Detroit Documenters ride the bus to shed light on DDOT conditions

Documenters noted that many of the routes did not have shelters, trash cans, nearby public restrooms near bus stops. Sometimes the bus did not show up.

DDOT bus travels northbound along Woodward Avenue on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, in downtown Detroit.

DDOT bus travels northbound along Woodward Avenue on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, in downtown Detroit.

Civic news organization Detroit Documenters got a unique opportunity to learn firsthand how Detroiters ride the bus for school, work and leisure.

Jack Filbrandt is part of the Detroit Documenters program and a WDET podcast intern who took part in the Documenters on the Bus initiative. He says the idea came about to better educate people about the transit system.

“Documenters on the Bus was an idea that sprouted with kind of the rest of the Documenters team, just trying to create a fun way to get people on the bus and also look at what’s going on with the bus,” says Filbrandt.

He says Documenters were given a list of things to do, places to visit, and instructions on how to navigate riding the bus.

“We really wanted them to plan their day around the assignment and think of things that they have to do in their lives that they could get to on the bus.”

Documenters asked bus riders about their daily experiences.

Participants also had a checklist to look out for things like:

  • What time did your bus arrive?
  • How long were you waiting at your bus stop to get on the bus?
  • How many people are on the bus?
  • Is it clean?
  • Do you feel safe on the bus?
  • Document the current state of DDOT in the buses

Filbrandt says this was his first time riding the bus, as was for many of his fellow Documenters.

“A lot of Documenters who were on the bus mentioned that they didn’t ride because of the stigmas around the buses, especially in Detroit,” Filbrandt shares. “You can get so many places on the bus in Detroit for a very affordable amount of money and it’s a service that many, many people rely on.”

Outlier Media reports that 8,000 people rely on the 37 DDOT bus routes, while the SMART bus connects Detroiters with Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties.

Documenters noted that many of the bus routes did not have bus shelters, trash cans, or public restrooms near stops. Sometimes the bus did not even show up.

“We can wait for the next bus, but that’s not possible when you have a job and things that rely on you getting to someplace on time,” says Filbrandt.

To learn more about what the Documenters discovered, visit To discover routes from the Documenters on the Bus initiative, visit

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  • Nargis Rahman
    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.