D.S.R. Route #49
When the city-owned DSR system began operating its bus
route along John R. Street on the city's north-end in 1925,
the privately-owned Detroit Motorbus Company (DMB)
had already begun operating its own service along John R.,
from Highland Park to downtown Detroit, a few years prior.
Motor bus service along mid-town John R. actually began in
mid-1921 as a branch extension of the DMB's first bus route
along East Jefferson. Extended trips off the Jefferson line
would travel via Woodward, Witherell and Adams to John R.
Street, then turning along Piquette and Amsterdam streets to
the Burroughs Adding Machine Co. plant at Cass and
Not long afterward, the John R. route, along with its fleet of
Fifth Avenue Coach Co. built double-decker buses, was
separated from the Rt 1-Jefferson, becoming the
company's Rt 2-John R. But by late 1922, the Rt 2-John R.
line had been discontinued and replaced by two John R.
routes -- Rts #8 and #9 -- both eventually beginning at the
foot of Woodward at the Detroit-Windsor Ferry docks. The
Rt 9-John R. line operated via John R, but turned at Grand
Blvd., passing the new General Motors Bldg. along its
route to Dexter and Joy. This route would eventually become
known as the DMB's Rt 9-Dexter-John R. line (one of its
two Dexter bus routes).
The other John R. route -- Rt #8 -- originally branched off
the Jefferson line and terminated at E. Grand Blvd., but in
December, 1923 became a separate line again and was
extended up John R. Street to Grand Avenue in Highland
Park. In 1924, the route was extended to Gerald Avenue, two
blocks south of the Ford Highland Park Plant, home of the
Model T and the $5-a-day wage. This Rt 8-John R. will be
the main focus of the rest of this article.
From 1922 through 1931, Rt 8-John R. continued operating under the DMB. But when the
company's license to operate in Detroit was revoked by the Common Council, the bus route was
taken over by the city run DSR, effective January 1, 1932. With the DSR already operating a John R.
line along the city's north-end, the take-over now resulted in two DSR John R. routes. To avoid
confusion, the northern John R. route was renamed "John R. North" while the former Detroit
Motorbus route was renamed "John R. South."
Meanwhile, back in March, 1929, the DSR began operating an Oakland bus line from John R. and
Victor (one block south of the Ford plant), via John R., Manchester, and then along Oakland to Eight
Mile. The line was later rerouted to the DSR's Highland Park Terminal Loop at Woodward, near
Manchester. The route left the loop and traveled along Manchester, and then via Oakland and State
Fair to Greeley (just west of Dequindre). However, effective May 2, 1932, the John R. South and
Oakland bus routes were combined by the DSR. This resulted in the formation of the "John
R.-Oakland" bus line.
This new John R.-Oakland line operated from Campus Martius, in front of Sam's main downtown
department store (currently the Compuware Headquarters' front doors) and traveled the former John
R.-South and Oakland routes to State Fair and Dequindre. Beginning in June of 1937, trips were
added via Nevada and Dequindre to State Fair. On September 15, 1939, the bus line was rerouted
northbound along Brush Street and southbound along John R. after the two streets became one-way
streets to help alleviate the city's heavy traffic problems.
During its reaming years under the DSR, a number of route adjustments were made. Beginning
December 10, 1945, the unusual practice of trips alternating between Nevada and State Fair streets
began. While one trip would operate via State Fair/Outer Drive and Ryan to Eight Mile, the next one
would travel via Nevada and Dequindre, terminating at Conant, just south of Eight Mile. This
alternating routing pattern would continue along the route, well into the DDOT years. Beginning on
March 13, 1950, night service and Sunday service only operated north of Manchester, from the
Woodward Loop at the Highland Park Terminal to Eight Mile Road.
Headways for the John R.-Oakland varied over the years. During the 1950's, when mostly
31-passenger Transit and Checker coaches were used on the line, headways averaged 2 minutes
during peak-hours and 5 minutes for the base. By 1968, when only regular 40-foot coaches were
being used, peak headways averaged 10-12 minutes, and 20-25 minutes the rest of the day.
Beginning on February 3, 1947, a John R.-Oakland Express bus route was added, basically
following the regular route from Eight Mile and Ryan to downtown, with ten minute headways. Express
operation began at John R. and Woodland (just south of Highland Park) into downtown. Effective on
June 20, 1969, the John R.-Oakland Express was rerouted along the Walter P. Chrysler (I-75)
Freeway, beginning from East McNichols into downtown (see route map above).
Beginning on April 17, 1967, some John R.-Oakland trips via Nevada and Dequindre were extended
along Dequindre to 12 Mile Road, providing service to the Hazel Park Race Track, and the Madison
Heights Shopping Center on 12 Mile and John R. But this extended service to 12 Mile Road and
John R. was discontinued on September 8, 1971, and the line was cut back to Eight Mile Road and
However, the John R.-Oakland days as a city bus route were numbered, as the line would soon
become one of the last casualties under the former DSR era. Effective on June 15, 1973, the day that
the last major route changes were initiated under the DSR, the John R.-Oakland line was
discontinued. All service south of Manchester, along John R. and Brush streets, was eliminated,
while service north of Manchester, along Oakland Avenue to Eight Mile Road, became a part of the
Oakland bus line. Although the express route followed by the former John R.-Oakland Express
remained unchanged, it was renamed the Oakland Express, effective that same day.
Information for the above article compiled from data information supplied by Jack E. Schramm, courtesy of "DSR BUS ROUTES,
1922-1932" ("Detroit's DSR, Part 1" -- January-February 1991 edition of Motor Coach Age magazine),"DSR BUS ROUTES, 1932-1945"
("Detroit's DSR, Part 2" -- March-April 1992 edition of MCA magazine), and "DSR BUS ROUTES, 1945-1974" ("Detroit's DSR, Part 3" --
May-June 1993 edition of MCA magazine). Additional information compiled from 1957-58 and 1963 thru 1970 DSR Service Maps in the
author's possession. The 1969 John R.-Oakland transfer courtesy of the Stan Sycko transfer collection.