Transit Guide: Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)

David Gifford
7 min readNov 26, 2019

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Flying into or out of Detroit Metro Airport? Here’s a guide for getting to and from the airport without a car.

AirRide Service from DTW to Ann Arbor, Brighton & East Lansing

When most of us in Metro Detroit think about how to get to or from DTW (Detroit Metropolitan Airport), we usually consider driving ourselves, begging for a ride from friends or family or taking an Uber or Lyft.

But did you know this but you can take public transit to & from the airport? We may not have a rail system connecting DTW to nearby cities, but there are several bus options available. Plus, you’ll save money by not storing your car there at $10 a day or paying $40 or more for a ride-hailing service.

Even if you don’t live along a bus route, you can still use public transit for part or most of your trip. There are many options to reach DTW such as taking the bus from a Park & Ride lot or hailing an Uber, Lyft or SMART Flex to reach a bus stop along an airport route.

Below is a comprehensive guide on the many routes to DTW you can take using public transit.

Detroit Regional Xpress (DAX)

This new direct service runs 7-days a week between downtown Detroit (Washington & State) and both airport terminals (McNamara & Evans). Passengers can pay $8 at the door or $6 in advance on their website. It operates between 3:30am and 11:10pm hourly, daily. They use large coach buses and use I-94 for a quick trip.

Photo by RTA SE Michigan

SMART BUS

SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation) is Metro Detroit’s regional transit provider which operates Fixed Route, Connector and ADA paratransit services. To ride costs $2 per adult, $0.50 for youths (6–18), seniors and persons with disabilities with ID. The fare is good for 4-hours of unlimited rides & transfers on SMART, DDOT & the QLINE. Fares can be paid with cash on the bus, pre-bought online or using the DART Mobile App.

SMART FAST Bus photographed at ground transportation center at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. FAST Michigan.
Photo by Kayce Gifford

FAST Buses are regional express buses operated by SMART that run all day on Gratiot, Woodward and Michigan Ave, making limited stops along the avenues between the suburbs and downtown Detroit. The FAST Michigan bus (Route #261) runs between downtown Detroit and Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) 7-days a week. FAST Gratiot & FAST Woodward buses transfer to the FAST Michigan route downtown. Popular stops are located on Jefferson, near Huntington Place on Washington and outside the David Whitney Building on Woodward. The trip takes about an hour depending on traffic. For schedule info, click HERE.

FAST Bus System Map

Getting to DTW from other areas of the suburbs

SMART offers a ride hailing service called Flex which is similar to Uber but is limited to smaller areas and only costs $2–8 per trip. They run from 6am-11pm, 7-days a week and most can connect you to FAST routes using the Flex App.

  • Macomb County: Take or transfer to a FAST Gratiot SMART bus from any designated FAST stop along Gratiot Ave between 23 Mile and downtown Detroit. Park & Ride lots are located at the 23 Mile Meijer & Mount Clemens Farmers Market. Transfer to FAST Michigan to DTW at a designated FAST stop along Jefferson Ave.
  • Northern Macomb County: There is a new airport service for Chesterfield, Richmond, Armada and Macomb townships, as well as the villages of Armada and New Haven and the cities of Richmond and Memphis. It runs once a day and must be set up in advance. Call 1–844–666–5652.
  • Oakland County: Take or transfer to the FAST Woodward SMART bus from any designated FAST stop along Woodward between Pontiac or Troy Park & Ride to downtown Detroit. Transfer to FAST Michigan to DTW at the Grand Circus Park (Woodward & Clifford) or at Spirit Plaza. Walk to Jefferson Ave to a FAST stop for the transfer.
  • Wayne County: Take or transfer to the FAST Michigan SMART bus from downtown (Jefferson Ave or Woodward & Clifford) or any designated FAST bus stop along Michigan Ave. There is a Park & Ride at Michigan & Wyoming. (Routes 280 & 125 are also options from Garden City and Downriver respectively).
Photo by David Gifford

Michigan Flyer — AirRide

AirRide is a service from the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and provided by Michigan Flyer. Rates vary by trip.

  • Washtenaw County: Take the Michigan Flyer-AirRide from the Blake Transit Center downtown Ann Arbor to DTW. It makes 14 weekday trips daily and base cost is $12 one way.
  • Livingston County: Take the Michigan Flyer-AirRide from the Meijer in Brighton to DTW. Parking must be prepaid ($2.50/day, 30 day max). It makes 14 weekday trips daily and base cost is $22 one way.
  • Ingham County: Take the Michigan Flyer-AirRide from the East Lansing Marriott Hotel to DTW. Parking must be prepaid ($2.50/day, 30 day max). It makes 14 weekday trips and base cost is $32 one way.

DDOT Bus

DDOT (Detroit Department of Transportation) costs $2 per adult and $0.50 per youths (6–18), seniors and persons with disabilities with ID. The full fare is good for 4 hours of unlimited rides & transfers on SMART, DDOT & the QLine. Fares can be paid with cash on the bus, at transit centers, administration offices, select retailers or using the DART Mobile App.

DDOT buses do not reach DTW but many routes connect with the FAST Michigan route which runs directly to the airport. See their system map for more details.

TheRide

TheRide (Ann Arbor Transportation Authority) buses costs $1.50 per adult and $0.75 per youths (6–18), seniors and persons with disabilities. Transfers are free within 90 minutes.

TheRide buses do not reach DTW but many routes connect to the Blake Transit Center downtown Ann Arbor. Riders can then transfer to the AirRide bus. See their system map & downtown map for more details.

Do the Buses Stop At Both Terminals?

Yes, SMART & Michigan Flyer-AirRide buses stop at both the McNamara Terminal (Check-in & departures Air France Door) and at the North Terminal (Ground Transportation Center). This is also where you will also depart from by bus. See maps below.

DTW transit info — McNamara Terminal
DTW transit info — North Terminal

Taking transit from DTW Airport

Half the battle of taking a bus from DTW is knowing where the buses depart from once you’ve picked up your baggage. At the McNamara Terminal, the pickup/drop off location is at the Air France drop off. You’ll have to take the escalators or elevator from baggage claim to the top floor to the Air France drop off and look for the sign below that says in tiny letters “municipal transit” or the familiar red SMART Bus sign. There is a ground transportation area at the North Terminal. To reach it, passengers have to travel back up from the baggage area, over the foot bridge and down the elevators to reach it. See maps in previous paragraph for more info.

Photo by John Good

How Much Does it Cost?

Local Bus

Rates vary by bus company. Click each company for a breakdown of transit costs for SMART, DDOT & TheRide.

Michigan Flyer — AirRide

AirRide is a service from the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and provided by Michigan Flyer. Rates vary by trip.

Schedules:

You can find schedules for the SMART buses here.

You can find schedules for the Michigan Flyer buses here.

You can find schedules for the DDOT buses here.

You can find schedules for the AATA buses here.

Transit Maps

Schedule & Route Info for Michigan Flyer
FAST Michigan Map

There you have it! Hopefully you can get to the airport without having to store your car there at $10 a day, pay $40+ for an Uber or rely on friends or family for a ride! See my website www.transitguidedetroit.com for more transit info. Want better transit? Donate to www.Detroittransit.org

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