03/02/2012 05:55 pm ET Updated Mar 05, 2012

Detroit Bus Service Cuts Take Effect, Frustrated Riders Voice Concerns

Many of the bus riders waiting at the Rosa Parks Transit Center in downtown Detroit on Friday afternoon were eager to share their opinions about the Detroit Department of Transportation's latest round of bus service cuts, which take effect on Saturday.

The new plan eliminates Detroit's nighttime bus service from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. and shortens service hours on 34 weekday routes and 29 weekend routes.

Still stinging from public hearings at which few transit officials showed up to hear public concerns, at least one rider was visibly angry about the changes.

Marion Little, who said she's over 60 and retired, was upset about having to take a bus from Hamtramck, Mich., to attend one of the public hearings last week. She also thinks the department has its numbers wrong.

"I don't think their records in terms of ridership are accurate," Little said. "You need to put people on a bus and ask them about their service."

About 120,000 people take Detroit city buses each day. Detroit's Department of Transportation claims that its targeting of the changes to night hours means they will affect the fewest possible number of riders.

Yet some expressed concern about how the cuts would affect people who take the bus to and from work late at night.

"My friend's got a midnight shift. How's she supposed to get to work?" asked Patty Hubbard, 50, a cook. "We've got to stop this. Boycott the buses!"

"What about the people working third shift?" echoed Felicia Whitworth, who is 31 and self-employed. "They're going to have to pay money for a taxi or walk, depending on the distance."

Whitworth worried that Mayor Dave Bing and his administration only saw how the Department of Transportation's problems looked on paper. She also was skeptical of the mayor's decision to hand over control of the department to the private management firm Parsons Brinckerhoff.

"If he let the buses take that much time under prior management, I don't think it will make that much of a difference under private managers," she said, in reference to the city buses' prior poor on-time performance rate. "We'll still have the same bus drivers."

Department of Transportation officials have said they will begin holding performance reviews to improve bus reliability.

Jay Jenkins, 26, works as a produce packer and depends on the bus system to reach his job in Livonia, Mich. He didn't like the idea of the department cutting 24-hour bus service, but hoped the new management would improve service quality by stopping smoking on the buses and discouraging drivers from "smart-mouthing" passengers.

Shatara Passmore, 36, is now in between jobs and said the city's unreliable transportation has made it difficult to find work.

She did not believe claims made by transportation officials that the new cuts would be balanced by more timely service on the remaining bus routes.

"They won't. The buses are so crowded and packed, by the time they get here, they'll pass us," Passmore said. "Why are they cutting? Why can't they do something else?"

More information about service changes is available on the Detroit Department of Transportation's website.

CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, this article originally stated that Hamtramck and Livonia were in Illinois. This report now reflects that they are in Michigan.