How do you use and support public transportation to move around metro-Detroit? Well, grab a snack and get comfy while you read this “crash course” on transit in the region.
As you know, we live in the Royal Oak area and work in Detroit, so it is convenient for us to bike to Woodward or the Royal Oak Transit Center to hop on any of the SMART Woodward buses to head south at $2 per ride. The 450 and 460 have multiple stops and bike racks. As do the 445 and the 475, which are “Limited” buses – that means less stops and quicker travel time. SMART services Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne Counties.
Unfortunately, a big challenge with SMART buses is that they ONLY travel in and out of Detroit during “peak” hours. What are peak hours? In the morning from 6 to 9am and in the evening from 3 to 6pm. As you can imagine, this greatly complicates happy hour for us. What happens if you need to get to Detroit during an off-peak time? You can take SMART south to the last stop on Woodward, which is at the State Fairgrounds. From there, you can pick up a DDOT bus and head south. Vice versa for heading north during an off peak time. (Special note – the buses are not linked very well so expect a 30 minute wait at the Fairgrounds. Check out a previous post where we learned about this first hand.)
The Detroit Department of Transportation services buses that run only in the city at the cost of $1.50 per ride for adults (slightly cheaper than SMART). We usually take the 53 bus up and down Woodward. It has bike racks (important note – not all buses have racks for bikes – boo!).
DDOT does have a unique “Text My Bus” campaign. That’s right – all you have to do is text 50464 the cross streets and you receive a fairly quick text back with times that the bus will arrive. Unfortunately, as we have learned by experience, the buses don’t have any tracking mechanism to provide accurate information of when it will actually arrive at the stop. Missed opportunity, right?! So for now, you get a text with the time that bus is *supposed* to arrive according to the bus schedule, which often is not the case.
We don’t really use the People Mover but wanted to make sure to include it, as it is indeed referred to as public transit in the Motor City. Its three mile track circles downtown for just $0.75 per ride. For fun, check out this video as “Zelda and the Unibrows” test whether it’s faster to walk or take the People Mover. While it’s not the most appealing form of transit, it is helpful – especially during the cold winter months when you’re traveling downtown and just want to stay warm (however, moving the body and walking usually keeps you warm, too).
Another three miles of tracks are being built along Woodward Avenue to create a new form of transit, the M-1 Rail. What sets this rail project apart from the People Mover is that it’s linear and on the street with other traffic. The hope is that it will be the start of something bigger that hopefully in the future extends all the way north to Pontiac. Unfortunately, there are a number of concerns regarding this project including connectivity, bike accessibility on Woodward, and placement of the tracks on the sides rather than the middle (check out this video that explains why it might be better to have rail in the middle lane).
Why can’t all the public transit options work together? Well, about a year ago, the Michigan State Legislature created the Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority (RTA). One of the focal points is to facilitate that communication. However, it’s been almost a year and we’re not quite sure what is happening. We had it in our schedule to attend their board meeting earlier this week, but it was cancelled. We did recently learn that there is discussion of one single transit pass that could be used universally with SMART, DDOT, People Mover, and M-1. It’s a start but we expect more as this region desperately needs a public transportation system that works!!!. (Stay tuned for future updates as Julie is on the RTA Citizen Advisory Council.)
Okay… this concludes your crash course on public transit in metro-Detroit. Are you still awake?! Keep a look out for future 2 Women 4 Wheels events inviting you to ride the bus with us!
We built this city on walk and roll! This is the true story of adventures two ladies encounter while navigating southeast Michigan by bike and bus. We hope these stories entertain and inspire you to explore your community in a car-free way. Our small bus investment pays big dividends. ENJOY!!!
Check out other transit-related stories: