Meanwhile, the unavailability of a dedicated funding source to support public transit in the region was beginning to take its toll on the suburban SMART bus system. Financial problems at the SMART operation had been mounting since the SEMTA years, and by the arrival of 1994 the transit agency had approached a $7.7 million deficit. This prompted the SMART Board to attempt to seek a dedicated transit tax in 1995 to eliminate its debt within five years. It was decided that a 0.33-mil property tax would be asked of suburban voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
With the millage campaign now in motion to push support for a suburban transit tax to support "suburban" bus service, angry responses were voiced by DDOT and city officials. Evidently, the city had agreed to the route merger plan only if a full-scale merger of DDOT and SMART came next, which would have required a higher-mil "tri-county-wide" property tax. Mayor Archer wanted a larger 0.8-mil tax to be levied in both the city and suburbs to support a merged system. However, it was felt by many SMART and suburban officials that the passage of a tri-county wide tax would be difficult, and opted for the suburban only approach.
According to DDOT Director Albert Martin, in a Detroit Free Press article written at the time, " ...DDOT (had) lost 10,000 daily riders in the joint venture with SMART. ...That translates into an expected loss of nearly $700,000 in fare box revenue by June, the end of the first year."
In the March 6, 1996 edition of The Macomb Daily newspaper, Al Martin was quoted as saying, "We did all this out of goodwill to show our support for a regional system only to have everybody renege on us. That's the thing that really disappoints me."
Because of the decision to abandon a merger with DDOT and seek passage of a tax to continue financing a separate suburban bus system, DDOT officials decided to discontinue its nine month long cooperative agreement with SMART. Consequently, effective Saturday, April 1, 1995, DDOT took back the operation of its #25 E. Jefferson and #37 Michigan routes, while the SMART system resumed operation of its previous routes along Fort and John R. streets. As a result, another attempt (one of many since 1967) to merge the city and suburban bus operations had once again resulted in failure.
Shortly after entering office in January of 1994, Detroit's new mayor, Dennis W. Archer, attempted to fulfill one of his campaign promises of merging the DDOT (city) and SMART (suburban) bus operations. His first attempt resulted in a pilot program where duplicate bus operations along E. Jefferson, Michigan, John R. and Fort streets would merge, resulting in only one of the agencies providing the service along a particular route. The Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) bus system would operate all of the bus routes along Michigan and Jefferson avenues, while the city-run DDOT system would operate the service along Fort Street and John R.
Beginning Saturday, June 25, 1994, the DDOT routes #25 E. Jefferson and #37 Michigan would be coordinated into the SMART system, while the suburban SMART routes #125/130 Fort Street-Detroit, #150 Taylor-Detroit (which also operated along Fort St) and the #495 John R. would fall under the operation of the city-owned DDOT bus system.
It had been anticipated that merging the bus routes would save the systems money because service along these routes were virtually duplicated by DDOT and SMART,...especially within the city of Detroit. According to then SMART interim general manager and deputy Wayne County Executive Michael Duggan, "...sometimes SMART and DDOT buses are traveling bumper to bumper up Jefferson. We're paying for two sets of drivers, two sets of mechanics."
Officials had also discussed plans for possibly merging the DDOT and SMART maintenance facilities. If the pilot program of merging these routes proved successful, officials from both agencies next planned to fully merge the two operations. However, there was a slight down side to this coordinated service for some of SMART's patrons. Some suburban riders who used SMART routes into Detroit during the off-peak hours now found that their lines were all "local." These routes now picked-up passengers in both the suburbs and the city, instead of express (or "limited") operations within the city limits, thus increasing travel time.
During this DDOT/SMART coordinated service arrangement, those DDOT coaches at that time which came equipped with the computerized digital route signs were re-programed to display the #125/130 Fort, #150 Taylor and #495 Woodward-John R. route destinations. Since only the recently purchased (1992) #3000-3100-series "high-floor" NewFlyer and the (1989) #2000–series MCI (Canada) "Classic" coaches came equipped with the digital signs, these coaches were heavily used on these former SMART routes. Window signs had to be used on the older "RTS" coaches whenever they were assigned to these routes, since they still used the old sign-curtain roll signs.
|The following maps show those bus routes operated by DDOT during the short-lived route consolidation agreement with SMART.
|This map shows those routes followed by the
#19 Fort and the #125/130 Fort Street-Detroit routes
which were operated by DDOT during its 1994-95
joint venture with SMART.
|The map below shows the two routes followed
along Woodward Avenue by DDOT coaches
during the 1994 consolidated route agreement.
While one branch followed along the regular
#53 Woodward route, the other followed the
SMART route #495 John R. along John R. Street.
|The map below shows the route of the SMART
#150 Taylor-Detroit when operated by DDOT during
the 1994-95 agreement with SMART.
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|Above routes operated under D-DOT
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and around the City of Detroit.