The Eight Mile West bus line can definitely go down in Detroit transit history as a route that
had many lives, although most of them were short-lived. Interestingly, the existence of a
West Eight Mile bus line seemed to henge upon which route the DSR decided to assign to
its Conant or Conant-W. Eight Mile bus routes.
THE EARLY D.S.R. YEARS:
The existence of bus service along Eight Mile actually owes its beginnings to the success of the Ford
Motor Company Highland Park Assembly Plant, the birthplace of the Model T and the $5-a-day
wage. As the population in the newly acquired territory along the city's north-end began to boom as a
result of the Ford plant, the demand arose to provide better service to the plant from that area, which
up until then had been unserviced by public transportation.
On Sunday, November 16, 1924, the DSR launched its Eight Mile Road bus line. This was actually
the third bus line to be put into operation under the DSR, being launched prior to the start of the
department's motor coach division. Since the DSR had no buses at the time, service along Eight Mile
was operated under contract arrangement with the Detroit Morotbus Company. However, after the
launching of the DSR's Motor Coach Division on January 1, 1925, and as more buses became
available, the DSR took over operation of the line on June 22, 1925.
The original Eight Mile route operated from Woodward and Manchester in Highland Park to West
Eight Mile and Turner, west of Livernois. On April 5, 1925, the route was extended to Wyoming, but
now terminated at the State Fairgrounds, where it connected with the Woodward streetcar line, which
had now been extended to the Fairgrounds. Aside from a brief interruption in service in 1933, the
Eight Mile line would continue to operate until it was replaced by the extension of the Conant line to
Eight Mile and Wyoming on February 15, 1937.
WORLD WAR-II YEARS:
The next existence of the Eight Mile West began on June 1, 1942, when it operated as the Eight
Mile West Shuttle. The line operated from the Fairgrounds and traveled via Woodward and Eight
Mile Road to Schaefer and W. Eight Mile. The shuttle's only hours of operation were during evenings
and Sundays —- as it replaced a portion of the Woodward bus route (the former Woodward Delux*
route) during that line's non-operating hours.
However — just four weeks later — on June 29, 1942, the shuttle would become a full time bus route,
and was renamed Eight Mile West. It replaced the Eight Mile branch of the Woodward coach line
—- which had branches along Seven and Eight Mile Roads. The Woodward bus service had been
discontinued after the Office of Defence Transportation (ODT) banned bus lines that duplicated
streetcar routes. The purpose was to help conserve gasoline and rubber during the war. This new
bus line was launched to continue the service along Eight Mile. Effective September 8th, service was
extended to Eight Mile and Lahser. But after two years the Eight Mile West line was discontinued —
effective June 14, 1944 — after the Conant route was once again extended along Eight Mile, creating
the Conant-Eight Mile West bus line.
THE POST-WAR YEARS:
The Eight Mile Shuttle service was again resurrected on Sunday, July 18, 1948, after the Conant-
Eight Mile line was cut back to Meyers Road. The 4-½ mile long shuttle route operated along Eight
Mile, from Meyers to Lahser. Although the shuttle would operate a few years longer than the route
that precessed it, its fate would be the same. Effective April 24, 1953, the Eight Mile Shuttle was
also discontinued and again replaced by an extension of the Conant-Eight Mile West route.
But the Eight Mile West route wasn't dead yet. Effective October 29, 1956, service began along
Eight Mile Road from the Northland Shopping Center to Eight Mile and Inkster Road (near Grand
River). However, on April 1, 1957, the line was extended south along Beech Road (present day Beech
Daly) to Joy Road (six miles to the south), and was renamed Eight Mile–Beech Road. But this short–
lived route was discontinued in just over two months, with the portion along Eight Mile Road again
being replaced by the Conant–Eight Mile line, effective on June 20, 1957. The Conant line would
continue to service W. Eight Mile Road, from the Fairgrounds Loop to Lahser, until its Eight Mile Road
operation was replaced in June of 1980 by the extension of the former #17 Eight Mile East line along
West Eight Mile Road.
THE FINAL YEARS:
That final resurrection of the Eight Mile West would occur on April 1, 1960, when the Eight Mile
West would replace a portion of the former Five Points bus route. This new route now operated from
McNichols at Rockdale, via McNichols, Lahser, and W. Eight Mile, to Eight Mile and Grand River (just
past Inkster Road). Although ridership was light, the Eight Mile West line would continue to operate
as a separate line for nearly six-and-a-half years. The line was discontinued for the last time on
September 7, 1966, however, this time it was replaced by the Imperial Express line, where it
continued as an Imperial "Seven Mile" Express off-peak hour shuttle well into the DDOT years
(with peak-hour branch trips via Lahser and Eight Mile Road). Today, route #78 Imperial Limited still
operates a few peak-hour branch trips along the former Eight Mile West route, but only to Eight Mile
and Five Points (the city limits).
*DELUX ROUTES were originally extra-fare fast service lines initiated in 1928 by the DSR after jitneys were outlawed off
of Detroit streets. Smaller 15-passenger parlor buses were used and operated sort of like "jitney-buses," so to speak.
There were no transfers issued or accepted, and once all seats were filled a sign was placed in the windshield and
the bus ran nonstop until a passenger got off. These so-called "Delux routes" operated on Woodward, Grand River,
Mack and Jefferson — all former jitney lines. But by 1938, regular buses were being used and the two remaining
Delux routes became regular bus lines, and were used to supplement streetcar service along Grand River and
Woodward. However, these lines were discontinued in 1942 by federal order under the ODT.
Information for the above article compiled from data info supplied by Jack E. Schramm, courtesy of "DSR BUS ROUTES, 1932-1945"
("Detroit's DSR, Part 2" -- March-April 1992 edition of Motor Coach Age magazine), and "DSR BUS ROUTES, 1945-1975" ("Detroit's
DSR, Part 3" -- May-June 1993 edition of Motor Coach Age magazine), and also from the 1957-58 and 1963 DSR Service Maps already
in the author's possession. Additional information courtesy of the Stan Sycko Transit Collection.