D.S.R. Route #36
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 line was quite different from what we think of today. As a
matter of fact, the original Grand Belt streetcar route — and for two years even as a bus route — never traveled along
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the bus company's license to operate within the city of Detroit was revoked by the Common Council, effective at the
close of business on December 31, 1931.
Consequently, effective on January 1, 1932, the East Grand Blvd. route was taken-over by the city-owned DSR, with
the route remaining pretty much in tact for at least the next year. However, between 1933 and 1934, certain 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 requiring the quick 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."
|© 2007 (PAGE LAST MODIFIED ON 06-11-07)
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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).
|Prior to 1950, service along Grand Boulevard was provided by the E. Grand Blvd. bus line. The above is a typical
Grand Blvd. "free" coach transfer issued back in 1942. (Transfer courtesy of the S. Sycko collection)
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 former 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 the 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. peak. Headways averaged 2 minutes during the A.M.
and P.M. peak, and ten minutes during 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. peak hour service.
Unfortunately, as more auto manufacturing jobs left the city, and the
population shifted more to the outlying regions of Detroit and beyond,
Grand Belt ridership numbers began to plummet. By the time DDOT
took–over operations in 1974, headways had already increased to ten
minutes during the A.M. and P.M. peak periods, 20 minutes during the
base, and 30 minutes during evening hours.
|An attempt by DDOT during
the mid-1970's to rename
the Grand Belt line as
Grand Blvd--McGraw was
(see DDOT ROUTES)
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.
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|Route #20 GRAND BELT
transfer issued in 2004.
|In October 1953, the DSR received its first fleet of twenty-five GM "large-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, en route to the DSR's Wyoming Terminal Loop at Wyoming and Michigan Avenue.
|To view recent route map
of the #20 GRAND BELT
line click-on ROUTE MAP.