Detroiters are tired of waiting for the bus. Residents who rely on the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) bus system say that, too often, city buses are late and the apps that track schedules are unreliable.
Officials say buses are running slow because of a pandemic-induced shortage of drivers.
Reginald Wells, a 24-year-old Detroiter who rides the bus daily, says he has waited over an hour for the bus “a few times” when trying to get to work. He says the buses are “never ever” on time.
“It don’t ever be on time, so I just try to plan (my travel) knowing that,” Wells said.
Wells was riding the bus west on Jefferson toward downtown with his friend Jaylin Ford.
Ford, 25, takes the bus daily and said some routes are better than others. “The east side buses on Harper or Russell — you could be waiting outside for hours,” said Ford. “Honestly, waiting for hours.”
Ford and Wells said they don’t bother making complaints to DDOT because they say it is useless.
“I used to complain about the bus being late, but how many times can you say the same thing and not see a change before you realize they’re not listening?” Ford said.
DDOT passengers are supposed to be able to check bus arrival times on transit apps that also display a real-time transit map. Yet, at a DDOT Community Input Meeting last month, riders complained about inaccurate schedules and technology crashes.
Ryan Chrzanowski, a systems analyst for DDOT, told residents at the meeting that the department is still working with the app developers to better integrate Detroit’s bus data.
“We continue to work on that,” said Chrzanowski. “We believe that more and more of the system will be available for information on the transit app.”
Mikel Oglesby, the executive director of Transit for the City of Detroit, said buses are late because the City needs at least 50 new drivers. DDOT hasn’t had enough drivers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, according to Oglesby.
“During COVID, we had people going out but people not coming in because of hiring constraints … but that’s the same problem most places are having,” Oglesby said.
Oglesby said that he needs 100 drivers to “greatly improve” services.
In April, 729,959 people rode the bus, and, according to the latest available data on the DDOT website, city buses were on time 74 percent of the time.
According to Transportation Riders United (TRU), a public transportation advocacy group, three out of every 10 Detroiters waiting for a bus were left stranded this April.
According to a 2017 survey from the University of Michigan, nearly 20 percent of Detroiters — 1 in 5 — take the bus every day.
Alexander Galvin rides daily and said he thinks DDOT is “great” and could be “much nicer if the bus is here on time.”
Majida Paul, another Detroiter who rides DDOT buses on a daily basis, says she has waited “over two hours” to catch the bus before. Paul says having more buses and more drivers seems like the best solution.
“They should really add more drivers and buses to cut down wait times, especially at night. When I leave work, it’s dark outside, and I don’t like being at the bus stop alone after dark,” Paul said.
Leo Smith said he has noticed the decline in bus service.
“ I used to catch the bus downtown every day, at the same time in the morning,” said Smith. “Now I can’t be sure it’s going to come.”
If you’re interested in working for DDOT as a bus driver, learn more about the job here. Detroiters can give feedback to DDOT by emailing DDOT customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (313) 933-1300.
The story was done in collaboration with the Detroit Documenters and with additional reporting from Sonja Stuckley.