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How public transit agencies in Metro Detroit are responding to coronavirus

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All the latest news regarding fares, routes, and cleaning procedures

A green and white bus in front of a large office building. Photo by Michelle Gerard

This is a developing story—more information will be added as it becomes available.

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads across the state, public transit agencies in the Detroit area are taking preventative measures to minimize contagion.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a stay-at-home order that went into effect March 24, closing all non-essential operations in the state and directing residents not to leave their homes.

Despite all the closures of offices and businesses, those without cars who have to travel—to get groceries or go to the hospital, for example—may still have to use public transportation. Because people are in close proximity and COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for up to three days, public transit poses an added risk for drivers and riders.

Here’s how Southeast Michigan’s various public transit agencies have responded.

No fares, reduced schedule for Detroit buses

Due to driver concerns, the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) temporarily cancelled all bus service on March 17. But it resumed the following day at 3 a.m. with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announcing that DDOT would waive all fares for the duration of the outbreak.

The suspension of service was caused by bus drivers who were concerned that DDOT wasn’t doing enough to sanitize buses and protect drivers. As part of the resumption of service, the city announced comprehensive new cleaning procedures that included hiring additional staff and adding cleanings at terminals and end of lines. It’s also providing face masks, free of charge, to all riders.

To minimize contact, bus riders may only board and exit at the rear door, and the seat behind the driver must remain vacant.

Due to low ridership, DDOT has reduced its weekday schedule and suspended some commuter routes. The following routes have been temporarily cancelled:

  • #40 Russell
  • #42 Mid-City Loop
  • #46 Southfield
  • #80 Villages Direct
  • #89 Southwest Direct
  • #92 Rosedale Express
  • #95 Ryan Express
  • #96 Joy Express

Main routes along Grand River, Gratiot, and Michigan avenues will run every 20-30 minutes, while Woodward Avenue will continue to run every 10 minutes. All others will run on a Saturday schedule and arrive about once per hour.

For more detailed information on route schedules, go here.

Southeast Michigan bus system also waives fares

Regional public transportation provider SMART will also be providing free fares on all of its lines and services in order to “eliminate the need for passengers to interact with our fareboxes and maintain greater distance from our drivers.”

Except for those using a wheelchair, passengers will only be allowed to board and exit through the rear door to minimize driver contact.

Starting March 23, SMART also altered its schedule due to reduced demand—the agency said ridership has dropped 80 percent since the start of the outbreak.

With few exceptions, schedules will be similar to Sunday services for all routes. Woodward, Gratiot, and Michigan FAST and local routes will alternate every 30 minutes. All commuter routes have been suspended. If you rely on one of these buses, SMART is expanding its Commuter Shuttle service, and riders can reserve a seat by emailing commuter@smartbus.org.

For more detailed schedule information, go here.

The agency said it cleans buses nightly using industrial strength antibacterial products recommended by the CDC and conducts daily health screenings on all of its drivers.

Other transit systems

The QLine streetcar suspended service March 29 due to low ridership and safety concerns. M-1 Rail CEO Matt Cullen said in a release that service would resume “once workplaces and institutions along the Woodward corridor begin re-opening.”

The People Mover is offering free fares for the duration of the outbreak. Other updates: it won’t stop at the TCF Center and the system has instituted systematic cleaning of cars and stations.

Indian Trails motorcoach has suspended operations of the Michigan Flyer-AirRide shuttle, which shuttles passengers from hubs in Washtenaw County to Detroit Metro Airport, through at least April 16. It also operates the new Detroit to Ann Arbor bus service (D2A2), which began as scheduled on Monday, March 16. But the Detroit Connector service, which provides transportation between University of Michigan campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Detroit, suspended service on March 23.