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Detroit area leaders hail federal transit grant as 'model for joint cooperation'

Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio

Bus riders in and around Detroit will enjoy some updated buses, thanks to a federal grant.

Leaders officially announced a $30 million grant for regional transit systems Monday. It was the third-largest amount dispensed to any metro area nationally from the U.S. Transportation Department’s State of Good Repair grant fund.

Detroit has two major bus systems. One is the city’s own system, run by the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT). The other larger one, is run by the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART).

Leaders have long talked about how to merge those systems into one comprehensive, regional transit system. But those discussions have always fallen apart over territorial feuds.

But officials insist this award heralds a new era in regional transit collaboration.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the joint award is also a milestone effort between southeast Michigan’s separate transit systems.

“We believe that this will be the model for joint cooperation in establishing a regional transit authority, ultimately connecting Detroit and the region,” Bing said.

Bills authorizing such an authority are sitting in Lansing.

Federal transportation authorities have also awarded Detroit money for a regional Bus Rapid Transit system. But the project still needs a regional authority to run it.

Oakland County Congressman Gary Peters says that needs to come together so the federal dollars can keep flowing.

“To have regional transit, Bus Rapid Transit, and a system that works throughout the greater Detroit area," Peters added. "But we have to do it all together.”

The capital improvement grant will pay for buses to be rehabilitated and transferred between the two transit systems, and for some new buses.

Upgrades will include new security cameras, renovating DDOT’s maintenance facility, an to update the Automatic Vehicle Location system on DDOT buses so that arrival and departure times can be tracked, and renovating Detroit’s fire-damaged Coolidge terminal.

Other Michigan transit grantees include:

  • The Michigan Department of Transportation, which will receive a $5 million award to help pay for replacement of aging buses at 20 transit agencies across the state.
  • Livingston Essential Transportation Service in Livingston County, which will receive $877,476 to replace aging buses and to add two spare buses to its fleet.
  • Harbr Transit in Grand Haven, which will receive $482,240 for replacement of aging buses.
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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