New DDOT interim executive director used to work for maligned paratransit contractor Transdev

Michael Staley was tapped as DDOT’s interim leader after Mikel Oglesby resigned earlier this month.

Riders boarding a DDOT bus in Detroit, Michigan.

FILE - Riders board a DDOT bus in Detroit, Mich. in 2015.

Last week, Mayor Mike Duggan named George Michael Staley as DDOT’s interim executive director. Staley replaces former executive director Mikel Oglesby, whose resignation was announced earlier this month.

According to a press release by the city of Detroit, Oglesby indicated when he was hired in 2020 that he only planned to stay for three years.

Staley most recently served as the department’s executive manager for paratransit, a supplemental transportation service for people with disabilities. His resume also includes Transdev, a paratransit contractor with a poor track record in Detroit.

Listen: DDOT’s new interim executive director on the department’s biggest issue, drivers’ wages, history with Transdev, more

Staley served as an area vice president for Veolia Transportation with Transdev Veolia as the parent company, who shortened its name to just Transdev in 2013.

Last November, the disability community was highly critical of Transdev when its contract was up for a 5-year extension with the city.

“Transdev-trained drivers [are] leaving blind people at wrong addresses, wrong places, different sides of the city with no further assistance,” National Federation of the Blind’s Richard Clay said at the time. “Not tying wheelchairs down properly for wheelchair riders.”

After initially approving Transdev’s contract extension, Detroit City Council ultimately voted against continuing to use the company for its paratransit services. Then in December, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced he planned to use emergency powers to put paratransit contracts in place by January 1 of this year — ensuring DDOT would not lose funding from the Federal Transit Authority for being in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to DDOT, paratransit rides have arrived on schedule 97% of the time since March 2023.

Duggan’s move made it so DDOT, and ultimately Staley, served as the department’s executive manager for paratransit since June 2022. The city began overseeing a collection of smaller paratransit contractors who administered rides in the city since the beginning of 2023.

Michael Staley, DDOT's new interim executive director, pictured with short gray hair, a mustache and goatee, and black glasses. He's wearing a suit jacket with a tie.
DDOT’s new interim executive director Michael Staley.

“Michael has done a terrific job fixing what was in many ways a broken paratransit system and making it work for the residents it serves,” Duggan said in a press release. “He has demonstrated outstanding management ability in a short period of time and earned the confidence of paratransit advocates. I am fully confident he will be able to deliver measurable improvements to DDOT’s overall service, as well.”

According to DDOT, paratransit rides have arrived on schedule 97% of the time since March 2023. Staley says about 5,000 paratransit rides are executed weekly and the system is currently receiving just 2-3 complaints per week.

Leading up to the start of 2023, Staley spent a lot of time listening to paratransit users and advocates to hear their complaints.

“And I made sure that people understood that I didn’t come to Detroit offering substandard service,” says Staley. “Should they have believed me in September 2022? Or October 2022? November? December? Probably not. I wouldn’t have believed me.

“Since January 2023 we’ve made tremendous strides and continuous quality improvement related to the delivery of complementary paratransit services that are safe, reliable, customer oriented and cost-effective.”

Listen to the entire interview using the media player above.

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  • 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.