New Site Gives Detroit Bus Riders Platform To Share Their Experiences

A new blog called "Ditched By DDOT"  wants to give the city's bus riders a voice by documenting frustrations like missing an appointment due to delays. The site was launched last month to collect the tales of beleaguered Motor City transit passengers.

Riders can get their stories published by sending an email, posting a Facebook comment or by calling the site's phone number and leaving a voicemail message. These submissions are posted on the blog itself, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

"This [is] crazy," reads one entry posted on Jan. 15 via Facebook. "Waiting on the crosstown bus for an hour as of right now. The 4:30a & 5:11a didn't show. But three buses went eastbound. So when are they coming back?"

There's certainly no shortage of stories for the blog to work with in Detroit where budget cuts have devastated service over the last decade. Along with reduced route coverage, DDOT passengers often struggle with other issues like delays and crowded vehicles.

After being appointed by Mayor Duggan last year, DDOT director Dan Dirks pledged to improve the transit agency. With 80 new vehicles slated to hit the road soon and a new smartphone app that lets riders track their buses in real time, it looks like the agency could finally be experiencing some much-desired forward momentum.

But trying to catch the bus is still a daunting task for many riders, and "Ditched By DDOT" is dedicated to keeping a public record of their struggles.

The blog's administrator, Kayla Friess, is a regular DDOT rider. She's no stranger to long waits and missed transfers and started the blog as a way to educate non-bus riders about the problems facing Detroit riders.

"It is common knowledge to anyone who rides DDOT that these problems exist," she tells Mode Shift. "What I began to realize, though, is that people who don't ride the bus really have no idea. There is a general feeling in Metro Detroit that our bus system isn't great, but people who don't rely on public transit do not have an awareness of these experiences."

Friess hopes her site will help amplify the voices of DDOT riders, who she feels are largely ignored in conversations about the future of Detroit transit. She's getting the word out to other bus travelers by leaving fliers at different locations around town and passing them out as she rides around town. In a month's time, "Ditched By DDOT" has logged nearly 20 posts.

The administrator says the response to her project, so far, has been rather positive.

"A lot of people tell me they wish this existed years ago, or they launch straight into a story of their latest bus experience. Other folks are less optimistic and wonder if this will even make a difference," she says.

As it turns out, the blog has already caught the attention of the DDOT agency director.

"I applaud the administrator of the site," Dirks tells Mode Shift. "She is obviously very concerned about public transportation and about DDOT."

Dirks recently spoke with Friess via email. He's interested in reaching out to the riders who post on the blog for advice on how to make the system run more smoothly.

"The website... doesn't put DDOT in a good light—we're working on that—but hopefully [we'll get] some input on some of the things that we should do," he says. "My experience in running [the suburban bus service] SMART and doing some consulting work with other transit properties [is that] between customers and drivers, they can tell you some of the things that you really need to know."

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