SE Michigan transit director says Detroit-Ann Arbor route a success, discusses future expansion plans

The agency is planning to launch an express bus route connecting downtown Detroit to DTW.

D2A2 bus waiting at a bus stop.

A pilot program connecting Detroit to Ann Arbor by bus is proving to be a success according to officials.

The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) is the organization that manages the funding that comes from federal and state governments to be distributed to providers such as SMART, DDOT and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.  

Harmony Llyod, RTA’s chief operating officer, says the RTA works with providers to plan and implement pilot projects and to try to help find ways to enhance their service.

WDET’s Laura Herberg spoke with Lloyd about several RTA pilot projects — including the Detroit-Ann Arbor service D2A2 — and if funding for a regional transit system will be on a future ballot. 

Listen: RTA Chief Operating Officer on bus routes running from Detroit to Ann Arbor and DTW 

Detroit to Ann Arbor 

Initially launched in March 2020, D2A2 is an express route that runs nonstop from Campus Martius in downtown Detroit to Ann Arbor. The project was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic but resumed operations in Oct. 2021. Since then, the number of riders has consistently grown.  

“We are thrilled with the ridership numbers that we have seen this fall,” Lloyd says. “Each month has increased, and right now, we’re between 4,000 and 5,000 riders a month, which is fantastic. We hope in the coming year that we get somewhere up to around 8,000-10,000 riders a month.” 

The D2A2 bus costs $8 per one-way ticket at the fare box or $6 online. It runs Mon-Fri from 5:45 a.m. to midnight, and 7:30 a.m. to midnight on weekends.  

Detroit to DTW  

The RTA is working on an express bus route that will run from downtown Detroit to Detroit Metro Airport. The goal is for the trip to take 25-35 minutes, much shorter than the 261 FAST bus operated by SMART that currently services the airport. The current route makes stops along Michigan Avenue and usually takes longer than an hour to reach the airport. 

“We have heard repeatedly that people were looking for transportation options to the airport. We weren’t looking to compete with SMART, but we wanted to enhance or offer another option for people,” says Lloyd.

Money for the express bus project came from Carbon Reduction Program dollars funded by the Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The RTA hopes to launch the service by early next year.  

A new way to pay 

Lloyd says the RTA is in the planning stages of creating a mobility wallet that will allow riders to use a single pass to access SMART, DDOT, The People Mover and other area transit systems. This new technology would also provide the opportunity for third parties, such as employers and universities, to put money on riders’ accounts.  

“The RTA continues to be really committed to improving regional connections,” says Lloyd. “We’re going to keep building connections between all the communities so people can use transit as a viable option.” 

The ballot question 

In 2016, the RTA asked voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties if they wanted to pay a property tax to fund regional transit. That millage failed by a slim margin.

Since then, the authority has survived off of support from the Federal Transit Administration, the Michigan Department of Transportation and grants. She says the RTA is still interested in a more long-term, sustainable funding method, but there are currently no plans to request another millage. 

“I don’t know that we will be on the ballot at this point. That’s something our board of directors is working through. And as they make those decisions, then we’ll share it with the public,” says Lloyd. 

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date.

WDET strives to make our journalism accessible to everyone. As a public media institution, we maintain our journalistic integrity through independent support from readers like you. If you value WDET as your source of news, music and conversation, please make a gift today.

Donate today »