Deadline Does Detroit: Carless -- DDOT Is Decadent and Depraved
My Monday commute downtown was delayed as I spent the morning working from home while recovering from a weekend head cold. Theoretically, this shouldn’t have been a big deal. I can walk from my house to the Woodward SMART bus stop in about five minutes. Leaving home after rush hour means I can’t take advantage of the route 445/475 express service, but the local 450/460 service is fine.
At least it would have been fine if SMART went all the way down Woodward. Except for a narrow rush hour period, SMART’s southbound Woodward service ends at the State Fairgrounds. Riders are forced to connect with the DDOT Route 53 (and pay an extra 25 cents for the transfer) to finish their trip down the region's primary thoroughfare.
This is not something a customer-focused transit system does to its passengers. One bus should be able to take passengers from one end of Woodward to the other.
It makes no sense to fund two systems to pay two drivers to push two buses up and down the same road. It’s both expensive for the systems and unnecessarily inconvenient for riders. What’s more, the Fairgrounds transit station is a stone cold dump. There’s nothing there. By nothing I mean there isn’t even a park and ride lot where you’d feel comfortable leaving your car. It's a service hub mainly because of an arbitrary political border and the absurd belief that buses with red stripes are different than buses with green stripes.
The compelling political reason (besides political expediency) for maintaining these awkwardly redundant bus lines is jobs. If DDOT and SMART were to consolidate or coordinate service, fewer man-hours would be needed to staff the bus systems. Instead, we have bus systems designed to benefit its employees at the expense of its customers.
How very Soviet of us.
If we lived in a functioning metropolis where rational actors make policy, DDOT and SMART would consolidate or at least coordinate to ensure both systems provide the best and most efficient service for all riders. Forcing a transfer from one Woodward bus to another is hardly that.
If the local bus systems were more collaborative and coordinated, they could remove the inconvenient redundant service and re-route buses to other, under-served parts of the city or region.
Neil Greenberg’s idea for a Hamtramck-to-Midtown bus line makes a lot of sense. According to Google Maps, that’s a 10-mintute, four-mile drive. By bus, the trip takes 40-50 minutes and requires a transfer.
If the regional transit authority is created, maybe we’ll see improved coordination between the two systems. Until then, we need to be more modest about our expectations.
To that end, I have a solution that can satisfy all parties: Consolidate the systems, but instead of laying people off, allow them to continue earning their salaries by building sand castles on the Belle Isle beach. That way, no one loses his job and we get a bus system that makes sense.
I know what you’re thinking: Why do we need sand castles?
Maybe we don’t, but for the same price, we can have one of two scenarios: The first is the status quo, with it’s inconvenient, poorly coordinated bus systems and no sand castles. With the second scenario we could have one coordinated, user-friendly bus system and sand castles.
Which would you prefer?
Of course, instead of building sand castles, we could find other things for transit employees to do now that they aren’t needed for transit.
Perhaps they could be assigned to Detroit’s Department of Public Works and clean up parks. Or they could handle civilian and administrative tasks for the police and fire department, thus freeing up police officers and firefighters to deal with crime and fire.
God knows, there’s plenty of work to be done in Detroit. Instead of paying people to drive and maintain unnecessary, inconvenient bus lines, don't you think we’d be better off paying those same people to do something that’s, you know, useful?