In spite of that, the DSR's use of expressway express bus operation would continue to expand. On Nov. 7, 1957, the new Fenkell Express route was launched after sections of the Lodge through the Lodge-Davison Interchange were completed. The Fenkell Express operated from Fenkell and Inkster Road and followed the local Fenkell route to 14th and Davison, where it traveled via Davison to access the Lodge Expressway into downtown. However, plans were being made by the DSR to take their bus Expressway Program in a new direction with the launching of the "Imperial Northwest Express" in 1958. (see next section below)

Meanwhile, in 1957, express service was added to the Woodward line, but this new service did not operate along an expressway. Sporting checkered black-and-white flags, the Woodward Express began operations on Oct. 14, 1957, and followed the local route but began its non-stop express operation at Tuxedo with one stop at Grand Blvd. On Nov. 5, 1962, a similar express service began with the launching of the "Gratiot Express" line, which also followed the local route and began its express service to downtown at Outer Drive with one stop at Grand Blvd.

One of the last express routes added under the DSR was actually a second express route added to the Plymouth line. On July 20, 1964, the Plymouth Express (via Grand River) was launched. It operated via Plymouth from Middlebelt Road to Grand River, and then express operation via Grand River with one stop at Grand Blvd.

Meanwhile, during the mid-1950s, construction on both the John C. Lodge and Edsel B. Ford Expressways would help to launch an aggressive DSR campaign to win back some of its lost post-war ridership by providing so-called "rapid transit" bus service. This type of service would attempt to use expressway buses that would operate along both of the city's newly constructed expressways.

Even prior to the completion of the John C. Lodge Expressway, the Hamilton Express route had already become the DSR's first express route to operate along an expressway, after its coaches were routed onto a short half-mile completed stretch of the Lodge, that began on Monday, Dec. 4, 1950. As new segments of the Lodge opened, the route was extended further south: to Grand River on May 1, 1953, and finally to Bagley on Sept. 24, 1954. However, it wasn't until the first three Ford-Lodge Interchange connecting ramps opened on Jan. 18, 1955, that more of these express buses would begin to utilize the city's newly built expressways to transport passengers into downtown.

On Jan. 31, 1955, the newly launched Plymouth Express line became the first express route to utilize both the John C. Lodge and Edsel B. Ford Expressways. The Plymouth Express service operated from Plymouth and Outer Drive, then via Plymouth Road to Wyoming, and then south along Wyoming to McGraw, where it would access the Ford and begin its expressway operation.

Stops at two special "rapid transit" loading stations incorporated into the Ford Expressway, at both Livernois and Grand River, were also included along the route. The buses would then whisk passengers along the expressway to the new Ford-Lodge Interchange, where the coaches would enter the Lodge Expressway to continue the inbound trip into downtown Detroit. (see video clip below)

However, effective Monday, Nov. 21, 1955, the Plymouth Express routing via Wyoming, McGraw, and the Ford and Lodge Expressways was reassigned to the new Joy Road Express route, while Plymouth Express coaches were instead rerouted further east along the entire Plymouth local route. Its express buses now entered the Lodge Expressway at Webb.

In an energetic attempt to provide its riders with "rapid transit" service through the use of expressway express buses, additional expressway routes were launched as more segments of the expressways were completed. By late February 1955, the Ford and the Lodge Expressways were being used by both the Dexter and Grand River Express routes with both lines now entering the Ford via Maybury Grand (just west of Grand River). But this new expressway routing for both routes was later discontinued by late 1956, after not proving to be much faster than the previous street-level express bus service.

(The Motor City's answer to "Rapid Transit")
Information for the above article compiled from Detroit Free Press articles "And Now (Wowie!) DSR Bus Hostesses" (May 26, 1958), "DSR Glamor Bus Rolls
into Town"
(May 27, 1958), The Detroit News article "DSR Riders Gripe, Some May Boycott Expresses" (May 26, 1958), Detroit's DSR, Part 3 by Jack E.
Schramm (May-June 1993 MCA), and other numerous sources. Express bus route's effective dates courtesy of
"DSR BUS ROUTES, 1945-1975" (May-June 1993
edition of Motor Coach Age magazine).

Virtual Motor City Collection photo #28899 used by permission of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University.
All rights, including those of further reproduction and/or publication, are reserved in full by the Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University.  Photographic
reproductions may be protected by U.S. copyright law (U.S. Title 17).  The user is fully responsible for copyright infringement.
For Comments & Suggestions Please Contact Site Owner at: admin@detroittransithistory.info
© 2007  (PAGE LAST MODIFIED ON 12-06-09, 10-12-14)
During the 1950s, the DSR — along with proponents from the
rubber-tired transportation industry — would promote the DSR's
new expressway buses as "a superior type of rapid transit."
(GM photo courtesy of Tom's Trolley Bus Pictures--Detroit)
The fare ranged from 45 at the end of the line to 25 nearer downtown. This fare structure was based on a new express zone-fare system the DSR had put into effect on all fifteen of its express routes that same day. However, on Aug. 11, the zone-fare system was discontinued after it had been pointed out that the DSR had failed to seek the proper channels for its approval. The express fare would then return to the previous 25 one-fare system one nickel above the regular fare.

Although expressway bus service had been heavily promoted by the DSR during the years following WW-II as a faster, more economical alternative to building light rail lines within the city's expressway grid, it soon proved to be more of a headache than an alternative. Since proposed "bus only" freeway lanes were never built, buses were often delayed in traffic tie-ups along the expressways. The few "rapid transit" passenger boarding stations that were built along the Ford Expressway were rarely used, and the push toward adding additional "rapid transit" bus routes across the expressway system diminished as the ridership numbers never materialized.

Even though the Joy Road Express buses would continue to use the Ford and Lodge Freeways for some years, that service too was eventually withdrawn. Freeway operation for the Joy Road Express was discontinued, and its buses were rerouted into downtown via Michigan Avenue, effective Oct. 3, 1965.

The completion of most of the John C. Lodge Expressway from downtown to the Wyoming curve in late 1957 would help to launch what DSR officials had hoped would become a new phase in Detroit expressway bus operation. According to the article, "Detroit's DSR, Part 3" by Jack Schramm (Motor Coach Age: May-June 1993 edition), an express bus service of a different kind was inaugurated on Monday, May 26, 1958.

This new expressway bus route would operate along the John Lodge Expressway and the connecting James Couzens Highway to W. Seven Mile and Inkster roads. It would be considered the "de luxe" of all DSR express bus service. As a result, this new route would be called the "IMPERIAL NORTHWEST EXPRESS." Although not the first DSR express route to utilize the city's new expressway system, it was by far the longest.

"DSR Glamor Bus Rolls into Town"
This photo appeared in the Tuesday, May 27, 1958,
edition of the Detroit Free Press, and shows a DSR
employee vacuuming the red carpet used on the
inaugural bus of the Imperial Northwest Express.
Click here to return to the "AROUND OLD DETROIT" Main Page.
Down through the years only a limited number of express routes have operated along the Detroit freeway system. While the Fenkell, Hamilton, Imperial and Plymouth Express buses would continue to use the Lodge Freeway, the Second Blvd. and the John R.-Oakland Express buses would begin using the recently completed Walter P. Chrysler (I-75) Freeway. The John R.-Oakland Express (renamed Oakland Express in 1973) began using I-75 on June 20, 1969, while the Second (W. McNichols) Express began its freeway operation on Jan. 17, 1972.

Perhaps the most unusual express route of them all was the DDOT Route #71, Crosstown Express (via West Warren Ave), which traveled via West Warren and Grand River during the morning rush, but would use the I-375, I-75 and I-96 freeways to West Warren Avenue on its evening return trip to Rouge Park.

During the late seventies, when the city's express bus era was coming to a close, as many as twenty express routes were still in operation. Only seven of these routes, however, operated over the city's freeways. By the year 2007, only three regular DDOT "Limited" bus routes remained, with only two routes the Imperial Limited and the Plymouth (local) operating over the city's freeway system. They would become the last two remaining reminders of what was once promoted to be the city's most economically feasible alternative to building mass transit.

When the Imperial "Limited" route was discontinued by DDOT in March of 2012, sixty-two years of expressway bus operation in Detroit had come to an end.

During the mid-1950s, the GMC Truck & Coach Division
of General Motors produced a promotional film
promoting the use of motor buses on city expressways,
with the primary focus, of course, on the use of GM
diesels.  The film was entitled
"Let's Go To Town."  One
of the cities featured in this presentation was the city of
Detroit.  A few excerpts from that GM film, produced in
1955, are featured in our video clip, which looks at how
the DSR's new Plymouth Express service made use of
Detroit's new expressway system.
(NOTE: Video clip courtesy of GM film "Let's Go To Town." – linked via YouTube)
Video-clip duration: 02:14
(video added 07/22/08)
The original Plymouth Express route operated via Plymouth,
Wyoming, McGraw, Wier, Edsel Ford Expressway, John Lodge
Expressway, Bagley, Cass, and State to Washington Blvd.
(Photo source: 1958 DSR Annual Report – Courtesy of the Stan Sycko Collection)
This 1955 photo looks north along the John C. Lodge Expressway at the Edsel B. Ford Expressway Interchange. During the
1950s and '60s a number of DSR express routes began using the city's new expressways into and out of the downtown area.
(Photo source: 1955 DSR Annual Report – Courtesy of the Stan Sycko Collection)
The unique website which takes a detailed look back at the History of Public Transportation in
and around the City of Detroit.
When the first completed portion of the John C. Lodge Expressway opened along a six-tenths of a mile
section between Holden and Pallister, the Hamilton Express would become the first DSR bus route to
operate along a Detroit expressway.  The above photo — taken on Monday, December 4, 1950 — shows a
southbound Hamilton Express bus operating on its first day of expressway service.  A New York Central
"steam-engine" locomotive can also be seen using the railroad overpass just north of Holden Street.
(Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University photo #28899 — used with permission)
By the fall of 1954, ten express bus routes were in operation by the Detroit DSR. Aside from some deviation along a major thoroughfare, all basically mimicked the local bus or streetcar route. These "Express" buses would make local (boarding only) stops along outlying areas of the city, with some "limited" operation between designated points along some routes. At some point, the coaches would begin an on-street non-stop "express" operation into downtown, with one stop at Grand Blvd. The outbound (P.M.) coaches generally followed the same route in reverse.

As of Sept. 13, 1954, express buses were operating on the following DSR bus routes...

HAMILTON EXPRESS (1947) (expressway operation - 1950)
  (   ) = Denotes year express route launched
Two Detroit Free Press articles at the time dated May 26 and 27 reported on how the DSR went all out to inaugurate its new "Imperial Northwest Express" bus line. The launch day literally rolled out the red carpet, complete with attractive hostesses, free rides and refreshments, and, of course, the big wigs from City Hall.

Seated on board that inaugural bus was Detroit Mayor Louis C. Miriani; members of the Detroit Street Railway Commission; general manager of the DSR Leo J. Nowicki; a group of northwest-side businessmen; and other civic leaders. In addition to the Miss DSR (May) passing out free doughnuts, milk and orange juice to all the passengers, that first bus on the Seven Mile Road "De Luxe" express line was even laid-out with thick, red carpeting covering the floor and steps.

During the first two days of operation, bus rides on the new express line were free. Pretty young bus hostesses with "Hello" name tags passed out milk, fruit juice, doughnuts, potato chips and chewing gum, and "smiled sweetly" as they greeted the over 5,500 Detroiters who tried out the new service.

The new Seven Mile Road express would become the DSR's longest express line, with one round trip covering 35 miles. The buses traveled along W. Seven Mile Road from Inkster Road; then along the scenic James Couzens Highway that merged into the recently completed John Lodge Expressway; terminating at the City-County Building downtown all in less than 55 minutes!

The DSR promised that the service from the end of the line to downtown Detroit would be 20 minutes faster than previous local service. Coaches would operate daily, every 10 minutes during the rush hours and every 30 minutes the rest of the day.

(Reformatted 10-12-14)