Detroit Department of Transportation bus service resumes today, Wednesday. There will more bus cleanings and no fare charge in order to protect drivers from COVID-19.
The D-DOT stopped bus service Tuesday after drivers fearing exposure to the coronavirus did not report to work, leaving some passengers waiting. SMART buses and their service were not interrupted.
Free rides and a buffer seat between passengers and the driver are meant to increase “social distancing” on buses.
“We didn’t want to get sick and infect the public and we didn’t want them to get sick.” – Glenn Tolbert, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26
D-DOT and affiliated transportation unions agreed to suspend fares for the time-being, and enhance their cleaning service in response to driver concerns. Glenn Tolbert is the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26. He says drivers are willing to put in long hours to move people, when it’s safe.
“Actually, I want to be able to provide for my family and everybody that comes in here wants to be able to provide for their families,” says Tolbert. “And we are working in contract talks now, trying to keep people and retain people and attract people to this job.”
Detroit also agreed to provide D-DOT drivers with portable toilets at businesses usually visited for restroom stops but that have closed this week in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We didn’t want to get sick and infect the public and we didn’t want them to get sick,” says Tolbert.
“The city of Detroit gets $600,000 a day in revenues from the casino taxes. There’s going to be huge financial impacts on the city, on the county, on the state, on the federal government.” – Mayor Mike Duggan
Mayor Mike Duggan says while the city is losing out on revenue earned from bus fares, it’s nothing compared to what’s been lost from Detroit’s casinos shutting down.
“The city of Detroit gets $600,000 a day in revenues from the casino taxes,” Duggan says. “There’s going to be huge financial impacts on the city, on the county, on the state, on the federal government. We have been setting aside reserves, I’m not sure we planned on anything this drastic, but the city’s in a whole lot better shape than it would have been five or six years ago.”
Duggan says the one-day bus shutdown was a lesson in addressing city employee needs during the pandemic. He says most of the city’s 9,000 employees work on-site.
Drivers are being provided with disposable gloves and disinfectant wipes as free bus rides continue for the foreseeable future.