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Lots of woes, but few apparent solutions for Detroit bus riders

There appears to be no end in sight for frustrated bus riders in Detroit.

Budget cuts have forced Detroit to eliminate more than one-third of its citywide bus service over the past six years. But the city’s bus service has gotten dramatically worse in just the last few weeks. Many riders recount waiting up to three hours for buses to arrive--and finding severe overcrowding  once they do.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he doesn’t know if there’s much the city can do. He says Detroit’s bus fleet is old, and requires extensive maintenance the city can’t afford.

He adds it may no longer be possible to provide adequate bus service to the entire 139 square-mile city. “I don’t want to make people think we don’t care,” Bing says. “We do care. But it’s a financial issue.”

Portia Roberson is leading Strong Cities, Strong Communitiesinitiative in Detroit. That’s a new coordinating partnership between federal and local officials, including the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Roberson says her team knows Detroit has a bus system that’s “not working”--and they’ll try to find out why

“What’s going on with that? Where is the funding going, the funding that’s being sent from the federal government…are we using it in the right place? Do we need to be using it in other places? Are we providing routes that are actually populated routes, should we put more buses on a route that services more people?”

The Mayor has also accused union mechanics of a work slowdown. The union says that’s a natural result of the Mayor cutting overtime pay.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.