DETROIT TRANSIT HISTORY
DETROIT TRANSIT HISTORY
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THE HISTORY OF THE PAPER TRANSFER IN THE CITY OF DETROIT
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© 2009  (PAGE LAST MODIFIED ON 07-20-08)
This DSR Fourteenth Street streetcar to bus transfer was issued on May 23, 1942. In 1942, streetcar
transfers were .01¢, while bus transfers were "Free." However, the above streetcar to coach transfer
cost .04¢ to account for the difference between the .06¢ streetcar fare and the .10¢ bus fare.
(Transfer courtesy of the S. Sycko Transfer Collection)
The history of the transit transfer in Detroit dates back to at least the early 1880's, back when the former Detroit City
Railway Company
operated horse-drawn railcars along the city's streets. Originally referred to as "change-off" tickets,
these transfers allowed passengers on the company's Gratiot, Michigan or Woodward lines to board the company's
Jefferson streetcar to the city's two railroad depots, while still only having to pay the single .05¢ fare. The only transfer
point was at Woodward and Jefferson. Because most of Detroit's street railway lines back then were owned by different
companies, any transferring between the other various routes was basically nonexistent. With the exception of
Detroit
City Railway
, most companies held a franchise for only one route.

During the 1880's, Detroit City Railway would add new lines and acquire a number of the competing companies and  
their routes. By April 1889, the company had adopted a "check transfer system" which granted a crosstown ride for a
single fare. One of the earliest city ordinances regarding transfers dates to the early 1890's, which granted permission to
the company's successor—Detroit Citizens Street Railway—to allow passengers on its Cass and Third, Trumbull,
Michigan and Congress and Baker lines to transfer to the Fort street line (which, by the way, was owned by another
company) for a single fare of .05¢.

During the early years all transfers were free. The first time a fee was charged Detroiters for a transfer began on May 31,
1921 when the
Detroit United Railway (DUR) began charging a .01¢ fee for its transfers. However, the city took the
DUR to court, and the next month the free transfer returned. But a compromise with the city returned the transfer fare
to .01¢, when the DUR's streetcar fare was lowered from .6¢ to .05¢, effective June 19, 1921.

Meanwhile, the city's smaller competing Municipal Operation continued to issue free transfers on its lines. However,
beginning December 15, 1921, joint service between the MO and the DUR began on four major lines, with the MO also
charging .01¢ on those routes.  lThe .01¢ transfer fee remained after the city-owned DSR took over streetcar
operations in 1922. However, when the DSR launched its bus division in 1925, all transfers between bus lines were free
-- although bus fare was .10¢ compared to .06¢ on a streetcar. Transfers from streetcar to bus was .04¢. This fare
structure would remain in effect for over twenty years.

Beginning on January 1, 1946, the streetcar and bus fares became a uniform .10¢ and transfers were again free on all
lines. The free transfer remained in effect until March 17, 1958, when transfers were increased to .05¢. Since then, the
charge for transfers on city buses has risen twice -- from .10¢, beginning on July 1, 1981, to the current .25¢, which
took effect on June 25, 1994.

The appearance of the transfer has undergone a few changes as well. During the 1940's additional revenue was
obtained by the DSR from advertisements, ranging from candy to Pepsi-Cola, that could be found on the back-sides of
transfers. For a number of years, beginning under the DSR, four different paper colors were used to immediately
identify the direction of the line from which the transfer was issued. The various paper colors were later replaced by
DDOT in 1975 with a printed color bar to identify the transfer direction. But by 1978 the color bar had also been
removed. Of course, who can forget those monthly "date-punched" transfers issued once a month by DDOT from
1978 thru 1981.


Yes, the transfer in Detroit has indeed evolved over the past 120 plus years. But the end of the old era is about to
come upon us in the name of progress. The new DDOT magnetic transfer cards will include both the activation
date/time and the expiration date/time printed on the transfer when fare is paid. The passenger will just slide the transfer
through the farebox's magnetic reader upon boarding.

DDOT plans to implement its new payment system, including the magnetic transfer cards, on February 1, 2007.Well
folks, it looks like if things go as planned the 'ol paper transfer as we know it today will soon become a thing of the past.
In early 2007 DDOT plans to install new fareboxes on all it coaches that will generate their own magnetic transfer cards.
These transfer cards will be dispensed directly from the farebox unit.
The unique website which takes a detailed look back at the History of Public Transportation in
and around the City of Detroit.