DDOT bus drivers refusing to drive routes with coronavirus concerns; service shut down

Drivers say amount of passengers on bus is breaking governor order, CDC recommendation

The drivers say the health of drivers and passengers is at risk.

DETROIT – There are Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) bus drivers refusing to drive routes Tuesday morning due to coronavirus concerns.

UPDATE: Mayor Duggan: DDOT bus rides will be free, service to resume Wednesday

UPDATE April 2, 2020: DDOT bus driver dies from coronavirus

The drivers say they have concerns about the pandemic that are not being addressed. They are citing the Michigan governor’s order that disallows more than 50 people in a gathering at a time and the CDC’s recommendation that no more than 10 people gather at a time.

“(The CDC) already said not more than 10 people in a setting. I carry 75 people at a time, on a bus yesterday standing up around me. No hand sanitizer, no gloves from the department,” said Schetrone Collier, a DDOT bus driver.

Not a single bus had left the Wabash Street garage on Detroit’s west side as of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday. It was a similar scene at the St. Jean garage on the east side.

Service shut down Tuesday

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced DDOT bus service will be shut down Tuesday. This is due to the driver shortage. Duggan said the drivers expressed concerns including the health of passengers, the cleanliness of buses and how they have lost access to public restrooms.

“The drivers have raised three issues ... first is, they’re obviously concerned for their health with the number of people they are interacting with, particularly as people are putting fares in as they gather near the front and get on and off the bus,” said Duggan. “The second is whether the cleaning is being done thoroughly enough. And third is that the drivers yesterday lost their restroom break site at restaurants and hospitals at the end of their routes, and found themselves unable to wash up and use restrooms as they came back.”

Duggan said he wished the issues would have been brought up Monday night, but now he’s working to address them as quickly as possible.

“I’m going to go to work on all three, and see if we can get it worked out,” he said. “Right now the drivers aren’t going out, and I’m going to go sit with them for as long as it takes and until they’re comfortable to go back.”

Operating at less than 10%

DDOT said earlier Tuesday morning that the department was operating with fewer than 10 percent of its buses.

“The Detroit Department of Transportation wishes to let passengers know that due to a driver shortage this morning, fewer than 10% of DDOT buses are operating at this time. We are asking passengers to seek other forms of transportation while we work to address our drivers’ concerns,” reads a statement from the department.

SMART bus changes

SMART bus service is continuing. However, as of Tuesday morning, the SMART Downtown Transit Center and Royal Oak Transit Center will be closed until further notice.

Meanwhile, SMART bus services are offering free fares on all services to eliminate the need for passengers to interact with fareboxes and to maintain greater distance from drivers. Free services include Fixed Route, FAST, Connector, Shuttles, Dial-A-Ride and ADA until further notice.

Though services are continuing, fixed route bus service reductions will occur soon due to a decline in ridership, SMART said. The reduced bus service will maintain existing routes and similar hours of service with a reduced frequency, according to officials. SMART will notify the public with details prior to reducing service on their website here.

Furthermore, passengers boarding and deboarding Fixed Route and FAST service will only be allowed through the rear door with the exception of wheelchair passengers and others who require the bus to kneel. These individuals can board and deboard through the front door. All ADA rules and guidelines will still apply during this time, SMART said.

SMART is also increasing cleaning efforts and deploying “bus cleaning teams” at key layover locations to sanitize high touch areas on the vehicles, officials said. Employees will continue their nightly cleaning routines in addition to more frequent cleaning to help prevent the spread of the virus.

About the Authors:

Nick joined the Local 4 team in February of 2015. Prior to that he spent 6 years in Sacramento covering a long list of big stories including wildfires and earthquakes. Raised in Sterling Heights, he is no stranger to the deep history and pride Detroit has to offer.

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.