Bus Transit: The Key to Neighborhood Growth That No One is Talking About.
This blog is about rebuilding Detroit neighborhoods around transit routes to connect residents to jobs, services, schools, shopping and recreation. The rebuilding is happening but buses are omitted from the narrative due to a history of overwhelmingly negative PR and service. Detroit car insurance is the highest in the country and the roads are becoming crowded as people move back and drive into the city. Transit is an important piece to this puzzle as Detroit continues to rebound.
Detroit has nine 24/7 bus routes (now ten) which play an important role in the revitalization of its neighborhoods and the media isn’t talking about them. Yes, they did their due diligence and reported when routes were expanded but they stopped there. Coverage of the QLINE, MoGo, parking and ride sharing abounds when it comes to games, new construction and events but few will mention buses, which run all over Detroit. I’m told they don’t have the staff to cover transit yet they have no problem covering a bus accident. Transit doesn’t need dedicated staff, just a mention. This seems to fit with the “two Detroits” narrative, where shiny new streetcars get heated platforms while nearby bus riders literally get frozen out.
There has been public transit on Woodward since the 1860’s from horse drawn trolleys to electric streetcars to buses which continue to operate to this day. Between DDOT & SMART there are half a dozen bus routes covering Woodward from Jefferson out to Pontiac, yet it took a streetcar to spark investment. Why not embrace the bus as an investment tool?
For several years the Fitzgerald neighborhood has been the topic of discussion for revitalization. Not one of the several dozen articles on the press page mention transit though. Surely it is no coincidence that this new development is near the 24 hr bus route #16-Dexter. This bus route connects downtown Detroit, Beacon Park, Little Caesars Arena, Cass Tech, Wayne State, Midtown, College for Creative Studies, New Center, Henry Ford Hospital, Motown Museum, Northwestern High School, U of D Mercy, Mumford High School, Renaissance High School, DMC Sinai Grace Hospital, Wayne County Community College, Oakland Community College Southfield, Oakland Regional Hospital, SMART bus transfer as well as grocery stores and more. This 24-hr service, which also intersects with three daily bus routes (#29-Linwood, #30-Livernois & #32-McNichols), is a great asset to this neighborhood yet remains unacknowledged by the media.
OLD REDFORD NEIGHBORHOOD
In October 2017 Detroit issued a request for proposal (RFP) for the Redford neighborhood. Old Redford sits at the intersection of Lahser and Grand River where two 24–hr bus routes intersect. #21-Grand River runs between downtown Detroit and 7 Mile along Grand River and #45-7 Mile runs between the Redford Meijer and St. John Providence. The 7 Mile bus intersects with five 24-hr routes (#16-Dexter, #53-Woodward, #48-Van Dyke, #34-Gratiot and #14-Crosstown (Warren Ave). The RFP does not mention these 24-hr bus routes as an feature of this neighborhood nor do any news sources covering this development (Crain’s, Curbed Detroit).
Another project recently announced this year is a new Meijer and apartment complex on E. Jefferson just outside of downtown Detroit. Some articles make mention of a possible streetcar extension along Jefferson to intersect with Woodward’s QLINE yet not one mention of the half a dozen buses that surround the site. There are two 24-hr routes nearby (#25-Jefferson and #48 Van Dyke) as well as three local routes (#7-Cadillac-Harper, #10-Chene & #80-Villages Direct) and three SMART bus routes (#610-Kercheval-Harper, #620-Charlevoix & #635-Jefferson Express). This is the third Meijer to be on or near a 24-hr DDOT route which has to be more than a coincidence.
Michigan Ave — Corktown
Ford Motor Company recently purchased the long abandoned train station in Corktown. Change will come swiftly for the oldest neighborhood in Detroit which has endured heavy urban renewal, deep cuts from highway building and the removal of its biggest attraction, Tiger Stadium. Yet, there is a strong community in this neighborhood, among the people who live there and the new businesses that have popped up over the years.
Ford speaks of making Michigan Ave a transit corridor, connecting Detroit & Dearborn yet once again, there are three bus routes already on Michigan Ave. So why autonomous shuttles and cars instead of public buses?
So why doesn’t the media cover bus transit in SE Michigan?
“ This region as a whole does have a huge cultural anti-bus, anti-transit bias. Especially from those who haven’t lived in other cities. Some for practical reasons, some that took root many years ago in a very sad place of racism and division.” — Daily Detroit
If DDOT is in the news its typically not for a positive story. How do you get the media and general public to take notice of the good news? Some claim that they don’t have the resources to cover transit. Sometimes all it takes is a mention. Car drivers are bus blind and don’t think about the bus unless you tell them about it, every time. Including it as an asset in positive development stories like the ones above would be a good start!
Why is transit important in Detroit? That’s for another blog: Cars Are Returning to Detroit.
Won’t autonomous cars eliminate transit? You Decide.
Update: Here’s a positive story from December 2017. Quicken Loans in the Community and DTE Energy have teamed up to sponsor DDOT Holiday Buses. They have decorated several buses to boost the holiday spirit and are sponsoring FREE Saturdays on select 24-hour routes to connect Detroiters to the downtown festivities:
• Dec 16: #53-Woodward
• Dec 23: #34-Gratiot
• Dec 30: #25-Jefferson
• Jan 6: #37-Michigan
• Jan 13: #21-Grand River