Poor bus service is putting Detroit's financial recovery at risk, according to a report issued Tuesday by transportation advocacy group Transit Riders United. The group gave the Detroit Department of Transportation a D- grade for timeliness in its second "report card" and claimed Mayor Dave Bing's administration has failed to keep promises to improve bus service.
During the week of March 19-23 TRU volunteers observed on-time bus service on DDOT's eight major routes was only 63 percent, a slight improvement over the 50 percent timeliness the group observed last November. On-schedule performance times varied from a high of 80 percent for the Michigan Ave. bus route to 42 percent for the Eight Mile route.
TRU called the 13 percent overall improvement unacceptable, citing a promise by Detroit's Chief Operating Officer Chris Brown in October of last year to "significantly" improve city bus service. The report also found eliminating overnight service has created difficulties for people getting to and from work on time and those trying to gain employment.
During a Tuesday presentation to Detroit City Council, TRU Assistant Director Ruth Johnson argued that Detroit's poor bus system was damaging to the city's economy.
"This not only affects riders," she said. "When people are unable to access educational and employment opportunities, it hurts us all."
TRU Executive Director Megan Owens also criticized DDOT's pull out rate, a measure of functional buses running routes each day.
"Every single day numerous buses -- sometimes 30, 40, 50 buses -- [are out of service] that should be on the road," she said, "In any other city, anything less than 99 percent pull out is an absolute outrage!"
The TRU report recommends a goal of 95 percent on-time performance and a 100 percent pull out rate. The report also urges the city to provide adequate funding for DDOT, to stop paying consultant fees and bonuses and to do a better job collecting fares. Owens estimated the department loses $9 million a year to uncollected and missing fares.
Owens said TRU will soon be meeting with DDOT CEO Ron Freeland to discuss the report, but the group's call for greater funding will likely be a tough sell. The Bing administration proposed Monday to cut the city's subsidy of the department from $55.6 million to $43 million for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
DDOT claims its new "415" plan, to take effect Monday, will improve service on key routes, even as the agency cuts others.