Detroit public bus ridership on the rise

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DDOT changes in the future

The Detroit Department of Transportation plans to get ridership numbers back to normal, said Kristin Lukowski, DDOT marketing and outreach coordinator.

“Those changes [DDOT has made in November] better aligned the amount of service that DDOT is capable of providing with the current available workforce … ” Lutkowski said, “[DDOT] have been able to cover the bulk of our scheduled trips, an improvement from missing approximately 20% of the service before changes.”

Changes include suspending three routes, cutting segments of two, and changing the frequency of several, with correspondence being found online. Lukowski said of ridership and the workforce that, “the service changes put into place (in November) were done so with the intent to help ridership recover … As the workforce returns gradually to the budgeted number of drivers, we will be able to increase service levels to pre-COVID levels.”

Ridership in numbers, DDOT accounts

SMART and DDOT ridership dwindled throughout the pandemic, but is back on a steady rise, according to monthly ridership of the public bus system, provided by DDOT Marketing’s Lukowski.

July 20192,062,565
January 20201,856,245
May 2020665,306
Dec 2020539,328
Jun 2021703,205
Oct 2021755,230

DDOT is also beginning a Comprehensive Operational Analysis designed to examine and evaluate transit systems to improve them for Detroit’s future.

Rider accounts

Over the past two years, Detroit’s public transportation system has seen a steady decline in ridership and financing. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Detroit has cut routes and stopped fare. Precautions were taken to ensure the safety of riders, which did not go unnoticed by them.

Cliah Brown, a student in social work, said the bus was not feasible for her schooling needs. “Oakland Community College has classes all around the area. I can’t rely on the buses when I don’t know if they’re gonna be late, so I have a friend take me.”

Brown said these changes affected her work as well. She previously took the suburb servicing SMART bus to and from her workplace in Royal Oak. “The buses were mostly on time,” she said, “but there were a few days where the [SMART] buses ran late. Sanitizing took forever, and the Woodward buses ran when they ran.”

Esa Frazier, a 23-year-old Detroit resident, also had problems with getting to his workplace in the city. “The bus schedule has definitely messed me up a couple times. I got to work extremely late but couldn’t complain a lot because I didn’t have to pay the fare for a while.”

In March of 2020, fares for the Detroit Department of Transportation and Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation buses stopped being collected and resumed collection in March of the following year. Before that, the regular fare was $1.75.

Michigan State junior Kelcie Cunningham would buy a week’s fare when she went to high school. “It was $17.00 when I bought fare for the next seven days, even though I didn’t need it all the time,” she said.

Before the pandemic, the public transportation was more than enough to meet Kelcie’s needs. She said that she “used to get on the bus at [like] 6 a.m. every morning … and took it back home some days. Some people have their opinions on DDOT, but it’s really chill. There were just people trying to get to school or work.”

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