|When the first completed portion of the John C. Lodge Expressway opened along a six-tenths of a
mile section between Holden and Pallister, the Hamilton Express would become the first DSR bus
route to operate along a Detroit expressway. The above photo, taken on Monday, December 4, 1950,
shows a southbound Hamilton Express bus operating on its first day of expressway service. A New
York Central "steam-engine" locomotive can also be seen using the railroad overpass near Holden.
(Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University photo #28899 — used with permission)
|THE HISTORY OF EXPRESSWAY BUS
SERVICE IN DETROIT
(The Motor City's answer to "Rapid Transit")
Express route had already become the DSR's first express route to operate along an expressway, after its coaches were
routed onto a short half-mile completed stretch of the John Lodge Expressway, which began on Monday, December 4,
1950. The Hamilton Express was gradually extended along the Lodge to Bagley by September, 1954.l But it wasn't until
after the first completed portion of the Edsel Ford-John Lodge Interchange opened, on January 18, 1955,l that more
of these express buses would begin to utilize the city's newly built expressways to transport passengers into downtown.
On January 31, 1955, the Plymouth Express became the first express route to use both the John C. Lodge and Edsel
The completion of 'most' of the John C. Lodge Expressway from downtown to the Wyoming curve in late 1957 would
help launch what DSR officials had hoped would become a new phase in Detroit expressway bus operation. l According to
the publication, "Detroit's DSR, Part 3" by Jack E. Schramm (Motor Coach Age — May-June 1993 edition), an express
bus service of a different kind was inaugurated on Monday, May 26, 1958. This new expressway bus route would operate
mostly over the John C. Lodge Expressway and the connecting James Couzens Highway to Seven Mile andl Inkster
Road. It would be considered the "grandiose" of all DSR express bus service. Hence, the new express line would be called,
the "IMPERIAL NORTHWEST EXPRESS." Although obviously not the first DSR express route to utilize the city's new
expressway system, it was by far the longest.
|EXPRESSWAY BUS OPERATION THROUGH THE YEARS:
Down through the years only a limited number of express routes have operated along the Detroit freeway system. While
the Fenkell, Hamilton, Imperial and Plymouth Express buses would continue to use the John Lodge Freeway, the
Second Blvd. and the John R.-Oakland Express buses would begin using the recently completed Walter P. Chrysler
(I-75) Freeway. The John R.-Oakland Express (renamed Oakland Express in 1973) began using the I-75 freeway on
June 20, 1969, while the Second (W. McNichols) Express began its freeway service on January 17, 1972. Perhaps the
most unusual express route of them all was the DDOT Route #71, Crosstown Express (via West Warren Ave.), which
traveled via West Warren and Grand River during the morning rush, but would use the I-375, I-75 and I-96 freeways
to West Warren Avenue on its evening return trip to Rouge Park.
During the late seventies, when the city's express bus era was coming to a close, as many as twenty express routes were
still in operation. Only seven of these routes, however, operated over the city's freeways. Today, only three regular DDOT
"Limited" bus routes remain, with only two lines — the Imperial Limited and the Plymouth (local) — utilizing the city's
freeway system. I guess one might rightly say, they're the last two remaining reminders of what was once promoted to be
the city's most economically feasible alternative to building mass transit.
Information for the above article compiled from Detroit Free Press articles "And Now (Wowie!) DSR Bus Hostesses" (May 26, 1958), "DSR Glamor Bus Rolls
into Town" (May 27, 1958), The Detroit News article "DSR Riders Gripe, Some May Boycott Expresses" (May 26, 1958), Detroit's DSR, Part 3 by Jack E.
Schramm (May-June 1993 MCA), and other numerous sources. Express bus route's effective dates courtesy of "DSR BUS ROUTES, 1945-1975" (May-June 1993
edition of Motor Coach Age magazine).
Virtual Motor City Collection photo #28899 used by permission of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University.
All rights, including those of further reproduction and/or publication, are reserved in full by the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University. Photographic
reproductions may be protected by U.S. copyright law (U.S. Title 17). The user is fully responsible for copyright infringement.
|For Comments and/or Suggestions, Please contact Site Owner at: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2007 (PAGE LAST MODIFIED ON 12-06-09)
|By the end of 1954,l ten express bus
lines were being operated by the DSR.
Almost all basically mimicked the city's
major streetcar and bus routes. These
"Express buses" would make l local
(boarding only) stops along l outlying
areas of the city, but would then begin
"limited"l service between designated
points along the route.l These coaches
would then operate an on-street, non-
stop "express" service to downtown,
which usually began at the Boulevard.
During evenings,l the outbound buses
usually followed in the reverse.
Meanwhile, the completion of both the
John C. Lodge and Edsel B. Ford
Expressways during the mid-1950's
would help to launch a DSR campaign
to help win back some of its lostl riders
by providing so-called "rapid transit"
bus service. This type of service would
attempt to use expressway buses that
would operate alongl both of the city's
newly built expressways.
Prior to the completion of the John C.
Lodge Expressway, the Hamilton
|During the 1950's, the DSR — along with proponents from the
rubber-tired transportation industry — would promote the DSR's
new expressway buses as "a superior type of rapid transit."
(GM photo courtesy of Tom's Trolley Bus Pictures--Detroit)
B. Ford Expressways. The newly launched Plymouth Express
service operated along Plymouth Road, between Outer Drive and
Wyoming, then traveled south along Wyoming to McGraw,lwhere
it would access the Ford and begin its expressway service.l Stops
at two speciall"rapid transit" loading stations incorporated into the
Ford Expressway, at both Livernois and Grand River, were also
included along the route. The buses would then whisk passengers
along the expressway to the new Ford-Lodge interchange, where
the coaches would enter the Lodge Expressway to continue its
inbound trip into downtown. (see video clip below)
However, effective Monday, November 21, 1955,l the Plymouth
Express routing via Wyoming, McGraw, and the Ford and Lodge
Expressways was reassigned to a new Joy Road Expressl route,
while Plymouth Express coaches werell instead rerouted further
east along the entire Plymouth local route. Its express buses now
entered the Lodge Expressway at Webb.
In an energetic attempt to provide its riders withl "rapid transit"
service through the use of expressway buses,l additional express-
way routes were launched as more segments of the expressways
were completed. l Beginning in February, 1955, the Ford and the
Lodge Expressways were being used by both the Dexter and
Grand River Express routes — with both lines now entering the
Ford via Maybury Grand (just west of Grand River).l But this new
expressway routing for both routes was later discontinuedll in late
1956, after not proving to be much faster than the local service.
On November 7, 1957, the new Fenkell Express bus route was
launched after sections south of the Davison Expressway were
completed.l The Fenkell Express would operate via the John C.
Lodge Expressway, from Davison to downtown.
|"DSR Glamor Bus Rolls into Town"|
|This photo, which appeared in the Tuesday, May 27, |
1958, edition of the Detroit Free Press, shows a DSR
employee vacuuming the red carpeting used on the
inaugural bus of the DSR's new Imperial Northwest
Express bus route.
Two Detroit Free Press articles at the time,l dated May 26 and 27,l wrote
on how the DSR went all out to inaugurate its new "Imperial Northwest
Express" bus line. The first bus literally rolled out the red carpet, complete
with pretty hostesses, free rides and refreshments, and, of course, the big
wigs from City Hall.
Seated on board that inaugural bus was Detroit Mayor Louis C.l Miriani,
members of the Detroit Street Railway Commission, general manager
of the DSR Leo J. Nowicki, a group of northwest-side businessmen, and
other civic leaders. l In addition to the current Miss DSR passing out free
doughnuts, milk and orange juice to all of the passengers, the first bus on
the Imperial line was even laid-out with thick, red carpeting on the floor.
During the first two days of its operation, bus rides on the new express line
were free, with the current and former "pretty Miss DSR bus hostesses"
passing out milk, fruit juice, doughnuts, potato chips and chewing gum,
and "smiled sweetly" as they greeted the DSR patrons who tried out the
The new Seven Mile express would become the DSR's longest express line,
with one round trip covering 35 miles. The buses traveled along W. Seven
Mile from Inkster Road;l then along the scenic James Couzens Highway
and the recently completed John C. Lodge Expressway, ending at the
City-County Building downtown — all in less than 55 minutes! The DSR
promised that the service from the end of the line to downtown would be
20 minutes faster than previous local service. Coaches would operate daily,
every 10 minutes during the rush hours and every 30 minutes the rest of
The fare ranged from 45¢ at the end of the line to 25¢ nearer downtown.
This fare was based on a new express zone fare system the DSR had put
into effect on all its express routes that same day. However, the zone fare system was withdrawn shortly afterwards, after
it had been pointed out that the DSR had failed to seek the proper channels for its approval. The express fare would then
return to the previous fare of a flat quarter.
Although expressway bus service had been heavily promoted by the DSR during the years following WWII as the better
and more economical alternative to building light rail lines within the city's expressway grid, it soon proved to be more of a
headache than an alternative. Since proposed 'bus only' freeway lanes were never built, buses were often delayed in traffic
tie-ups along the expressways. The few "Rapid Transit" passenger boarding stations that were built along the Edsel Ford
Expressway were rarely used, and the push toward adding additional "Rapid Transit" bus routes across the expressway
system diminished, as the ridership numbers never materialized. Although the Joy Road Express buses continued to use
the Ford and Lodge Freeways for some years, that service too was eventually withdrawn. Freeway service for the Joy
Road Express was discontinued, and its buses rerouted into downtown via Michigan Avenue, effective October 3, 1965.
|During the mid-1950's the GMC Truck & Coach Division
of General Motors produced a promotional film
promoting the use of motor buses on city expressways,
with the primary focus, of course, on the use of GM
buses. The film was entitled "Let's Go To Town." One
of the cities featured in this presentation was the city of
Detroit. A few excerpts from that GM film, produced in
1955, are featured in our video clip, which looks at how
the DSR's new Plymouth Express service made use of
Detroit's new expressway system.
(NOTE: Video should download momentarily and begin "auto-start" play)
|Video-clip duration: 02:14
|VIDEO: D.S.R. PLYMOUTH EXPRESS SERVICE
|The original Plymouth Express route operated via Plymouth,
Wyoming, McGraw, Wier, Edsel Ford Expressway, John Lodge
Expressway, Bagley, Cass, and State to Washington Blvd.
THE LAUNCHING OF THE "IMPERIAL NORTHWEST EXPRESS" BUS ROUTE:
|(Photo source: 1958 DSR Annual Report – Courtesy of the Stan Sycko Collection)
|This 1955 photo looks north along the John C. Lodge Expressway at the Edsel B. Ford Expressway Interchange. During the
1950s and '60s a number of DSR express routes began using the city's new expressways into and out of the downtown area.
(Photo source: 1955 DSR Annual Report – Courtesy of the Stan Sycko Collection)
|The unique website which takes a detailed look back at the History of Public Transportation in
and around the City of Detroit.
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