Yesterday morning I attended a Detroit City Council meeting with Rev. Ross and members of NEWCC, Warriors on Wheels, and other groups with concerns about the crippling cuts to our city’s bus service. Representing DDOT was Envisurage CEO, Ronald Freeland. The Mayor’s office, although invited, did not send a representative.

Rev Ross presented concerns and research to support NEWCC’s position that the cuts are particularly harmful to the North End’s working poor and our senior citizens and students. Warriors on Wheels expressed their concerns about riders with disabilities waiting hours for transportation. Mr. Freeland’s response was that figures, which he monitors from his office, show an improvement in bus service. Oddly, he also cited figures based on fares collected, which he said supported the claim that service has improved.

Why do I say “oddly?” Because 1 in 3 buses do not have working fare boxes. That includes the “new, improved” buses which seem to break down just as frequently as the old ones, but in stranger ways.

Gremlins seem to ferociously attack these new coaches–I got only from Euclid to Forrest one day before having to change buses due to brake failure. The back doors are frequently out of commission, posing a potential safety hazard, and last week, passengers on a Woodward bus had to enter and exit through the rear door, limiting access to handicapped seating as well as to the fare box. The fare boxes are so often out of order that I do not understand how DDOT is claiming to operate in the black or even pay for gas.

After the meeting, I approached Mr. Freeland and suggested that he ride the buses.
He claimed that he does and asked what bus I ride. As I take DDOT buses most every day, I definitely invited him to join my disabled son and me in riding the Woodward bus. This is the line on which he admitted to “bus bunching,” the mysterious phenomenon of 3 or 4 buses arriving within minutes, followed by lengthy waits for the next one. No solution to or explanation of “bunching” has been offered.

I cannot say I got a real commitment from him to ride with me, or an answer as to what bus he rides. That is why I am reaching our to other bus riders, drivers, and people who just hang around bus stops—I am offering a reward to the first person to send me a date-stamped picture of Ronald Freeland on a DDOT bus!

The reward is only two dollars, or a bus ticket and transfer, but after all, if you do see Mr. Freeland, you can ask him to explain how your bus service is “better” and how his plan to cut the number of buses in the DDOT fleet almost in half is going to improve service even more.

BTW, I am canvassing bus drivers, in hopes of finding one who drove Mr. Freeland––no luck yet.