Todays meeting with Dan Dirks

Motor City Freedom Riders
Meeting with Dan Dirks, Director, Detroit Department of Transportation
Friday, November 21, 2014, 1 pm
DDOT headquarters, 1301 E. Warren, Detroit

Attending (Motor City Freedom Riders): Regina Dubose, Glenn Maxwell, Sean McAde, Gery Perkowski, Patti Fedewa, Anna Holden, Pat Hammer, Joel Batterman

Attending (DDOT): Dan Dirks (Director), Larry Lockett (Maintenance), Triette Reeves (External Relations), Bernadette

Main ask: can bus pullout information (actual and scheduled buses leaving garages) be made publicly available on Mayor Duggan’s Detroit Dashboard, so the public can be aware of the progress being made?

Dirks said he would ask concerning the Detroit Dashboard, which is not within his control. He said that he would get the information on the DDOT website by the first week of December.

Basic Performance

Pullout (buses leaving garage) has been increasing. “We started with 145.” It’s now in the 173-174 range (of 188) in the morning period, and 200 (of 229) in the afternoon. Revenue has been up 5 months in a row.

Fleet Size and Maintenance

The FTA allows a 20% maintenance reserve, which means DDOT is allowed to have 275 buses, but DDOT has petitioned the feds to have 300 for the time being. Eventual goal for fleet size is 275. 79 buses are currently being auctioned, with all funding reinvested in the DDOT capital fund.

31 new buses will arrive just before Christmas, and will become operational next year. “Ladders to Opportunity” grant, subject of press conference in September, will include 59 buses, including 10 articulated (accordion-style) buses. Mayor didn’t go three days without calling VP Biden or FTA about the buses.

New maintenance monitoring system went live.

Employee Relations and Training

ATU drivers voted down the proposed contract; they were concerned mechanics would get something better, and also took issue with tighter regulation of preventable accidents (currently, drivers are permitted 2 every year). Back to negotiation.

Driver hiring has been slow. Have hired 35, but lost 50. “You name it, we’ve tried it,” but despite outreach, low pay is a problem. Drivers get $8.57/hour for two-month training period, then start at $11.63, several dollars lower than SMART. “We’re going after money any which way that we can.”

DDOT is applying for grant for 2 new driver simulators.

Negotiations with AFSCME mechanics begin soon. Completed frontline training with federal funding.

Dispatchers move in to the Warren headquarters building from their current location on Dec. 19. Should have positive effect on the “bus bunching” problem.

Long-term Goals

Problem: even once buses are running as scheduled, there still won’t be enough service. “Even when service gets stabilized, there’s not enough service…Even when we get full tilt, we’re not gonna have enough buses.” DDOT had 350 buses operating before the 2012 cuts. Dirks wants to expand service by at least 80 buses.

Dirks met with Christ Watton, DDOT director under Mayor Young, who said that even then, DDOT couldn’t make pullout M-Tu-Wed. “It’s been that way forever.” Management needs its prerogatives in contract.

State and Regional Issues

Transportation funding bills are on the table in Lansing. Duggan got in an amendment in Michigan Senate’s gas tax bill, allowingDetroit to flex 50% of its road funds to transit. However, House is less sympathetic to transit, and representatives need to hear from constituents about the need for funding transit, not just roads. Get in calls, letters to editor.

Dirks continues to advocate for restoring SMART service to Detroit and allowing full SMART service in the city. “I might live in Macomb, but I’m a Detroiter.”

Dirks was supposed to lunch with Michael Ford, RTA CEO, today. Has shared concerns about lack of representation for Detroit in RTA: 60% of total transit ridership in region, and only 1 vote, compared to Washtenaw County’s 2 votes. Mayor has expressed strong concern. “I’ve made some very intense suggestions relative to outreach that the RTA hopes to do.” The date of the 2016 transit election won’t change, and “a sense of urgency needs to be developed.”

And tell SMART to bring back buses on RTA corridors…

Tell SMART’s
Board of Directors:
Three Years is Long Enough.
Let’s Bring Back the Buses!

In December 2011, the SMART bus system eliminated nearly one-quarter of all bus service, including all service inside Detroit city limits outside weekday rush hour, due to declining tax revenue.

These cuts to regional transit service led many people to lose their jobs, and have led others to spend hours waiting in the cold and dark.

In August, citizens gave an additional $28 million
for SMART to keep rolling. We believe a portion of that money should go towards bringing back some of the service we’ve lost, especially on Woodward, Gratiot, and Michigan Avenues – the priority routes for the Regional Transit Authority (RTA).

Afternoon Vigil for SMART Bus Service
Thursday, December 4, 2014, 1-3 pm
SMART offices, Buhl Building, 535 Griswold
1 pm – vigil outside building
2 pm – SMART Board Meeting, 5th floor

Motor City Freedom Riders

I just could not think of another way to present this info to you so you got it on a blog post. Dan Dirks responded first then Joel.


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