Here’s the Lowdown on Proposed DDOT Service Changes


Note: DDOT is hosting a final public hearing on these service changes on Tuesday, January 19, 5-6 pm in the Rosa Parks Transit Center (upper level). Hope to see you there!

Last month, the Detroit Department of Transportation announced a series of changes in scheduled bus service, the first major overhaul of scheduled service in years.

As everyone knows, DDOT buses don’t always run according to schedule. But performance has improved a great deal since the Motor City Freedom Riders first met with new DDOT director Dan Dirks in early 2014, and the service changes can help tell us where the system’s headed. Read on for our analysis.

The biggest news is the restoration of all-night service on three of DDOT’s busiest routes: Woodward, Gratiot, and Grand River. This is a big deal.

Four years ago, Detroit had eight all-night bus routes. Under former mayor Dave Bing, however, all these routes had all-night service eliminated, with the last buses heading out around 1 am, beginning in March 2012. This was a disaster for many riders, especially those working late at restaurants, who often lost their jobs as a result. (For more information on the impact of the cuts, see the Detroit People’s Platform “State of Transit in Detroit” report.)

Even though it doesn’t bring back all-night service to all the routes that had it, the restoration on these three major routes is a great relief. After years of cuts, it’s the first time DDOT’s increased scheduled service in years.

The restoration of all-night service isn’t the only change, though. DDOT is also tweaking schedules on a number of routes. There are both winners and losers in this recalibration. A number of crowded major routes, like Dexter and Jefferson, are getting slight increases in service. In transit terminology, they’ll be getting lower headways (the wait time between scheduled buses): that is, more frequent service.

Other routes, however, like 18 – Fenkell, are getting service reductions. In general, the pattern involves a slight shift in service from low-frequency routes to the major, more-traveled ones. Read more in our list of “winners” and “losers” below. For the most part, the changes may seem small, with frequencies increasing or decreasing by 10 minutes. Yet for regular bus riders, they can add up to hours lost or gained over the course of a week.

There are also some notable routing changes happening on the northeast side, where the 17 – Eight Mile route will be extended to Eastland Center mall. Currently, the Gratiot and Mack buses connect to Eastland; eliminating that connection will allow for increased frequency on those routes, though it’s bad news for riders trying to reach the mall, who’ll now have to transfer to the 17.

For the most part, these service changes are a positive step forward for riders. We can’t overstate the importance of 24-hour service, and we’re planning a DDOT Donut Run this coming Saturday to Dutch Girl Donuts to celebrate the first night of all-night service. For details, see this link.

It’s good to have something to celebrate. Yet we can’t lose sight of the fact that, in the scheme of things, these changes are pretty small fry. They underscore the need to push for the larger transit improvements we need – and the money to make them a reality. For that, we need to keep looking to a November 2016 Regional Transit Authority tax proposal.

Jan. 2016 Winners: DDOT Routes with Planned Frequency Increases

16 – Dexter: + 3 additional southbound morning trips

25 -Jefferson: Frequency increased; Mon-Sat. night headways cut from 60 to 40 minutes

31 – Mack: Slight frequency increase from 32 to 30-minute headways

45 – Seven Mile: Peak weekday frequency increased from 15 to 12-min headways

Jan. 2016 Losers: DDOT Routes with Planned Frequency Decreases

17 – Eight Mile: Weekday off-peak frequency reduced, from 25 to 30 minute headways

18 – Fenkell: Weekday frequency reduced from 35 to 50-minute headways

23 – Hamilton: Weekday frequency reduced from 25 to 30 min (peak) and 40 to 50 min (off-peak)

32 – McNichols: Weekend frequencies reduced from 32 to 40 min (Sat.) and 55 to 60 (Sun.)

55 – Schaefer: Weekday frequency reduced, from 55 to 60-min headways

See the full DDOT proposal at this link.

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