The tradeoff in Detroit transportation is time or money. Using public transportation in the city can take twice as much time as traveling by car, and auto insurance rates put Detroit among the most expensive cities for drivers.

Detroiters need to travel far for scarce jobs, and it takes longer to get to work on the bus. Documenter Paul Warner, a devoted transit user for three decades and a Detroit Documenter, interviewed several riders as he was documenting this November. People typically spent hours getting across the city to and from work, much longer than it would take to drive.

Access to jobs is one of the most common transit concerns raised by Detroiters. Here at Outlier, we’ll be spending the next year reporting on this and other needs for a thriving transportation system that lets all Detroiters get where they need to go. Read more here

All the riders Warner interviewed said they would prefer to have a car, a finding backed by a study out of the University of Michigan. That research found Detroiters prioritize lowering the cost of car insurance over improving public transportation. Other research found Detroiters would be willing to support a public transit system that was reliable and reached into the city’s neighborhoods more — and that they want a more walkable city. DDOT has cut back on routes and service over the last several years.

Transportation is likely a cause of the Detroit Public Schools Community District’s 30% chronic absentee rate, meaning only 70% of students in the district are regularly showing up at school.

Detroiters have been speaking up about the consequences when DDOT buses are late or don’t show

“Five of the 11 riders I spoke with said they had waited at least two hours for bus service, causing panic, fear and distrust,” wrote Documenter Alina J. Johnson. Many DDOT “riders use the bus daily for school, shopping, work and to travel for everyday tasks, including paying bills,” she continued.

Documenter Heather Alder waited with other riders for a late bus on a Saturday. 

“One rider asked the driver why he was late to be told the bus broke down,” she wrote. “Whispers were heard saying, ‘these old buses are always breaking down.’”

We want to know more about how a lack of transportation is keeping Detroiters from meeting their goals. Share your experience here

Sarah (she/her) believes the best local reporting is a service, responds directly to community needs and reduces harm. Her favorite place in Detroit is her backyard on a summer evening.