Coming Soon: the Detroit Bus Company’s Newest Transit Innovations

2/20/13Follow @XconomyDET

Andy Didorosi, the founder and CEO of the Detroit Bus Company, is on a mission. Not content to merely revolutionize the city’s transit system, which is in desperate need of fixing, Didorosi is rolling out a new set of innovations over the coming months.

When we went a rollicking ride along on one of Didorosi’s buses last September, he was offering service between Royal Oak and Ferndale, suburbs just to the north of Detroit’s border, and downtown. Didorosi says he’s scrapped that model and is currently testing something closer to a subscription-based service that would allow riders to use a live tracking app and a flexible routing system that, during times of low demand, could pick up riders much like a taxi would.

He says he’s close to launching what he calls HAMDOT, a continuously running loop between city of Hamtramck—an ethnically diverse enclave popular with artists and others seeking cheap rents that Didorosi refers to as “the Vatican City to Detroit’s Rome”—and the New Center, Midtown, and downtown areas. “Nothing is signed yet, but we’re working to design a transit system that Hamtramck needs and wants,” Didorosi explains. “We’re looking at where it would go, when, and we’re approaching Wayne State University about a student incentive program where kids could live in Hamtramck very affordably and hop on our bus.” The goal is to offer the shuttle service every 10 minutes for free or $1 per ride.

Also in the data-collection stage is Didorosi’s Take Back the Commute plan. This would be a route that carries suburban riders to their jobs in downtown Detroit. (Let me take a minute to acknowledge that this might sound headscratchingly simple to a resident of a city with functional public transit. Detroit is not that city. There’s one bus system inside the city limits called DDOT and a separate bus system for the surrounding suburbs called SMART. Incredibly, the two systems don’t coordinate with one another, which makes taking the bus in or out of Detroit a major pain in the ass.)

What Didorosi envisions is giving the hundreds of young professionals who live in the outer suburbs and work downtown for Quicken Loans, Compuware, and the like the ability to opt-out of downtown parking spaces, which are becoming scarce, in favor of a bus service that runs Monday through Friday. “If we make it a really … Next Page »

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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