Local 4 takes ride on crowded Detroit bus

DDOT riders clearly upset with wait time, safety, crowded buses

By Paula Tutman - Reporter

DETROIT - On some, not all, but on some Detroit Department of Transportation busses Monday there were new faces and new uniforms.

They are "Guardian Angels" who say they want to be a visible crime deterrent.

"So when criminals or people who have intent to commit a crime, whether it's to a passenger or a transit employee, see the Guardian Angels on the bus they'll think twice," said Miguel Fuentes, of the Guardian Angels.

Local 4 boarded a DDOT bus about 11:30 a.m. at the Rosa Parks Transit Center in downtown Detroit -- the city's bus hub. There were no red berets, but there were plenty of opinions on what has to be done to make buses safer for both the drivers and the passengers.

One thing commonly heard: There are a few really bad apples who ride the bus -- drug addicts, drunks and trouble makers -- but those people are few and far between.

The common denomination we heard over and over again was frustration. The wait time -- and then the fuse lit as the bus got more and more crowded.

We rode a 15-mile route from the Transit Center to 7 Mile Road and back. On the last leg we watched the driver juggle compassion, humor, discipline and defense. On Monday, most of the driver's fares rode free -- the fare box was broken.

However, Michael Child's was glad because it made what was for some a 2-hour wait for a bus a little better -- $1.50 better.

Yet, as the bus got more and more crowded the temperature rose and so did the tempers. Some, already late for whatever was waiting for them, became impatient and started screaming at the bus driver. He would scream back. But what if it was you standing in the cold?

Packed like sardines, each new body became a burden, not a person, but an invasion of personal space. Passengers had to get off the bus just to make room for someone to leave. When it was too crowded, the bus driver had to blow by the stop. You could see the anger in the faces.

It took us from 11:30 a.m. to 1:41 p.m. to travel a 15-mile loop. That's 2 hours and 11 minutes. We could see anger levels rising the longer we rode.

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