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Detroit introduces new transportation director as cuts loom

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says a new CEO and new fleet of buses will help turn around the city’s struggling transportation department.

The Detroit Department of Transportation has been struggling for months to put enough buses on the streets.

In what the city calls a bid to both improve service and cut costs, they’ve brought in a private contractor to manage the bus system.

Ronald Freeland will now head the department. Freeland says his biggest initial goal is to restore confidence that the system basically works.

“We want to build the confidence in the public, that when we put schedules out on the street, that they can look forward to their buses arriving on time,” Freeland said.

Freeland says 46 new buses added to the fleet over the next few weeks should help.

But Detroit bus riders are also facing major cuts to their service. City-wide layoffs include more than 100 bus drivers and mechanics. So D-DOT will cut a few routes, and end late-night bus service.

Bing says ultimately, he also shares Governor Snyder’s longer-term vision of making Detroit’s bus system part of a larger regional transit authority. That larger infrastructure would be built around a proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system spanning Metro Detroit.

“At a later date, assuming that we get everything done the way we wanted with D-Dot, we think D-DOT can be folded into and be part of a regional transportation system,” Bing said. “But we have to fix D-DOT first, so that’s where our focus is going to be.”

Legislation to create such an authority has been introduced in Lansing.

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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