Voter Voices on Transit

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

The September 2017 Detroit Department of Transportation community input meeting.

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.

Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

This post is a part of Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The DJC is a partnership of six media outlets focused on telling critical stories of Detroit and creating engagement opportunities on-air, online and in the community. View the partners work at

Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



This post is a part of 2017 Local Elections: How’s metro Detroit doing?.

This series includes WDET's coverage of candidates' in local elections -- including Detroit's mayoral, clerk and council races.

This post is a part of How's Detroit Doing?.

With voices, data, news, and experiences, WDET is answering the question "How's Detroit Doing?" Find a collection of responses at If you have a question about how Detroit's doing, ask it here.

Support for WDET's work with The Detroit Journalism Cooperative comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



About the Author

Pat Batcheller

Senior News Editor & WDET Host, Morning Edition

Hi, I’m Pat Batcheller, your host for WDET’s Morning Edition. I bring you the news, weather, traffic, and information to help you start your weekday.   Follow @patbwdet

Laura Herberg

Community Reporter

Through sound-rich storytelling, Herberg covers stories about the people inhabiting the metro Detroit region and the issues that affect them. Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter 2018 and 2017.

Follow @HerbergRadio

Ziad Buchh

Ziad Buchh is a Michigan-based reporter.

Wait a second, there’s more…

Warren Evans Advocates for Transit: "It's My Obligation as a Leader" [TRANSCRIPT]

How Did We Get Here? A Visual Timeline of Mass Transit in Southeast Michigan

DDOT Budget Under Scrutiny

Detroit Bus to Airport More Than One Year Old

New Regional Fare Passes for Detroit Area Buses Start Today

Macomb County Resident Promotes Transit For Fun

What's Next In Michigan's Gerrymandering Debate?

New to Bus Riding? Here's Help

Who Should Draw Michigan's Political Maps? Voters May Decide [PHOTOS + MAP]

Speed Humps Now Allowed on Detroit Streets

Should Funding Regional Public Transit in Southeast Michigan Be Optional?

Ohio Offers Its Own Solution to Gerrymandering [MAPS + GRAPHS]

Voters Talk Prop. 3: "My ancestors were killed for the right to vote."

Michigan IS Gerrymandered, New Study Concludes

Kasich, Sanders Stump for Michigan Primary Votes

Does Michigan Have a District that Looks Like Homer Simpson? You Be the Judge

Gerrymandering: Why It's a Technology Issue [TRANSCRIPT]

A Detroit Transit Discussion: What is Working?

Policy Meets the People: Introducing the Issue of Gerrymandering

Prepare to Vote: Economic Development and the Candidates for Governor

Detroiters: Proposal A...Proposal B...Both or Neither?

Redistricting 101: Your District, Your Politicians, But Does Your Vote Matter?

Prepare to Vote: The Candidates for Governor and Where They Stand on Issues [VIDEO]

Find your voting place and ballot information

NPR's Hidden Brain: Gerrymandering and You

Prepare to Vote: Government Transparency and the Candidates for Michigan Governor [VIDEO, TRANSCRIPTS]

NPR News Election Night Coverage

Voters Not Politicians: The Pros [TRANSCRIPT]

Prepare to Vote: Auto Insurance and the Candidates for Michigan Governor [VIDEO, TRANSCRIPTS]

QLINE: What You Need To Know

Voters Not Politicians: The Cons [TRANSCRIPT]

Prepare to Vote: Enbridge Line 5 and the Candidates for Michigan Governor

Become A Gerrymandering Expert Just By Listening [PODCASTS]

MichMash: For Governor Candidates, 'Tax' is A Four-Letter Word When Discussing Roads [VIDEO, TRANSCRIPT]

LIVE STREAM: Policy Meets the People - The Redistricting Issue Special [VIDEO]

We want to hear from you.
Share your thoughts and opinions: