Saturday, January 18, 2014

Quite a Week in Detroit Transit News!

This was quite the week for public transportation news in Detroit - we could barely keep up. If you missed some of the major announcements, don’t worry. 2 Women 4 Wheels will get you back on the transit track!

DDOT Has New Director

As you may recall last week, newly-elected Detroit Mayor Duggan fired the DDOT (Detroit Department of Transportation) director and hired Dan Dirks. Fun fact - Dirks was one of our first fans - long before this recent announcement. A little bit about Dan - he used to be the general manager of the SMART bus system from 1998 to 2007. He also actually got on the bus to learn about some of the problems with DDOT - thank you! He told reporters on Thursday that DDOT buses will run on time within a month. While that’s a pretty bold statement, we welcome it and will check back in on that statement in mid to late-February.

Another announcement we read this past week announced that Detroit Mayor Duggan plans to *increase* DDOT services. Yes, you read that correctly - INCREASE!!! We’re so used to *decreases* in services from both SMART and DDOT that we had to read and reread the article to confirm that. We’re still a bit amazed!

And the last surprise we learned this week from DDOT is that they have a place on their website, where you can sign up for announcements by email. Whoa?! Does this mean that they’re actually going to share information with the public?! Well, we don’t really know that but what the hell - we definitely signed up and you should, too!

Hertel Steps Down as CEO of the RTA

John Hertel will leave the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and will continue as the general manager of SMART. Is this good or bad? We welcome your comments. 1) We didn’t really understand how he could do both jobs at once. 2) We’re concerned that this compromises the advancement of the RTA. Won’t they have to spend more time finding another CEO? Will that delay the process of getting a millage passed to fund the RTA? If so, will the legislature have to appropriate additional funds (and will they actually do it)? 3) Has Hertel ever used public transportation? For instance, does he use it during his daily commute to the SMART office in Detroit? This is a question we’ve had for a few years now and if someone could answer it, we would greatly appreciate it. 4) What’s going on with the RTA? We’ve heard they’re discussing a bus rapid transit system and that’s great but how will they work to improve communication with existing transit providers (aka DDOT and SMART).

Carmona Leaves M-1

Heather Carmona, who was the chief administrative officer, for M-1 left the transit project Friday. We didn’t see that coming. In other M-1 news, a public hearing is scheduled on Wednesday, January 22 from 5 to 7pm with a presentation at 6pm at the Detroit Public Library Main Branch. Find more information here.

Ummm… that’s a lot of transit news for Detroit. What did we miss?  More importantly, what new should we expect next week?

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's hard to love you, Metro Detroit public transit system.

We’ve been together since December of 2010. You’d think after our 3rd anniversary, you’d start treating me better, Metro Detroit public transit system!

With the polar vortex, we knew that we’d have to be flexible and give ourselves some extra time for bus/bike commuting - more so than our past few winter experiences. This past Friday, I left myself 20 minutes to bike from my house to the Royal Oak Transit Center - a 1.5 mile ride that usually takes me about 10 minutes. It was pretty important that I made the 7:10am Woodward 460 as I had a meeting downtown at 8:15am. I made an assumption, that while it snowed about a half of an inch the night before, most of the polar vortex snow would be moved out of the way. ALAS. Snow piles everywhere. Sidewalks were still a mess. This workout was giving my quads and abs something serious - who needs a spinning class!?

25 minutes into my commute, I had only made it to 11 & Main Street, and I just knew I had missed the bus. Time to head to Woodward and figure out my next option.

As I was biking up 11 Mile, I saw the lights. Those of you regular bus riders know those lights. The orange-yellow lights at the top of the bus.They are a beacon. You will make your work meeting. The bus is here! You will be warm soon! I knew if I busted it and quickly locked up my bike, this could happen. I was right next to the bus, near the back door, my helmet still on, seeing my bike headlight still on and blinking. WHO CARES. I had made the bus and my bike was locked up! My legs burning through that hellish bike commute, sweat running down my face, but now, NOW. The transit gods smile upon me as a reward for my bike commute! And I smiled back. The bus was running late too and our schedules aligned!

And then that damn bus drove away.

My yells, my screams did nothing. Three other bus riders that were closer to the front of the bus kindly chipped in and yelled on my behalf.

The bus just rolled on.
NO, Joumana.
I don’t have a personal injury.
SMART just broke my HEART.

A guttural curse word expelled itself from my body, and it caused the three other bus riders to stop and stare. Holy crap, I may be the subject of another person’s transit blog. Ah well, it’s about time.

I turn on my heel and just started stomping up 11 Mile towards Woodward. The bike and the sidewalks and I need some time apart. Angrily and sweatily drinking my now-cold tea, I cursed out everyone that hasn’t properly managed their snow removal. If only ONE more person had shoveled, I still would have been late but I would have made that bus.

As I’m getting to the corner of 11 Mile & Woodward - I see the lights again! AH! This cannot happen twice in one day, right? This bus and I are one. I make it to the middle of Woodward - one half way across the street - and the bus is waiting at the light. There’s a huge snowbank there and…...I fall. In the time it takes to pick myself up - I know what’s happened. The light has changed. That bus stops, drops someone off, and is gone.

I surrender to you, transit gods. I am not in charge here.

I take out my phone and call the person I was supposed to meet with, and explain we’ll have to reschedule. I take out my breakfast and take the time to enjoy it. Sweat is still dripping off of me, and my hair is frizzing and freezing out as it dries out from my second shower of the day. 20 minutes later, a limited bus rolls up. It’s 7:50, one hour after I left my house, and I had officially gone about 3 miles. Sounds about right with recent commute times around here.

Metro Detroit public transit system, I thought you and I, after our time together, were better than this. After today, I am reminded just how far we still have left to go!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Baby, It’s (F’in) Cold Outside!

I’m going to be honest - it was difficult to get out of bed Monday knowing that I was going to walk through a foot of snow in single digit temperatures with piercing winds to catch a bus across Nine Mile to arrive at my final destination, jury selection. For those with cars, including me, the convenience of my car often prohibits me from biking and using public transportation. And if it wasn't for the blog and the fact that I could write about the experience of taking the bus in the cold, I probably would have started my car and waited for it to warm up. But alas, I walked to the bus stop, which means you’re stuck with another blog post. :)

I was also reminded that while it was my decision to take the bus; for some, there is no choice. People without cars wake up every day and get ready for a variety of weather conditions on their way to bus stops across metro Detroit. Compared to them, I will always be a wimp. BIG cheers to those of you that don’t blink an eye to the weather conditions and deal with our sometimes unreliable transportation system and lack of adequate bus shelters.

Some more cheers and even some jeers to this transit experience:

Cheers to awesome gear that keeps you warm. Specifically, cheers to long underwear, smartwool socks, scarves, hats, warm coats, boots, and gloves/mittens. That’s right - they’re gloves AND mittens!!! It’s the best $20 I ever spent at the Army/Navy store. They’re huge and when I wear them, it looks like I have flappers; however they are two layers of warm goodness. My hands are never cold in these gloves/mittens and I’ve worn them in -27 degree weather while outside for a few consecutive hours. (Why was I outside for a few hours? Snowshoe race on frozen-over Lake Superior. #boom #wisconsintough)

Cheers to businesses and people who shovel their sidewalks right away in the morning. YOU ARE AWESOME!!! Special shout out to the City of Ferndale, who not only made sure the sidewalks were clear, they also plowed the pickup area at the bus stop, which meant I didn't have to tackle walking through a giant pile of snow to get on the bus. JEERS to those that do not shovel sidewalks especially those of you located on busy roads, such as Nine Mile and Woodward. And who’s responsible for the sidewalks on the overpass? Those were brutal.

Cheers to SMART. Surprisingly, both the buses I took were on time. Each bus was roughly ten minutes late. That wasn't bad given the weather. Thank you SMART bus drivers! At the same time, JEERS to SMART. I could not find the bus stop on Nine Mile heading west, close to John R. (Hence why I had to walk in three-feet deep piles of snow on the overpass to the first bus stop, where I saw the sign. Yes, I saw the sign and it opened-up my eyes. #imissaceofbase) Why aren't bus stops properly labeled? Grrr…

Lastly, on this adventure, I regret to inform you that I did not dare take my bike. There was just no way I was getting on the road with cars that were slippin’ and slidin’ and there was definitely no way that I was going to bike successfully on sidewalks. So it was a “one woman, two feet” adventure.