The Detroit Department of Transportation held its final public hearing May 26 at the Considine Family Center on Woodward Avenue to reveal the cuts being made to DDOT bus lines.
Several changes were made to accommodate the new DDOT budget. Three weekday routes will be eliminated or restructured. The wait-time peaks for coaches will be 35-37 minutes.
Downtown service will be eliminated on the 38 Plymouth line. The Plymouth and Caniff routes will be linked together and renamed 38-Plymouth-Caniff, which will run from Middlebelt Road, Schoolcraft Road, French Road, and Gratiot Avenue from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and 6 p.m.-9 p.m. From 2 a.m.-6 p.m. it will go to Eight Mile Road.
The Imperial Limited route will have five inbound and outbound trips and a 40-minute wait. Route 46 Hayes will be discontinued.
Routes that will continue to have 24-hour service during weekdays and weekends are: Crosstown, Dexter, Fort, Grand River, Jefferson, Gratiot, Seven Mile, Van Dyke and Woodward. Routes that will not be affected by the proposed changes are: Chalmers, Conant, Crosstown, Mack, McNichols, Seven Mile, Michigan, Puritan, and Chicago-Davison.
“These cuts were due to the effect of escalating costs of health insurance and other employee fringe benefits,” DDOT Director Lovevette Williams said. “These costs have risen 15 percent in the last year alone, and now it accounts for $10 million in our budget for 2011-2012.”
She said the increase of health insurance and pitching costs means less money is available to cover other operating expenses.
In the budget approved by Detroit City Council May 24, an additional $7.8 million was cut from DDOT for the 2012 fiscal year. If the the budget is finalized in its current form, DDOT will have to make more cuts and have more public hearings in the future,Williams said.
“We use $20 billion of grant funds for our services and vehicle maintenance, $30 million for our fare box revenue, $52 million for state operation assistance from the state of Michigan. The city’s general funds kick in about $51.2 million. The biggest chunk of our money to operate service is from the city of Detroit, state of Michigan fare box revenue, and the Federal Transit Administration,” Williams said.
Seven public hearings, attended by a total of 480 people, were held regarding service changes. As a result of these hearings, 216 verbal comments, 58 written comments and 9 emailed comments on the proposed changes were made.
Although some changes didn’t result from this proposal, riders at the May 26 meeting were not happy about the final decisions.
“We have inaccurate bus schedules. I was at the bus stop for two hours just to learn that this schedule meant nothing. I think this is a tactic to push black Detroiters out, to inconvenience you. If we have to, we may have to boycott buses to get the service we deserve,” DDOT bus rider Pamela Dempsey said.
No jobs are being cut or eliminated due to the DDOT transit cuts, but DDOT bus drivers were forced to take an 8 percent pay cut. DDOT workers' salaries account for 63 percent of its budget.
“The cuts are unfair and will hurt people. People who depend on buses or fixed routes will suffer. They will have to seek other jobs or unemployment. It’s unfair for the DDOT to seek these cuts. We need full support from City Council and the mayor, but we hardly hear from them,” Quincy Williams, a member of the disability rights group Warriors on Wheels, said.
DDOT officials said they understood that these changes will have a significant impact on the riders but that their job was to cut costs to support their budget.
“We understand that it’s painful to make cuts. We know that we move people from point A to point B. There are people who have to get to work, doctor’s appointments, (and) children have to get to school. Their safety and livelihood are being affected by us. It poses a major concern for us. So cuts are always very hard," DDOT official Andre Mallett said. "We don’t want to make cuts, but when your hands are tied, we have to do what we have to do."