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Detroit outlines action to battle bus crisis

Detroit’s Chief Operating Officer says the city will bring in an outside company to oversee bus maintenance.

Chris Brown says that’s part of Mayor Dave Bing’s strategy to address the city’s bus crisis. The situation has many Detroiters waiting as long as three hours for buses.

The city had instituted furlough days and cut overtime pay for bus mechanics, which led to a lack of buses on the streets. Officials have also accused bus mechanics of a deliberate work slowdown.

Mechanics union leader Leamon Wilson told the Detroit City Council he tentatively supports the move to outside management, but thinks it needs to go even further.

“At this point, I think whatever it takes to correct the way D-DOT has been mismanaged needs to be done," Wilson says. "And it’s my feeling that if you outsource, you need to stop from the very top.”

Brown says that for now, the city has canceled mechanics’ furlough days and restored some overtime pay.

Brown estimates it will take “about a year” to bring in the new management team, but he and Wilson both insisted bus riders should see "relief" within a month.

Councilman Gary Brown believes buses are an “essential service” for residents—but he questions whether the city can realistically continue to provide it.

“If the city of Detroit cannot provide that service to our citizens at a high level, then we should think about getting out of the business of delivering that service," Gary Brown says.

Other Council members questioned whether the outsourcing will actually guarantee better management--or save the city any money.

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.
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