. So the Detroit Department of Transportation gets about 65% of the funding, while the suburban system—known as SMART—gets 35%.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Transit advocates in southeast Michigan heralded the start of a “new era in public transportation," as a Regional Transit Authority’s board met for the first time Wednesday.

The RTA board consists of representatives from Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties, and the city of Detroit.

Its mission is to coordinate the region’s historically fragmented transit agencies--and pave the way for truly regional rapid transit.

Warriors on Wheels of Metropolitan Detroit

An advocate for the disabled will represent Detroit on a new regional transit authority board.

Mayor Dave Bing announced his selection of Lisa Franklin during his state of the city address last week.

Franklin is the President of Warriors on Wheels. That group has built expertise and credibility as they’ve fought to draw attention to systemic dysfunction in Detroit’s transit system, particularly for the disabled.

Franklin said she’s genuinely excited about her appointment. She believes the authority’s first overarching task is to outline a unified vision for mass transit in Metro Detroit.

“Personally, I would like for us to all sit down and figure out what we want. The best possible service that we can have,” Franklin said. “And then from that point we need to figure out how to connect all of the dots, and then figure out how much it will cost and how we can pay for it.”

Franklin also brings her perspective as a Detroiter who relies on transit. She said one of her main concerns will be how to build a functional and unified public transit system overburdening the low-income people who rely on transit the most.

“I’m hoping that we can connect all of the counties, so that people can go to work, go to doctor’s appointments, without any limitations,” Franklin said.

Governor Snyder just signed Regional Transit Authority was signed into law just last December, and likely won’t start meeting for several more months.

It joins representatives from Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland and Macomb counties and the city of Detroit to coordinate Metro Detroit’s historically fragmented public transit systems.

The authority likely won’t get rolling until later this year. Besides Detroit, only Washtenaw county has appointed representatives. Once the full board is seated, they’ll need to pick a director.

The U.S. Department of Transportation had withheld millions to build up Detroit area transit--including a proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) line--until an RTA was formed.

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Detroit for the tenth time Monday to talk about the region’s mass transit future.

LaHood met with Governor Snyder, Mayor Dave Bing, and state lawmakers, and again made clear that the federal government is willing to put money into a regional transportation authority (RTA) for Detroit.

But Lansing hasn’t acted on bills to create an RTA to run that system.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Bus riders in and around Detroit will enjoy some updated buses, thanks to a federal grant.

Leaders officially announced a $30 million grant for regional transit systems Monday. It was the third-largest amount dispensed to any metro area nationally from the U.S. Transportation Department’s State of Good Repair grant fund.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit leaders are promising better service for the city’s more than 100,000 regular bus riders.

Officials phased in what they’re calling the "415 plan" this past weekend.

It promises service every fifteen minutes along the city’s four busiest bus routes during peak riding hours (6 am-6 pm).

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing turned bus management over to a private firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff, earlier this year. He credits them with improving service.

“I think the outside management team has worked very, very well with our employees," said Bing, speaking Monday during his first day back from more than a month-long battle with health problems. "They’re listening to each other, they’re good ideas being brought to the table, and the implementation plan is moving forward.”

But the four-fifteen initiative comes on the heels of cutbacks to other city bus routes, and the elimination of overnight service.

And while timely service has improved, city officials admit it’s still a long way from where it needs to be.

“It should be 90-95% [on-time]," said Detroit Department of Transportation CEO Ron Freeland. "Especially when you consider that most of our customers are going to use more than one bus line.”

In a report released just last week, the transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United gave Detroit’s bus system a “D-minus” grade—with only 63% of buses arriving on-time.

A DDOT bus in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder discussed all kinds of issues during an online townhall meeting today. People participated in the town hall online and remotely from Traverse City, Grand Rapids and Detroit.

“My question is what can be done about the horrible transportation situation in the City of Detroit?” Shelia Foreman asked Snyder from Wayne State University’s TechTown. “I have had relatives lose their jobs because they cannot get to them. Do you have a solution for that?”

The Detroit News reports Andy Didorosi is set to open the Detroit Bus Co., a private company with three full-size school buses.

The 25-year-old Ferndale resident says he's invested $10,000, and insurance will cost another $10,000 per bus per year. His plan comes as frustrations linger over city buses running late or not at all.

Didorosi's first bus will launch the last week of April, and the other two will follow.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26 President Henry Gaffney says city service could be better, but he's not a fan of a private citizen tackling the issue. Gaffney says Didorosi doesn't really know what he's doing.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

There were some testy exchanges at a Detroit City Council hearing on bus service Monday, as Council members and citizens wanted to know when they can expect the city’s notoriously bad bus service to improve.

Department statistics show that city buses miss stops or otherwise fail to service their routes about one-third of the time. Transit advocates suggest that number is probably too low.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says a new CEO and new fleet of buses will help turn around the city’s struggling transportation department.

The Detroit Department of Transportation has been struggling for months to put enough buses on the streets.

In what the city calls a bid to both improve service and cut costs, they’ve brought in a private contractor to manage the bus system.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit's problematic public transportation system is getting a new leader.

The office of Mayor Dave Bing said in a statement Tuesday night that Ron Freeland would serve as the Detroit Department of Transportation's CEO. Freeland has worked as an executive with other transportation systems in the U.S.

Word of the appointment comes as Detroit considers ending early-morning bus service as part of an effort to cut about $11 million in costs. The city says some other bus routes could be eliminated. Public hearings on the proposal are planned.

The mayor on Wednesday also planned to show off new city buses at an event on the city's east side. The mayor's office says the new, more fuel-efficient buses are part of the city's newest fleet that began arriving Jan. 30.

Big changes are in store once again for Detroit’s beleaguered bus riders.

1000 city workers will be laid off next week—including 78 bus drivers and 25 mechanics, according to Naomi Patton, a spokeswoman for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

The city recently turned over management of its transportation department to a private contractor, Parsons Brinckerhoff, who sub-contracted with another company, Envisurage.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Rapid busses start a new schedule Monday that will better serve riders late at night, on the weekends, and more frequently during the workday. The bus service is improving thanks to a millage voters passed back in May.

Lawmakers in Lansing are working out details of legislation that would create a regional transportation authority in southeast Michigan.

Governor Snyder has called for such an authority to coordinate Metro Detroit’s bus systems, and provide funding for them and future mass transit projects.

Detroit has a city-run bus system, and a regional bus system that serves both city and suburbs. But despite mounting troubles for both, past efforts to merge them have always failed.

Megan Owens, President of the transit advocacy group Transportation Riders United, said it’s unrealistic to expect those systems to merge or go away.

“And actually it’s not necessary," Owens said. "A lot of cities have multiple transit providers. But what they have that we don’t is one agency that can actively coordinate and oversee them from a regional level.”

Owens said prior efforts to create a regional authority have always stumbled over issues of "power and money"--whether any party would have veto power, for example, and how money would be divided between municipalities. Those issues are being hammered out behind the scenes in Lansing.

A spokesman for State Senator Tom Casperson, chairman of the Senate Transportation committee, said he expects legislation will be introduced as early as this week or immediately after the winter recess.

Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer says the city will bring in an outside company to oversee bus maintenance.

Chris Brown says that’s part of Mayor Dave Bing’s strategy to address the city’s bus crisis. The situation has many Detroiters waiting as long as three hours for buses.

The city had instituted furlough days and cut overtime pay for bus mechanics, which led to a lack of buses on the streets. Officials have also accused bus mechanics of a deliberate work slowdown.

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