Recent developments such as the Qline and now the Amazon HQ2 proposal have suddenly heightened the need for reliable public transportation.
The belated reaction and urgency from decision-makers to provide reliable bus service is an insult to majority-black bus riders and speaks to the long standing racist policies that have led to the decline of the Detroit Public Transit System.
Where was the urgency in 2012 and years after, when the city severely cut funding to the Detroit Department of Transportation? Bus riders in Detroit, who are mostly black had to endure long waits, often with no-show buses, lack of seating at bus stops, and sometimes being stranded.
This new urgency to provide decent public transportation is the result of policy shift and public resources being redirected for the benefit of developers and wealthy individuals that use our public funding for their own private gain.
The Qline is a prime example with the redirection of our public tax dollars, over $70 million, used to create a streetcar that only serves Downtown Detroit, which is increasingly white and wealthy. This new urgency reveals that transit-dependent riders, individuals that use the bus as their sole means of transportation, majority-black and low-income bus riders, were never and are not now a priority.
As newcomers are moving into Detroit, their right to “reliable, convenient and comfortable transportation” as stated in the City Charter of Detroit suddenly becomes a mandate. Public transportation in Detroit has shifted from a service that barely met the needs of bus riders in Detroit to now fitting the needs of choice-riders, many that have private vehicles but opt to use public transit.
How Public Transit is shifting to the benefit of choice riders:
- Transit-dependent riders in Detroit still have to take more time out of their day riding the bus to ensure they are on time for work, school, and medical appointments. Riders often have to leave 1-2 hours early, to make up for the fact that commutes within the city take over ½ to 1 hour to reach their destination. Whereas new bus lines like SMART FAST and REFLEX feature faster and frequent buses that have limited stops.
- Since 2016, DDOT has created several new “express and direct” routes: #95 Ryan Express, #96 Joy Express, #80 Villages Express, #89 Southwest Direct, #92 Rosedale Express. These routes are one-way, twice-a-day lines that commute people between neighborhoods in SW Detroit, Grandmont-Rosedale, East Outer Drive and Ryan, West Village to Midtown and Downtown Detroit. These new lines take buses from the existing fleet to provide this service. However, many routes within the city still have long wait times and are unreliable, for example: Schoolcraft #43, Conant #12, Russell, and Southfield.
- The new SMART, FAST (“Frequent, Affordable, Safe Transit”) bus service is a high-frequency, bus service with lines on Woodward, Gratiot, and Michigan Avenue that extend from Downtown Detroit to the suburbs. This service has on-board WI-FI Internet access, seven-day and late-night service. Eventually, SMART shelters will feature LCD-screens that show the wait-time and an emergency button connected to customer service and local police. Currently DDOT has no such amenities on their buses and bus shelters.
From Detroit People’s Platform NEWS #12, MLK Day edition, January 15, 2018. Download the Detroit People’s Platform NEWS at http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org and learn more about our work in REAL Community Benefits, truly affordable housing and transit that meets the needs of everyday Detroiters. Join the conversation #BlackMajorityDetroit