The Detroit Department of Transportation (or DDOT, D-Dot) is the public transit operator in Detroit, Michigan, and the largest in the state.
The department's budget has shrunk significantly in the late 2000s, and costs have increased significantly. In 2004, the City complained that costs per mile were over $1. The industry average was around $0.65/mile.
Relationship with the suburbs
The suburban bus system, SMART, has historically been disconnected from DDOT. The groups have separate management, staff, routes, stops, and schedules. Schedules have generally not been designed to match up, and some SMART busses do not serve some areas of Detroit they drive through. This has generally been viewed as an attempt to make it difficult for Detroit riders to reach the suburbs.
Pressure around regional transit initiatives has pushed consideration of a regional transit authority to oversee both groups. This subject resurfaces periodically, most recently in the planning for light rail along Woodward.
2007 security strikes
DDOT drivers initiated a "wildcat" strike on the morning of May 23, 2007. Residents of Detroit were forced to change their travel plans while DDOT drivers publicly aired their frustrations over the lack of security on buses and travel routes. In fact, many drivers reported that crimes such as assault, robbery and even rape had occurred on their coaches. A temporary agreement was reached between DDOT officials and the Wayne County sheriff's department, granting 24 hours of protection by sheriff's deputies until city council had a chance to make a formal decision on the matter.
On May 24, 2007, after a lengthy and heated discussion between representatives from both DDOT and the sheriff's office, Detroit City Council voted 5-to-4 in favor of having armed deputies on many of the most heavily traveled transit routes(it is estimated that, at the time, approximately 130,000 riders were affected by the strike). The Detroit Police Officers Association, however, challenged council's decision, and in August of 2008, George Roumell Jr., the arbitrator on the case, ruled that the sheriffs' patrols should end on June 30, 2009. The Detroit Police Department was to continue receiving funding for the patrols through 2010. In July of 2009, then police chief, James Barren, was replaced by Warren Evans. Commander Todd Bettison commented in a Board of Police Commissioners meeting in February 2011 that the police presence on buses was cancelled due to collective bargaining agreements and negotiations. As of November 2011, it was unclear what happened to the funding.
In October 2011, Snyder was planning to announce proposals for bus rapid transit in the Detroit area financed by wholesale fuel taxes and local vehicle registration fees. Lines will be proposed from Woodward and Gratiot from downtown to the suburbs; between downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport; and along M-59 in Macomb and Oakland. The organization would operate independently of DDOT and SMART, and the Governor hopes it is a precursor to a regional transit authority that could eventually oversee the two organizations.
On December 13, the City of Detroit announced that the plans for light rail along Woodward would be cancelled in favor of a regional system of bus rapid transit. The decision was made in discussion with governor Rick Snyder and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. LaHood said that Transportation had "pretty much signed off on their plan." Earlier in 2011, Snyder had proposed a BRT system.
In October 2011, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced federal transit funding for Michigan. DDOT will receive:
- $6M to replace busses
- $518,291 for building rehabilitation at the Coolidge Terminal
- $320,000 for a fleet, facility, and equipment asset management system
2011 repair slowdown
Some time after the City cut overtime pay, bus mechanics began maintenance slowdowns. Managers started taking disciplinary action. Around September 10, Bing's office said that mechanics have slowed service work and recalled busses that didn't need work. Riders had been complaining about especially long delays for weeks. The City said that nearly half of DDOT's fleet of 449 busses had been out of service for several weeks. The City may have attempted to fire underperforming mechanics.
Bing didn't request additional money to manage the situation. Instead, he decided to deal with the problem through management.
Around October 11, Council passed a non-binding resolution calling for DDOT to repair 200 busses in 2 weeks. They also interviewed transportation group executive Terrence King for an hour on October 18.
On October 19, Bing met with union leaders and told them they had a month to fix the busses or other solutions would be found. AFSCME Local 312 is involved (president is Leamon Wilson). Bus drivers continued to be paid to wait for available busses per their contract, even though few were available.
A study run by Transportation Riders United around this time monitored 4,000 bus runs. Between 20%-50% of the runs they checked never arrived.
Early in the morning on December 7, 2011, a fire broke out at the maintenance and dispatch yard on Schaefer Highway near Schoolcraft. The Fire Department said that sprinklers at the site did not activate, and a lack of hydrants made access to water difficult. At least six mostly newer buses were destroyed.
2011 security strike
On November 3, 2011, a veteran bus driver was beaten by a group of youths at the Rosa Parks Transit Center. Police arrived 30 minutes after the incident. On November 4, about 100 DDOT drivers refused to drive routes, protesting for security on coaches and improved working conditions. Mayor Dave Bing held emergency meetings with both the Detroit Police and the drivers' unions. The result was an agreement to add patrols to the Rosa Parks Transit Center and for higher police presence in other specified areas.
February: Parsons Brinkerhoff is managing DDOT. Ronald Freeland of Parsons Brinkerhoff subcontractor Envisurage is named CEO. 46 new coaches are delivered. The layoffs of 74 drivers are postponed to give the new administration time to plan for a smaller workforce.
Paul Toliver of the Dalas-based consulting company MV Transportation Inc was named to head DDOT under a contract that runs from August 2013 through September 2014.
Former SMART Managing Director Dan Dirks is named the head of DDOT by Mayor Mike Duggan in January. Duggan said he was driving on Woodward Avenue and saw many SMART buses but only two DDOT buses. He investigated further and found that by 8am, DDOT was already two hours behind schedule. He called Kevyn Orr and asked for permission to appoint his own director to DDOT. Toliver and MV Transportation will report to Dirks.
Among an order of 80 new buses delivered this year are the first articulated vehicles at DDOT since the last ones were retired in 2003.
Current administration is through a contract; Mayor Bing is looking to privatize management entirely.
- Lovevett Williams, Director (retired January 2012)
- Karmun Newby, General Manager of Administration (retired August 2011)
- Donna Mihal, General Manager of Projects
Detroit Transit History.info has a significant collection.
- Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's office blames bus delays on angry mechanics. Free Press. 10 September 2011.
- Editorial: Fix basics in Detroit area transit. Detroit News. 17 October 2011.
- Bing gives unions 30 days to fix buses, or he'll do 'whatever it takes'. Detroit News. 20 October 2011.
- LaHood: $46.7M in federal funds coming for DDOT buses, light rail. Detroit News. 17 October 2011.
- Snyder eyes wholesale tax on fuel, regional vehicle taxes. Detroit News. 25 October 2011.
- Snyder to propose high-speed bus network to knit Detroit, suburban systems. Free Press. 25 October 2011.
- Detroit bus drivers paid to do nothing. Free Pres. 24 October 2011.
- Buses running again as Bing vows to up security, stop 'hooligans'. Detroit News. 4 November 2011.
- Funds for bus patrols disappear. Detroit News. 5 November 2011.
- Study: Detroit fails to provide riders with reliable bus service. Detroit News. 15 November 2011.
- Fire tears through DDOT bus garage on west side. Detroit News. 7 December 2011.
- Detroit Department of Transportation bus facility fire destroys part of fleet, delays expected. Free Press. 7 December 2011.
- Detroit bus system's new CEO aims for more buses, reliability. Free Pres. 23 February 2012.
- Former SMART manager Dan Dirks named director of DDOT. Crains. 10 January 2014.
- Former SMART manager to lead Detroit's bus system. Detroit Free Press. 9 January 2014.