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.

  • Jack Jackson

    why is a bankrupt city with a declining population, one whose residents refuse to consolidate geographically and thus cannot even provide basic police and fire service, even talking about transit?

  • Bolwerk

    Crazy guess: probably because the citizens still have some need for mobility.

  • Jack Jackson

    Detroit should pay its bills first, then worry about transit.

  • Bolwerk

    How do you propose it pay its bills if it can’t have an economy again?

  • Jesse

    It’s nice to see citizens taking initiative like this, but private bus transport like this is the kind of thing you see in “developing” countries. So the city is bankrupt, their murder rate is higher than Colombia’s and they have practically zero basic services. I’m probably the last person to come to this conclusion but it seems like Detroit is no longer part of the developed world.

  • Bolwerk

    With huge gaps between the wealthy and poor and low rates of public investment, the USA in general sometimes resembles the developing world more than the developed.

    In any case, maybe you’re right; the big problem with that is the private transit probably won’t be very prolific.

  • Steve

    Because an estimated 1/3 of all households in the City of Detroit DO NOT HAVE CARS! How do you suggest these people get to their jobs or the store or anywhere else?

  • Jack Jackson

    by restructuring or offloading current debt before taking on new

  • Bolwerk

    How many people does that move between home and their workplace?

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