D.S.R. Route #36
D-DOT Route #20
GRAND BELT
In October 1953, the DSR received its first fleet of twenty-five GMC "high capacity" air suspension diesel
transit buses--model TDH-5105 (#1201-1225). One of the first lines where these new king-size buses were
put into service was on the busy Grand Belt line. In this photo, coach #1208 can be seen traveling westbound
on W. Grand Blvd. near Third, enroute to the DSR's Wyoming Terminal loop at Wyoming and Michigan.
Today, when one thinks of the Grand Belt bus line, one tends to think of that bus route which mostly
travels along the city's Grand Boulevard.  But actually, the original
Grand Belt route was quite
different from what we think of today.  As a matter of fact, the original
Grand Belt streetcar
route--and for a few years even as a bus route--never traveled along the Boulevard.

Service along the Boulevard portion of the current
#20 Grand Belt line was originally serviced by a
separate bus route. That original bus route along Grand Boulevard can trace its origins back to the
former
Detroit Motorbus Company, a privately-owned bus company which operated in Detroit from
1920-1931.

The
Detroit Motorbus Company's Route 11-East Grand Blvd. began operating on December 11,
1923, and was the last city-based bus route put into service by that company. The route (see
DMB
Map) traveled along the Boulevard, from E. Jefferson Avenue across from the Belle Isle bridge, to the
General Motors Bldg, at W. Grand Blvd. and Second -- with occasional peak hour trips to the
DMB's
Tireman-Epworth Garage loop. The route continued under the
DMB until the bus company's license
to operate in the city was revoked by the
Detroit Common Council, effective at the close of
business on December 31, 1931.

Consequently, effective January 1, 1932, the
East Grand Blvd. bus line was taken-over by the
city-owned
DSR, with the route remaining pretty much in tact over the next few years.  However,
between 1933 and 1934, some trips were  extended via West Grand Blvd. to Tireman and Wyoming.
Effective on June 26, 1938, service to Belle Isle was added to the route, as the
Belle Isle bus line
became a branch extension of the
East Grand Blvd. bus line.  Post-war headways along the line
were impressive, with 1 minute headways during peak hours and 5 minute headways during the base.
But of course, it should be noted, that the small-size 21-27 passenger
Ford Transit coaches were
primarily assigned to the route during that time, somewhat justifying the short headways.

A 1941 route description by the
DSR of the Boulevard bus line went as follows:
"From Helen and Jefferson via Helen, Lafayette and Grand Boulevard to Second Boulevard, returning
via Grand Boulevard to Jefferson, to Helen. Certain A.M. coaches operate to Grand River Avenue."

However, beginning in 1950, a major change would be in store for the "Boulevard" line (as it was
also called)
. Effective on June 22, 1950, the East Grand Blvd. line was combined with the Grand
Belt
line -- which had been converted to buses on June 24, 1948.  Aside from the west side route
adjustment along McGraw street to the
Wyoming Terminal Loop, the Grand Belt bus route
basically followed the identical route of the former
Grand Belt Streetcar line -- which operated
primarily along Mt. Elliott and Milwaukee streets along the east side.  That parallel operation of  
Grand Belt with the East Grand Blvd. route along Mt. Elliott and Milwaukee would now be
discontinued, with the eastern portion of the
Grand Belt bus line being rerouted along the East
Grand Blvd.
route, along East and West Grand Boulevards. Grand Belt bus service west of Third
basically remained unchanged when the two routes were combined.

Aside from a necessary route realignment around the new east-side
General Motors Poletown
Plant
during the 1980's, the Grand Belt bus route has virtually remained unchanged over the years
since 1950.

During the early
DDOT years, an attempt was made to better identify the major roadways on which
many of the city's bus routes traveled. As a result, the
Grand Belt bus line was renamed Route #20
Grand Blvd.-McGraw
. However, this change was rather short-lived, and by the arrival of the
electronic computerized signs during the late-1980's, the route name had returned to
Grand Belt.

During the
DSR's heyday, bus service on Grand Belt was impressive. For example, in June 1954, the
service was assigned out of the Gilbert Terminal. To operate a weekday schedule, 68 total runs were
required for the entire day, including 12 straight day runs, 8 straight nights, 40 swing days and 8
swing night runs. Seven trippers were ever required during the A.M. hours. Headways averaged 2
minutes during the A.M. and P.M. periods, and 10 minutes for the base. The new "king-size"
51-passenger
GM diesel buses were primarily used on the line, with 54 of these coaches required for
the A.M., 41 for the P.M., and 12 for the base service. Five additional 44-passenger coaches were
even needed for A.M. service.

But of course, as more auto manufacturing jobs left the city, and the population shifted more to the
outer sections of the city and beyond,
Grand Belt service began to fall on hard times. By the time
DDOT took-over operations in 1974, headways had already increased to 10 minutes during the A.M.
and P.M. hours, 20 minutes for the base, and 30 minutes during evening hours.

But sadly, things would only get worse.  Today, service on the
Grand Belt line only requires three
coaches to maintain service. A total of five runs are assigned to operate the line. Service now only
operates between 5:00AM and 10:00AM in the morning, and between 3:00PM and 7:20PM in the
evening. Weekday headways average 45 minutes.

As one member in my DSR-2-DOT transit discussion group ably put it a few years ago, "The mighty
have indeed fallen."  


GRAND BOULEVARD FACTOID:
Did You Know???  ....When the Grand Boulevard roadway was constructed between 1883 and 1891, it was intended
to run through open country around and along the outskirts of the city's borders it shared with Greenfield, Springwells
and Hamtramck Townships. The Boulevard was to begin at the city's recently purchased large public park, Belle Isle,
and run from Jefferson Avenue in Hamtramck Township to the River Road (currently W. Jefferson) in Springwells
Township.  The 11.3 mile looping roadway, which today circles the central city, covers an area of 213 acres of land.
Approval of the much-contested Boulevard was attached onto the 1879 state legislative bill which approved the city's
purchase of Belle Isle. Dedication ceremonies for Grand Boulevard were held during Mayor Hazen S. Pingree's
administration in 1891.


Information for the above article was compiled from numerous sources, including Jack E. Schramm articles found under "Detroit's DSR,
Parts 1 thru 3"
published by Motor Coach Age Magazine (Motor Bus Society), and the September 1988 edition of Motor Coach Age magazine
titled
"Detroit Motorbus  Co." also by Jack E. Schramm. Information was also obtained from miscellaneous artifacts courtesy of the Stan
Sycko collection. 1954 DSR Schedule Analysis and Headway Report information courtesy of Tom Breeding. Grand Boulevard factoid
information courtesy of
"The city of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922" by Clarence Burton, William Stocking and Gordon Miller (1922--S. J.
Clarke Publishing Co).
© 2007