Metro Detroit gas prices are up, but public transit costs are the same: A look at options

Bus routes, trains, bikes, scooters and more available through SE Michigan

FAST SMART Bus. (SMART Bus)

Gas prices are through the roof around the U.S., and in Michigan, but the cost of using public transportation hasn’t changed. Most may not even realize the options that are available to them.

So we thought we would lay out some of the public transit options around town, if you’re looking to cut down on your gas usage. Here’s a look at some of the best options in the Detroit-area from Transportation Riders United, a nonprofit working to improve public transit in Metro Detroit.

SMART Bus

  • SMART buses provide local and cross-county bus service in the suburbs of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties, plus commuter service into Detroit
  • Provides door-to-door paratransit for seniors and people with disabilities
  • Provides nearly 30,000 rides a day to commuters, seniors, and people without other options
  • Paid for by a 1 mil property tax voted for and paid for by member communities
  • SMART Fast Bus routes connected the suburbs with Downtown Detroit and the airport -- check the schedules here.
  • The SMART Flex System also operates like an on-demand service, like Uber, that costs $2-$8 per ride in designated flex zones.

DDOT Bus

  • Detroit DOT buses provide local bus service throughout the City of Detroit and to a few neighboring cities
  • Contracts MetroLift door-to-door paratransit for seniors and people with disabilities
  • Provides nearly 100,000 rides a day, many to people with no other option
  • A department of the City of Detroit, paid for with Detroit general fund dollars

QLINE Streetcar

  • Modern streetcar service along 3.3 miles of Woodward Avenue through downtown and midtown Detroit
  • Developed by private M-1 Rail and funded mostly through donations from corporations and foundations and federal grants
  • The Q-Line is currently free to use through the spring.

FYI: SMART, DDOT & QLINE all use the DART system. $2 = 4-hour pass, $5 = 24-hour pass. Weekly and monthly passes also available. Riders can pay with cash, prepaid passes or with the DART Mobile App.

Southeast Michigan is also served by:

  • AAATA The Ride (Ann Arbor area bus system)
  • AirRide connects Lansing, Brighton, Ann Arbor and DTW.
  • Detroit Connector (UofM: Detroit – Dearborn – Ann Arbor bus -- currently suspended)
  • Transit Windsor (Windsor bus system)
  • Amtrak (Detroit/state/national train system)
  • MegaBus (Detroit/state/national bus system)
  • MoGo (short term bike rentals)
  • E-Scooter rentals – Bird, Lime, Spin, Link and Boaz
  • Ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber
  • D2A2 is a direct hourly commuter bus between Detroit and Ann Arbor that is grant funded through the RTA. Costs $8 walkup, $6 in advance. Departs from Park Street in Grand Circus & Blake Transit Center.
  • The Detroit People Mover -- which is currently not in operation.

Another great resource is Transit Guide Detroit -- started by David Gifford back in 2016 to help educate people on how to use public transit in the Detroit area. He helped build this article, so thanks to David!

The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan has tried multiple times in the last five years to advance plans to expand public transportation options, but they were either not approved by voters or never made it to the ballot. A new plan is expected soon.


About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.