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Detroit releases wide-ranging, ambitious transportation strategic plan

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Photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

One of Detroit’s biggest challenges in its revitalization is the city’s—and the region’s—transportation system. Combine a high poverty rate with the highest car insurance rates in the country, a bus system with a historically-bad-but-improving reputation, wide pedestrian-unfriendly roads, and a region that can’t agree on the importance of public transportation, and we find ourselves with a city struggling to get to where it needs to go.

In the last six months, we’ve seen partnerships and innovations between the city’s bus service (DDOT), Lyft, and MoGo bike share. So what’s next?

The city released an extensive plan to address many of the challenges facing transportation in Detroit. In partnership with Bloomberg Associates, the city now has many strategies and priorities over the next four years with the goal of helping Detroiters connect with what the city has to offer.

The overall plan has five main goals—economic opportunity, safety, vibrancy, community outreach, and city functionality—with one-year and four-year goals outlined. Some initiatives have already started.

While the plan goes in-depth and we’re still digging through it, here are a few of the bigger takeaways—in the one-year benchmarks—we see so far.


The city hopes to increase ridership on its bus system, but it knows it’s facing an uphill battle. New improvements over the next year could include:

  • Roll-out of a new design (announced last week) and new media campaign.
  • Launch of a new bus stop program with 50 new bus shelters—with new maps.
  • Create a mobile bus app and more efficient ways to pay (which will speed up boarding).
  • Simplify fare structures and increase the amount of places where riders can buy passes.
  • Improve traffic signal timing and prioritize transit in street design.
  • Expand the Project Green Light program to bus stops.
Ride and bike sharing

In order to make it easier to live and work downtown without a car, the city wants to introduce a Maven car-sharing pilot program. MoGo will be expanded into northern neighborhoods next year, and the city would like to increase participation in its Access Pass Program ($5 a year for those receiving assistance) throughout the city.

The city also plans a study on the feasibility of offering free transit passes to those living in public housing.


The city has outlined a number of ways to improve the process of parking in the city, mainly around new developments and retail. This could include multiple upgrades to the Park Detroit app, providing better access to under-utilized lots near retail, and changing zoning to support transit, bike racks, and parking near new developments.

Beautify streets and alleys

The city plans on adopting the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide and Urban Bikeway Design Guide. One-year goals include removing 3,300 dead trees and planting 3,300 new trees, continue bike and pedestrian projects started on East Jefferson and Livernois, incorporating stormwater management practices into transportation initiatives, and helping block clubs out with alley clean-ups.


The city realizes this has to be a coordinated effort between not only city departments, but some of the larger employers here. If these plans are to work, efforts need to be coordinated with the Planning Department, the Department of Public Works, the Health Department, the Qline, MoGo, MDOT, Wayne County, and the community.

“The goal of this plan isn’t just to deliver better projects, but to build a better city, one where Detroiters’ opportunities are not limited by their choices for getting around,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, Transportation Principal with Bloomberg Associates and former New York City transportation commissioner. “With more frequent bus service, a new Eastside bike network, safer streets and new investments in state-of-good-repair road projects, Detroit has already come so far so fast.”

First-year benchmarks already have funding in place, according to the city, while fundraising will continue for the four-year benchmarks.

Initial thoughts? The full plan can be accessed here.