Today was the culmination of Challenge Detroit’s most recent social impact project. My team was partnered with EcoWorks and West Village Association to form a mobility strategy that would promote alternative forms of transit and alleviate traffic in the West Village neighborhood.

A “mobility strategy” sounds pretty fancy, but it really just describes the ways in which we move ourselves from one place to another. For many, this means getting in your car and driving to wherever you’d need to go. The classic love story of Detroit and automobiles.

One of the ways my team aimed to promote more sustainable modes of transit was by advocating for bus usage. Currently, the bus system in the city gets a bad rap–late buses, irregular schedules, schedules that don’t fit a person’s life, bus stops that are inconvenient to get to. This feedback comes after improvements that have been made to the routes in the last several years. In community meetings and interviews, my team asked people what prevents them from taking the bus. Folks spoke of inconvenience, a lack of knowledge on how to navigate the maps, and nervousness about safety at bus stops. One resident of West Village remarked that transit will not change unless there are riders of choice rather than mostly riders of need that use these resources.

It’s a catch 22…people say the buses need to be improved before they choose to ride them, but since less people ride the bus there doesn’t seem to be a need for funding from a bird’s eye view of the situation.

In theory, riding the bus makes sense. You save money on gas, car maintenance, you don’t have to find parking, you meet new people. Just look at artist Rachel Reynolds’ work. Her observational artwork done while riding Detroit buses is beautiful.


All of this sounds peachy until I’m running late to work, church or a friends’ house and I get in my car and jettison over. Because it’s faster. Because it’s convenient. I hadn’t even ridden a Detroit bus until this challenge when my team navigated the system in order to see how things really worked. Since the bus system is learning by doing, you kind of just need to jump into the water and learn to swim. So swim we did.

And we decided it’d be best to take some steps to help other people get on the bus too. We made some simple graphics for bus routes in West Village.

This prototype signage is meant to be laminated and zip-tied to bus sign posts as a low-cost, simple way to promote riding the bus.

As it turns out, riding the bus is not as complicated as the current signage makes it seem. Especially if you have a smart phone. All you need to do is Google your destination and click on the bus icon and it will tell you the bus route number you’re looking for. You go to that stop and wait. You can even text your location to 50464 to see when the next DDOT bus is arriving! If you’re riding within the city limits, you’re going to look for DDOT buses, which have green and yellow lines. SMART buses, which go between suburbs and also to the city, have red and orange lines. DDOT bus rides cost $1.50, and 25 cents to transfer a route. You don’t get change, so bring the exact cost. You can also purchase a bus pass for monthly or yearly use. SMART rides cost $2.00 with a 25 cent addition for transfers. Once you’re almost at your stop to get off the bus, pull the cord near the window to let the driver know you want to exit.

Bus riding can sound confusing at first…but so was driving a car, and you probably are a pretty good driver now, right?! It’s a learning experience. If you would like to ride the bus but don’t want to navigate those waters alone, contact me and I will ride with you! We can have an adventure together. Or even just grab a coffee.


How to Ride the Bus