man giving presentation
Detroit’s Director of Transit Mikel Oglesby talks with residents with disabilities and mobility advocates about a proposed contract before Detroit’s City Council to provide the services during an Oct. 27, 2002, meeting of Detroit’s Disability Task force at The Arc. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

The City Council is expected to take up a contract next week that could determine whether Detroit is equipped to deliver the bulk of its transportation services for disabled residents. 

The council on Tuesday delayed a decision on the city’s proposed $49.2 million contract with the transportation firm Transdev for paratransit service amid concerns from some council members and complaints from riders about the French company. 

BridgeDetroit’s Bryce Huffman and Malachi Barrett discussed resident views on the quality of the service, the potential impact for paratransit users and the timeline for Detroit’s council to weigh in.

Residents have raised issues for years about Transdev, which, they say, has regularly dropped riders off in the wrong locations, arrived late or not shown up. 

After listening to resident complaints, the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) put out a request for proposals (RFP) to solicit bids from other companies interested in overseeing its MetroLift services going forward. But, only two companies made it through the bidding process – one of them being Transdev. 

On Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a separate, $15.9 million contract with People’s Express to provide about 30% of the city’s paratransit needs, but the council delayed action on the larger contract to sort out whether Transdev could be removed from the program altogether.

people sitting at a table
Detroiter Jamie Junior relies on the Detroit Department of Transportation’s MetroLift service to get to and from work every day. Junior spoke about negative experiences using the Trandsev-controlled service at a Disability Task Force meeting on Oct. 27, 2022 at The Arc. (BridgeDetroit photo by Bryce Huffman)

BridgeDetroit could not immediately reach Transdev for comment on Wednesday. 

If the council doesn’t approve the proposed contract or find another company to provide the remaining service needs by Dec. 31, the city is in jeopardy of not having enough resources to provide transportation to the remaining 70% of riders who use the service. 

District 7 City Councilman Fred Durhal chairs the council’s Disability Task Force and estimates that the city has more than 130,000 residents living with disabilities, many of whom, he said, rely on paratransit services to get to and from work every day. 

Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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