DETROIT (WXYZ) — Big changes are underway for people who depend on taking the bus. Starting on Nov. 15, three DDOT routes will be cut and other routes will operate less frequently.
The changes come as DDOT still works to hire bus operators. DDOT is looking to hire 90 bus operators and 50 mechanics. Before the pandemic, there were 487 bus operators, now they have 407. Many chose to leave over time for new careers, fears of working in a pandemic, or they have retired. DDOT has the budget for 510 bus operators.
The routes no longer in service will include Route 11 Clairmount, Route 26 Junction and Route 27 Tireman. There are 18 routes during the week that will have a reduction of hours.
“We have some routes that we are providing transportation on that has ten riders a day,” said Mikel Oglesby, Executive Director for Transit for the city of Detroit.
Mikel says they are in the process of “right sizing” the service, stating the service will be less frequent, but more dependable.
“If you expect the bus every 15 minutes and we don’t have the capacity to handle it, you’ll be standing out there up to 45 minutes, but if we take it that same service and we create 20 or 25-minute headways, they are called that we can actually produce the service than you’ll know that the bus is actually coming,” said Oglesby.
“For there to be service cuts is definitely devastating,” said Diajah Ruffin, Lead Organizer for the non-profit Motor City Freedom Riders.
Ruffin says what concerns her, is a lack of a plan moving forward.
“It just shows from our end that we need to do better. The public transit of Detroit has been not good for a while now, and so for the pandemic to happen we do understand that you know things were going to change but to just have service cuts and not have a proper plan in place to what that looks like after the service cuts it just honestly it doesn’t make sense,” said Ruffin.
DDOT says they are planning to restore service levels in early 2022, but getting there is what concerns Ruffin. Especially when workers are needed.
Oglesby says they have recently hired 30 bus operators.
“Our problem is not entirely a bus shortage problem, our problem is a bus shortage/attendance problem coupled with the reduction in ridership and really that is why we are taking the current scheduling and adjusting it the way that we are,” said Oglesby.
As for the future, Oglesby says DDOT is expecting around $51 million in new COVID-19 recovery funding. Past funding from COVID-19 relief has been used to offset expenses. Oglesby says this upcoming funding will be left up to the people.
“We are going to leave it up to the public to tell us what to do with that funding,” said Oglesby.
Oglesby says they are also working on their own DDOT app. Stating the current third-party app “Total Transit” isn’t always reliable in telling people when the bus is coming. They hope to launch this new, hopefully more accurate, app in coordination with the service changes mid-November.