Voter Voices on Transit

From limited routes to faulty apps, transit in Detroit persists as an issue for voters…and candidates.

In advance of the Nov. 7 general election, WDET is checking in with people who live and work in Detroit to find out what the issues they consider important.

Transit is one of them.

Click here for all WDET’s 2017 election coverage.

Louise Watkins waits patiently at a monthly community meeting hosted by the Detroit Department of Transportation. She’s here to deliver feedback on DDOT’s smartphone app. Its real-time arrival information helps her feel safer waiting for the bus.

WDET/Laura Herberg

“But the app hasn’t been working for about three weeks now,” she says.

When the subject of the app comes up during the meeting, DDOT’s Marketing Manager Nicole Simmons has a candid response.

“The DDOT app, it sucks,” she says. “It’s terrible, so we admit fault on that. And we actually encourage you, if you have it on your phone, delete it, because it just doesn’t work properly.”

Instead, Simmons suggests riders download a third-party app called “Transit” that actually works. 

Other transit issues are harder to solve

Studies show that metro Detroit spends less money per resident on transit than most other major urban areas. Yet, last year voters in southeast Michigan rejected a millage that would have modernized the region’s transit.

The largely privately funded QLINE is now up and running a limited route through downtown and Midtown. But some voters say transportation is an issue that they’re still waiting to see addressed in the region.

Pat Batcheller

Deborah Brown:

This 67-year-old Core City resident doesn’t want mass transit riders in the city to be ignored.

“I understand progress is needed. But don’t forget about the little people. The people that catch the bus, the people that go to work and pay taxes still need to have adequate transportation,” she says.

Pat Batcheller

Kenneth Gibson:

This Northwest Detroit resident offers up a potential solution.

“If it was up to me, I don’t see why they haven’t raised the bus fare. It’s been $1.50 for almost 20 years. At one time, DDOT and SMART were the same. SMART raised theirs and the quality of service reflects it,” says Gibson.

WDET/Laura Herberg

Parnell Willis:

This Yorkshire Woods resident says he’s very familiar with the  problems on Metro Detroit’s two main bus systems.

“Because at one time I was relying 100 percent on public transit,” says Willis. “And I hate to say it but DDOT is the worst transit system in the country… or [it’s] between the two of them, between SMART and DDOT. They don’t mesh, it’s really hard to get around, and they’re totally unreliable.”

Ziad Buchh

Derek Hollaway

This 32-year old says transit in Detroit is getting a little better.

“It’s improving but it’s improving slowly,” says Hollaway. “We would like the speed to accelerate but we’re well aware that history has shown that things have been done in a very slow fashion.”

There is no RTA millage on the ballot this year, though one is expected in 2018. In the meantime, the mayor and council elected next month will likely continue to hear from residents about transportation issues.

To listen to all of these voters, click on the audio player at the top of this post. You can read and listen to the perspectives of dozens of voters in Detroit here.


  • Pat Batcheller
    Pat Batcheller is a host and Senior News Editor for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news, traffic and weather updates during Morning Edition. He is an amateur musician.
  • Ziad Buchh
    Ziad Buchh is Reporter for 101.9 WDET. He is known by friends as the argumentative person in the group.
  • Laura Herberg
    Laura Herberg is a Reporter for 101.9 WDET, telling the stories about people inhabiting the Detroit region and the issues that affect us here.