Oct 6, 2022 - News

Proposed paratransit contracts include oft-criticized Transdev

Illustration of a transit map marked with scribbles.

Photo Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Map: Detroit Department of Transportation

Detroit has said it wants to update its much-maligned transit service for residents with disabilities, but there's concern the latest potential change may just mean more of the same.

Why it matters: Cities are legally required to run paratransit services to help people who cannot access mass transit get around. Riders get picked up by a driver in an accessible vehicle.

The big picture: Transportation is a top concern among people with disabilities in Southeast Michigan, according to the local nonprofit Transportation Riders United.

  • It's often cited among reasons for a higher unemployment rate and less economic opportunity among those populations.
  • But paratransit in this region simply does not work effectively, Lisa Franklin, founder of Warriors on Wheels, told Annalise last year for Crain's Detroit Business.

Flashback: Transit executive director Mikel Oglesby said in March that the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) planned to solve problems by managing its own program in-house, instead of having Transdev manage it, and only contract out the part where companies physically provide rides.

  • That decision came after City Council approved a one-year extension to Transdev's contract in 2021, despite member concerns.
  • Oglesby said last year he was aware of the insufficiencies and that the department would take the year to lay out a "different," better solution.

The latest: The city is proposing new contracts as it makes changes in an effort to improve service — but they still feature Transdev.

  • Under two five-year contracts headed to a City Council committee Monday, Transdev would provide 70% of rides per year for $49.2 million.
  • Whitmore Lake-based People's Express would provide the other 30% for $15.9 million.
  • The contracts require City Council approval.

What they're saying: "We are in the process of creating a robust paratransit department based on the concerns of the community," the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) said in a statement to Axios.

  • These contracts are just "a portion of the detailed plan that also involves hiring proper staff, setting up systems, scheduling operations …"

Yes, but: "If they are largely going back with the same contractor … how are they making sure we aren't stuck with the same bad service for the next five years?" TRU executive director Megan Owens tells Axios.


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