Mayor Dave Bing named a new CEO for the Detroit Department of Transportation and unveiled a new green bus fleet Wednesday at a bus terminal on the city's east side. The department's new head, Ron Freeland, has served as a senior executive and board chair of various bus, ports and rail systems in Maryland and Virginia.
Looking to save money, Detroit in January outsourced bus operations to Parsons Brinckerhoff, a management company, that then subcontracted the work to Envisurage, which is technically Freeland's employer.
The private management company is responsible for recently proposed cuts to DDOT's bus driver and mechanic staff, as well as bus route and service reductions that are set to take effect on March 3. DDOT has scheduled public hearings on these service changes for Friday.
Freeland said bus maintenance would be high on his list of management priorities.
“We need to make sure we are as efficient as we can be and get the buses maintained, so when the operators show up for their shifts, they've got buses that are well-maintained, that are safe to put out on the street," he told Mlive.
He also said given Detroit's shrinking population, further bus service reductions could be on the horizon.
But despite cuts to services and staff, the city can afford new buses thanks to a grant from the federal Department of Transportation, which awarded DDOT $6 million to upgrade its bus fleet last October.
The city is set to get 46 new green vehicles, made in the United States by the Gillig Company. They feature energy-efficient diesel engines that emit up to 90 percent fewer exhaust emissions than older buses in the fleet.
DDOT now has 15 of the buses, which began arriving on Jan. 31. The department is currently training drivers and preparing to integrate the new vehicles into the bus fleet; some will see service on Monday.