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DDOT announces new service changes; riders still having problems

By Mike Sandula

The Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — The Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) says ridership is up in recent months, but amid a new round of service changes, two local transit advocacy groups say the system remains plagued with issues adversely affecting its riders.

Meanwhile, support for a regional transit authority (RTA) has increased.

DDOT still lagging

DDOT recently announced new service changes, effective Sept. 29. Nine weekday routes and one weekend route will be affected.

Some routes will see an increase in wait time between buses at various times of the day, while others will see a slight decrease. The Fort and Jefferson routes have been combined and Fenkel will now begin and end at the Rosa Parks Transit Center Bay 15; all service to Griswold/Jefferson on Fenkell has been discontinued. On Saturdays, a midnight northbound trip from the Rosa Parks Transit Center has been added to the Dexter route.

“Service changes are based on transit demands and designed to improve travel-time efficiencies and customer usage,” says a DDOT release — available at www.detroitmi.gov.com — that outlines the changes.

TransPro, which oversees DDOT through a subcontract, told Detroit’s Financial Advisory Board last month that monthly ridership has risen to 2.9 million.

However, the North End Woodward Community Coalition (NEWCC) gave City Council 1,300 signatures Sept. 19 testifying that riders were still experiencing problems. Video testimony can be viewed at on NorthEndWoodwardCC’s YouTube page.

Rev. Joan Ross, director of NEWCC, told the Michigan Citizen that DDOT’s newest slate of changes include “more losses than gains.”

Ross says she’d like to see DDOT officials do more than crunch numbers and “ride like riders do and see the frustrations that are happening with the residents of Detroit.”

“In a couple situations, people have lost jobs because they couldn’t get to work,” she said.

Further, Ross said, focusing on the city’s primary routes, as DDOT’s “415 Plan” does, leaves other riders in limbo. “The people that are making cross-town connections are having extreme difficulty,” she said.

Speaking Oct. 2 before Council, Ruth Johnson of Transportation Riders United (TRU) reiterated those sentiments, saying some riders have resorted to cabs, which are more expensive.

“DDOT bus service and its riders continue to suffer,” Johnson said. “Simply, there’s not enough service.”

Johnson said TRU has largely been pleased with DDOT’s new Text My Bus service, which debuted last month, but noted that those with either Metro PCS or Boost Mobile as their service provider have experienced problems.

TRU also expressed concern over the future of DDOT, saying Bing shouldn’t need to cut service in addition to cutting the city subsidy for transportation.

“There might be a management model not based on a for-profit model,” Johnson said.

RTA has support

At a Michigan House Transportation Committee meeting held Sept. 27, there was a broad range of support offered for a Regional Transit Authority (RTA), according to Johnson.

Two bills in the Michigan House of Representatives were discussed at a transportation hearing held Sept. 27: HB 5309 would establish a regional transit authority (RTA) for southeast Michigan, while HB 5314 would allow for the dedication of a lane for public transit. Accompanying bills exist in the State Senate.

The State House is currently on recess until Oct. 17, but has no meetings scheduled regarding transportation until they’re back in session Nov. 8 following the election, according to clerk Mary Lou Terrien.

Officials from Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties, as well as representatives for the Michigan Department of Transportation and Gov. Rick Snyder’s office, all expressed the need for an RTA.

Johnson told City Council Oct. 2 that TRU fully supports an RTA.

Adam Hollier, Council liaison from Mayor Bing’s office, says “the mayor has been fully supportive of a regional transit authority.”

M1 plan too weak

While the RTA has garnered broad support, a 3.31-mile streetcar route that would connect downtown Detroit to the New Center area has tepid support that comes with reservations.

As currently proposed, M1 Rail project would consist of 11 stations and is estimated to cost $125 million, with an annual operating cost of $5.1 million.

Johnson said TRU supports the project, but added TRU would prefer to see the project extend all the way to 8 Mile Road, used a center lane rather than side lanes, and connected to the People Mover and DDOT bus stops.

Councilmember JoAnn Watson echoed Johnson’s concerns over the M1 project not being large enough.

“Going only to New Center is foolish and folly,” Watson said. She told Johnson to “stick to your guns” and push for the route to extend into Oakland County. “We need rapid transit all over the city, connecting us with other cities, right now.”

Hollier said Mayor Bing’s position is that “light rail is an opportunity for expanding our job growth.”

Pugh said that’s not what he’d been hearing from the mayor, but Hollier said the mayor’s position on the matter had been updated.

 

Contact Mike Sandula at mikesandula@michigancitizen.com

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