As Election Day rolls around, a number of bus riders have been asking us what the RTA ballot proposal would mean for DDOT bus service in Detroit.
In brief: a lot. If the “Yes” votes prevail on November 8, DDOT service would be increased by more than 25%. In addition to brand-new routes connecting Detroit and the suburbs, there would be more buses on existing DDOT routes, making for shorter waits for riders. The number of buses on the road would increase dramatically, to a peak of 258. See the chart below for details.
And moreover, that’s all assuming that no surplus DDOT service on bus rapid transit corridors – that is, Woodward, Gratiot, and Michigan – would be reallocated to less serviced routes. Since the RTA would be providing frequent rapid transit service on those corridors, it could be possible for DDOT to reduce the number of buses on those routes, and instead provide more service on crosstown routes. (Obviously, that’d have to be done carefully; there’d still need for continued DDOT service in order to serve the stops in between bus rapid transit stations.)
On January 21st, staff from the metro region’s two major bus systems gathered in a downtown office high above the Detroit River in a show of unity. It’s no secret that DDOT and SMART have often acted as competitors, rather than partners, battling for turf and for the region’s woefully small pool of transit funding. Yet as chunks of ice floated down the river below, DDOT and SMART attempted to show the Regional Transit Authority board that there’d been a thaw in their chilly relationship.
DDOT head Dan Dirks and SMART chief John Hertel were on hand, but this was clearly Neil Greenberg’s show. Greenberg, DDOT Director of Service Development and Scheduling, may be best known to many people for dreaming up the Freshwater Railway fantasy transit maps, which laid out a vision for a regional rail system in metro Detroit. He’s also worked at SMART, and his enthusiasm for transit made him a natural for bringing the two agencies together.
The “refleX” proposal Greenberg put forward was, in many ways, a model for how transit in the metro region could work better. (Read the full document here, courtesy of the Oakland Press.) However, the service’s limited stops raise equity concerns, and the limited funding for the service will make it so infrequent as to threaten its success. Continue reading “Lack of Funding Will Limit Proposed Express Service”
In February of this year, the Freedom Riders launched a petition to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, asking him to add DDOT bus performance information to his “Detroit Dashboard,” his weekly online progress report on city services. The Mayor had, after all, said that improving bus service was his most important priority, yet the Dashboard contained no information on that front.
Over the coming months, we collected more than 500 signatures on the petition. And, at long last, the Mayor’s Dashboard features DDOT performance information, including both morning and afternoon “pullout,” the number of buses that get out of the garage and onto the road each day.
It’s a small, symbolic step. But it sends a strong message that decent bus service – used mostly by the city’s poorest citizens – is every bit as important as police services, fire protection, and other essential city functions. It also shows the power of what we can do together. Continue reading “Victory: DDOT Is On the Dashboard!”
For Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden’s recent visit to the Detroit Department of Transportation’s main bus garage was a triumphant finale to his effort to secure more new buses from the feds.
For DDOT’s riders, the 80 new buses are a welcome sight on city streets. Yet sadly, they still won’t get us into the suburbs, where the great majority of the jobs are, because DDOT service is still confined to the city of Detroit.
In his speech, Vice-President Biden alluded to the disconnect between Detroiters and jobs. “100,000 Detroiters don’t have automobiles,” he said, “and jobs are places where people who need them the most aren’t. What’s the use of having a job if you can’t get there?” Metro Detroit, he noted, has the worst “job sprawl” in the nation, with more than 77% of jobs located more than 10 miles from downtown. Continue reading “Biden Buses Good…But Won’t Get Where the Jobs Are”
On May 29, the Freedom Riders met with Detroit Department of Transportation Director Dan Dirks at DDOT headquarters on East Warren. These meetings have become a familiar, almost casual fixture of our work. Despite DDOT’s continued struggle to get buses on the road, Dirks was perhaps more optimistic than we’ve ever seen him. He told us Detroit would be getting all its scheduled buses running by this fall, for the first time in years, once his new drivers-in-training have graduated.
If you’ve spent any time in Detroit these past several months, you’ve almost certainly seen one of the most visible symbols of Mayor Duggan’s stated commitment to improving city bus service. Sleek new New Flyer buses sporting DDOT’s green and yellow trim are all over city streets these days, joining the fleet’s boxy older New Flyers and Gilligs and aging, high-floor NovaBuses, which date to the early 2000s. The new buses are also an eye-catching symbol of Duggan’s clout in DC. The Mayor used his leverage with Vice-President Joe Biden to get Detroit in front of other cities in the bus production line, making up for the buses DDOT handed over to SMART last year.
But how’s DDOT actually doing, beyond simple optics? The hard data above – posted quietly, and a little erratically, to the City of Detroit website in weekly reports – suggest that while slow improvement continues, the system still has a long way to go. Continue reading “Springtime for DDOT? Not Quite Yet”
Last night, the Freedom Riders kicked off our petition to the Mayor outside his State of the City address at the Redford Theater. The petition calls on the Mayor to make his work on the DDOT bus system publicly accountable by including DDOT performance measures on his Detroit Dashboard.
Mayor Duggan has called fixing DDOT his number-one priority, but the Dashboard – a weekly summary of efforts to improve city services – does not feature regular DDOT performance information. In 2014, DDOT showed halting progress, but it’s critical that we hold the Mayor to his promise to fix the system once and for all, so Detroit has the quality bus service its citizens need and deserve.
We found a receptive crowd of citizens and officials outside the theater. We collected about a hundred signatures, including one from Mayor Duggan’s sister-in-law, and distributed fliers to hundreds more. Our main priority is collecting paper petitions on the buses and beyond – contact us at motorcityfreedomriders [at] gmail.com to obtain copies – but you can also sign the online version at this link.
DDOT statistics obtained by our allies at Transportation Riders United show that the City of Detroit’s bus system made halting progress in 2014, but still doesn’t get nearly enough buses on the road to run scheduled service.
The statistics show daily morning and evening “pullout” – the number of buses that actually make it out of the city’s garages. They don’t indicate on-time performance.
Mayor Duggan took office in January 2014 with a pledge to get city buses running on time. DDOT pullout showed steady improvement for the first half of the year, surpassing 200 afternoon buses in May. However, it dipped significantly over the summer, to a low of scarcely 170 buses in August afternoons. (The low points on the graph are weekends, when much less service is scheduled.) Over the fall, service gradually improved, and by the close of the year, afternoon pullout was once again hitting 200 with some level of consistency. Continue reading “DDOT Stats Reveal Slow Progress in 2014, Despite Summer Slump”