To Revive Detroit Transit, One Resident Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

Detroit, the country’s 18th largest city, has seen its transit system shrink to the point where few people can rely on it to get to work. The situation got so bad that one young entrepreneur stopped waiting on the region’s dysfunctional government agencies and started running private buses.

In this video by Dark Rye (an initiative of Whole Foods), Detroiter Andy Didorosi explains how his frustration with the city’s transit system inspired the Detroit Bus Company. Didorosi started DBC in 2012 with $50,000 to buy and paint six used school buses. With support from local foundations, the company started transporting kids to after-school activities. Now DBC is testing service to the airport and a commuter route from nearby Royal Oak to downtown Detroit. Riders pay $5 for an all-day pass; airport service is $12. Paid fares subsidize free rides for people in need, through a program DBC calls “WeRide.”

Didorosi says he was motivated by the cancellation of the M-1 Rail project in late 2011. (The project has since been revived as a three-mile streetcar proposal.) But Detroit’s transit system has been in a downward spiral for some time. The latest blow came earlier this year, when planners arbitrarily cut the city’s transit budget by $7 million. Still, the recent creation of Detroit’s first regional transit system, replacing separate suburban and city systems, should lead to better transit service in the years ahead.