Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Adventures with the Sunday SMART bus schedule

As a part of the Royal Oak Jaycees, I had the opportunity to run a project that we termed the "SMART Bus Pub Crawl" just this past Sunday. Awesome, right!? A huge shout-out to Beth & Fred at SMART for supplying us with service maps, some really cool new SMART bike maps, SMART pens & digital screen cleaners. So great!

Here's our group reading their maps like champs outside Woodward Avenue Brewers (aka the WAB) in Ferndale:

We started our trip on the southbound Woodward 460 leaving at 13 & Woodward at 1:05pm heading to downtown Ferndale. A fellow bus rider was at the stop, enjoying some Sunday funday Natty Light, and calling me 'cowgirl'. Perfection. And welcome to the our transit world, pals! 

On our trip to downtown Royal Oak from the WAB to Blackfinn, Google Maps transit told me that the Woodward 450 would take us through downtown Royal Oak. I know that's the case after a certain time during the weekday evenings, so I didn't even question it. As the bus driver didn't take the turn down Washington and continued down Woodward, it was very clear that this wasn't the case for Sunday afternoons. I went to ask the bus driver what the deal was and he laughed loudly & heartily. "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at Google Maps. I get these questions EVERY single Sunday" and proceeded in showing me the schedule. So, we had an unscheduled 10 minute walk into downtown Royal Oak from 11 mile & Woodward. Transit lessons on a beautiful fall day. Otherwise, the buses ran pretty much on schedule, a great time was had by all, and people were hopefully encouraged to explore our region via public transit! 

But the question at hand: what's the answer for better transit communication in the age of smartphones? Apps? A required check-in of any schedule changes with Google Maps? Schedules via text? Pocket-sized paper schedules based on the routes? We definitely need some improvements to this area - especially given the  widespread miscommunication around the weekend schedules.  Thoughts or other ideas that have worked well in other areas?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Where Do You Purchase A Bus Pass?

It's difficult to get a bus pass. I've come to this conclusion after almost a year of not having a bus pass and instead using many dollar bills and quarters to pay for my metro Detroit transit travels.  

Let me explain.  It started at the Rosa Parks Transit Center located in a very prominent facility in downtown Detroit.  I had used up my bus pass earlier this year and on my way to the SMART bus stop I decided to stop at the transit center to get a new SMART bus pass.  Unfortunately, they didn't sell SMART bus passes because only DDOT buses use that stop. (I still think that since it's the most prominent location for transit in the city, they should sell SMART bus passes, too.)  Strike one.

Then, after a few weeks of using dollar bills to pay for my bus rides, I took the afternoon off to run errands.  Naturally, my first stop was the Royal Oak Transit Center.  Unfortunately, the attendant was on lunch break, which meant no bus pass for me.  Strike two.  (Let me point out that in other cities, they have a machine that is available at all times of the day for people to purchase transit passes.  AHHH!!!  Does metro Detroit have one of these machines?)

Finally, yesterday, I scored a bus pass with ten minutes to spare.  Where?  At the SMART Transit Center in the Buhl Building in downtown Detroit.  Ten minutes to spare you ask?  Well, they close at 5pm.  It's hard to read the sign in the picture to the right but they are only open Mondays through Fridays from 8:30am to 5pm.  When are people that work during the day supposed to purchase a bus pass?  This leads me to my original conclusion - it's difficult to get a bus pass!

What makes it even more difficult?  In all of Oakland County, there are only 8 locations, where one can purchase a bus pass; 2 in Macomb County and 10 in Wayne County!  Check it out for yourself.  Oh, and it gets better...  there are 23 cities that are serviced by SMART in Oakland County, which makes me think there would be more than 8 locations to get bus passes.  There are 26 cities serviced by SMART in Macomb County and another 26 cities in Wayne County.  With 75 cities being serviced by SMART, one would think that there would be at least 75 locations to get a bus pass.  Nope... just 20 in all of metro Detroit.  Does anyone else see this as a problem?  (SMART - Please consider contacting post offices, public libraries, and grocery stores to sell bus passes.)

What about the internet you ask?  Well...yes, you can order a bus pass from SMART's website but you have to pay $2 to have it mailed to you.  That's the cost of a bus ride!

So it's back to dollar bills and quarters... yes, you can use them but from my year of using dollar bills that had just enough of a curled edge that the meter didn't like, I choose a bus pass (when I can leave work early enough to purchase one).  See happy me with a bus pass to the left.  Thanks, Julie, for taking these great photos!

This is Melissa, your investigative reporter with 2 Women, 4 Wheels spinning off!  Happy riding and bus pass searching!