In 1996, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs opened its new John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, located at 4646 John R. Street, in the Detroit Medical Center area. The opening of this new facility resulted in the closing of the former Allen Park Veterans Administration Hospital in Allen Park, MI, which opened in 1939. During the move to the new Detroit facility, and prior to the completion of its new parking structure, the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) launched a new Park & Ride shuttle service to transport passengers (mostly nurses and administrative employees) from the former VA Hospital location, on Outer Drive at the Southfield Freeway Service Drive in Allen Park, to the new VA Medical Center located on John R. between Hancock and Canfield in Detroit.
This new VA shuttle service originally began as an extra-service operation by DDOT sometime during mid-December of 1996. Ironically, the launching of this new shuttle service began during a period when the relations between the city- owned bus system and the suburban bus operation SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation) appeared to be somewhat strained. (see DDOT Suburban Bus Routes - 1997)
Beginning Saturday, February 1, 1997, DDOT launched six new bus routes into the surrounding suburbs that were in direct competition with established SMART routes. These routes were launched during a period the local media referred to as a "bus system war" between the city-run DDOT and the suburban SMART operations. Effective that following Monday, the #94 VA Park & Ride shuttle became an actual DDOT bus route. The route primarily traveled along the I-94 Detroit Industrial/Ford Freeway during its route between the two VA Hospital locations. Service operated as a one-way "pick up and go" Park & Ride service. The service required a $2.00 fare with no additional zone fare charges required.
Assigned out of the Coolidge Terminal, the service operated at 15-minute intervals during peak-hours only. No actual VA Park & Ride runs were ever used — with all service being assigned to runs from other lines (a long-time department practice), such as route #21 Grand River, #27 Joy Road and #60 Evergreen runs operating via the VA Park & Ride shuttle.
However, DDOT's venture into the surrounding suburbs would be short-lived, for in January, 1998, DDOT announced that it could no longer afford to run its buses outside the city of Detroit. Consequently, as part of a departmental-wide cost cutting move — effective with the operator's pick that went into effect on Saturday, Jan. 17, 1998 — DDOT discontinued all of its suburban bus service, including its route #94 VA Park & Ride.
Information for the above article was compiled from various Detroit area newspapers articles courtesy of the Stan Sycko newspaper collection, and from the DDOT Route Update notices, route maps and bulletins archived in the author's collection.