Thursday, January 26, 2012

2 Women 4 Wheels Invite SMART Board to Ride the Bus!

Wow! What an afternoon?! There is so much to share!

1) As mentioned in an earlier blog, we gave public comment today at the SMART Board of Directors meeting and challenged the Board of Directors and General Manager John Hertel to ride the SMART bus during “off-peak” hours. (NOTE: We were the only ones to give comment. Please join us next time!) We also extended an invitation to them to ride the bus with us, so we could document the experience on this blog. Unfortunately – as of now – we have not received any responses from them. (NOTE: If you are reading this blog and you just so happen to be Mr. Hertel or a SMART Board member, please take us up on our offer! We don’t bite. Heck, we might even ask you to join us during our happy hour adventures in the city.)

2) While giving public comment, we also addressed the following:

- Increased public transparency – we mentioned putting their agendas and minutes on their website

- Inconsistent bus schedule (Insert teaser – there may be a communication system on the way to help with this concern – we’ll discuss more in a future blog)

- Need for additional bike spaces on the bus racks (insert teaser – stay tuned for a really exciting blog about this!)

- Efforts to increase ridership to create demand for a third transportation system

3) After the meeting, we had the opportunity to meet with Deputy General Manager Jim Fetzer and Manager of Marketing & Communications Beth Gibbons. They met with us for over an hour to answer our questions and explain transit concerns in southeast Michigan. (We would like to give a special shout out to Mr. Fetzer and Ms. Gibbons for spending so much time with us after the meeting and for being regular blog readers! )

Since we learned so much new information today, we need a couple happy hours to organize our thoughts and create some sassy presentations that explain all of it and how you can help to strengthen our transit system. Stay tuned for those exciting blogs! :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Takin' it to the SMART Board Meeting - this week!

See below for a press release highlighting Two Women, Four Wheels' challenge to the SMART Board and General Manager to ride the bus with us on the 'off-peak' times - and feel free to share far and wide.
Also - please join us at the Board Meeting this Thursday - the more voices and stories we have - the stronger we are collectively. Let's do this, metro Detroit transit fans!


Two Women, Four Wheels
Facebook Page: 2 Women 4 Wheels
Twitter: @2Women4Wheels

Two Women Challenge SMART Board & SMART General Manager to Ride the SMART Bus

Thursday, January 26 at 2pm
SMART Administrative Office 6th Floor Board Room; 535 Griswold; Suite 600; Detroit, MI

Melissa Damaschke, Detroit resident
Julie Funke, Royal Oak resident

Outraged by the cuts in services by SMART, Two Women, Four Wheels will provide public comment challenging the SMART Board of Directors and General Manager to ride the SMART bus with them into or out of Detroit during their defined “off-peak” hours. Two Women, Four Wheels hopes that by experiencing the inconvenience of commuting between two separate bus systems in a large metropolitan area, SMART will reconsider its decision that only allows SMART buses to enter the city of Detroit during their defined “peak hours.”

Two Women, Four Wheels is an organized effort by Damaschke and Funke that documents their experiences using the SMART and DDOT buses while also biking in Detroit and the metropolitan area.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I fought the rain....and the rain won! This time....

You ever have one of those days where so much crazy stuff happens in such a quick succession - you wished you had it on video just so people would believe you?

Today, dear Two Women Four Wheels fans, was one of those days. The bus/bike gods were not on my side, but not to worry, my bus/bike spirit is not deterred!

This morning, I wake up with plans to go to the gym for my morning workout. I do a quick check of the weather and realize it's pretty warm today - for Michigan standards. Yes, I can hear it's raining, but it doesn't look too bad. Plans adjusted = it's a bus/bike day! Hooray!

I'm heading down Rochester Road in Royal Oak and I hit a few puddles. My boots get wet but I have some decent gear. These babies are waterproof and my feet stay nice and toasty dry.

I'm headed south on Washington toward the Transit Center when all of the sudden, it happens. A truck hits a puddle and I am literally overtaken by a small tidal wave. As I stop to recover and assess the damage, another truck hits the SAME puddle and the aftershock tidal wave occurs. This time, I get mascara/general street dirt in my eye, and one of my contacts washes away. I then become mildly smart and move away from the scene of the numerous puddle crimes (I just could not take a third tidal wave) and realize I am soaked to the bone. And covered in dirt/grime/whatever may be floating in Royal Oak's standing street water. Oh yeah, and I can only see out of one eye. The absolute definition of hot mess.

Sadly, SADLY, I make the decision to turn back, clean up at home, and drive to work (so I'm only mildly late vs. mega late).

I have never, ever turned back from a bus/bike adventure. Seven degrees windchill? BRING IT. Rain? You know what, I'm washable. 90 degrees and 100% humidity? You know, you can bike in a skirt w/ bike shorts, ladies. Gets a nice breeze going. I'm just sayin'.

So I pedal home disappointed but still thankful that I have options. I don't have to bus/bike. But I LOVE to bus/bike. And I sincerely hope that through our stories (and yours too), we are able to spur some real transit-based change around lovely southeast Michigan.

Biking home, soaking wet, semi-blind, totally dirty, I think through the lessons learned:
1. Get some waterproof pants and mascara
2. WATCH out for puddles in the street (because car drivers won't and don't really need to)
3. I miss snow! It's January in the mitten state, for cryin' out loud.
4. You may have won this battle rain/trucks/puddles, but you haven't won the war.

And then, driving down Woodward on the way to work, I think about (and see) many of the folks that may not have the option to jump in their car to avoid crappy weather. The weather is just something you have to deal with, as is our transit 'system' - and I use that term very lightly given all of the current holes in service.

I know a lot of our readers out there must have some great weather/bus/bike stories - total fails or total wins! Please feel free to share :)

Monday, January 9, 2012

DDOT/SMART Bus Adventure #2: Waiting with baited breath

The schedule actually allowed for bus/biking two times last week, which was awesome. Thursday, I was able to structure it that I took the SMART to and from work (aka made it during those pesky 'peak' times). Friday though. Friday, a DDOT/SMART adventure was planned, and I even had a pal to navigate the new system with!

My friend Christina and I meet up - normal time to take the SMART downtown. We end up meeting some other friends at the Park Bar/Bucharest Grill for some post-work cocktails/snacks. We enjoyed what Bucharest is famous for - de-lish shawarma, and hence the reference to baited breath. We will do anything for bus safety, including creating a personal garlic shield. #watchitbuscreepos

Around 9:10pm, Christina and I head out to pick up the bus in front of Comerica Park - and on what proved to be another (spoiler alert) almost two-hour tour.

9:12pm - is that a DDOT Woodward 53? IS IT? Or wait - is that TWO Woodward 53s, leapfrogging their way up the street? There is clearly a schedule issue here, but we just happened to be on the correct side of it (this time).

9:14pm - DDOT success! The bus is packed, no available seats but numerous other chivalrous bus riders offered us their seats.

9:25pm - A solo blues concert begins, with the following lyrics:
"People don't smell like they used to around here, around herrrre. Praise Jesus and Hallelujah!" The lyrics are beyond bus-appropriate, and this guy is actually kind of a good singer.

9:40pm - Arrive at the State Fairgrounds

10:15pm - The 9:53pm SMART 450 Woodward bus arrives. Approximately 15 people are waiting - so patiently and quietly, it's actually kind of eerie.

10:16pm - A man literally thinks he's Heath Ledger's version of The Joker and makes some pretty disturbing noises. "Weeeeeeee!!" and informs the bus "life is soooo much funnier when you smoke weeeeddd". I really start to miss the blues concert and creative lyrics. Other bus riders literally move seats away from this Joker.

10:35pm - Arrive in Royal Oak. So happy to see that my bike rear light (that I forgot to take with me in the morning) is still in place. The mean streets of RO were kind this evening!

10:55pm - Arrive home, safe & sound. Thankful for a beautiful night and good company to wait for the bus/bike.


I bike on average about 12 miles per hour. Doing the math (and yes, I will - the numbers never lie!) - we could have biked home in approximately 75 minutes. That's a 27% increase in time TO RIDE THE BUS.

As we were waiting at the State Fairgrounds, it just felt surreal. Not only was it spookily quiet, but it really got me thinking. Who are these people making these decisions about transit in our area? Do they have any idea what this is like?

So another call-to-action:


Yeah, we're talking to you.

Take a bus ride with us.
On an off-peak time.
See what your tax-paying citizens are having to deal with.

Are you up to the challenge?