I’ve been thinking about transportation in Detroit and how a number of alternatives to DDOT and public transit have been blossoming. Most recently I was surprised and excited by the University of Michigan (UM) launching a new, free shuttle service between its Ann Arbor campus and the UM Detroit Center in Midtown. The plan will also include shuttle routes to Eastern Market, Cultural Center, Southwest, and Downtown.
Most recently, the city has seen the development of The Detroit Bus Company which launched to “reinvent” how Southeastern Michigan gets around by offering rides to students to get to after school programs and helping suburbanites get into the city without a congested commute. Before there was the Detroit Bus Company, the College of Creative Studies was running a free shuttle for students around the city. A few years ago Wayne State University (WSU) teamed up with DMC and Henry Ford Health System to create the Midtown Connection Shuttle, which can take you from DMC through WSU’s campus with connections to Henry Ford through New Center. (When writing this the Detroit Bus Company didn’t have regular routes posted on its website, so those were not included on the map.)
The transit alternative giant in Detroit is Quicken Loans. CEO Dan Gilbert has been a huge supporter of the new M1 Light Rail plan along Woodward Avenue, launched a company-wide bike share program this year, and has been operating the Opportunity Detroit shuttle buses for employees. This private shuttle system is the largest alternative transit system in Detroit even though it is only focused Downtown and Midtown.
Additional transit alternatives have been enacted by various organizations to help shuttle senior citizens to farmers markets, to get clients to medical appointments, and to take congregations beyond their neighborhood boundaries. An idea in the vein of many transit alternatives is the HealthLine Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in Cleveland, funded by the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital, it is designed to help patients get to appointments by offering a regular and reliable transit to the health center. This seems like a perfect model that could be replicated in Detroit where the health systems already have their own shuttle networks in place and need to help patients get from the dense corners of the city to the center where the health systems are located. If UM is willing to fund a route to connect Ann Arbor and Detroit, might they be interested in funding a BRT along Michigan Avenue? MSU could take Grand River Avenue and maybe Quicken Loans could get talked into covering Lafayette Ave. and Fort St. Then DMC and WSU could partner to run BRT along Warren Avenue and Henry Ford could cover Grand Boulevard.
There are limited options for funding public transit, but there are plenty of social good and private interests that could make public transit a reality in Detroit. A working transit system helps patients get to appointments on time, helps employees have a happier commute without car congestion, and also helps residents get around and visit the businesses potentially partnering to fund the transit system.