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D.S.R. Route #12
|D-DOT Route #34 (Express Route #75)
Three times in the history of public transit in Detroit, the Michigan and Gratiot lines have been combined to create one
continuous route. The first of these occurred back on November 13, 1950, when the Michigan and Gratiot PCC street-
car lines were consolidated and through-routed thru downtown Detroit. The newly merged route resulted in a 16.7 mile
long one–way trip from the Eastwood (Amusment) Park, located on Gratiot north of E. Eight Mile in East Detroit (now
Eastpointe), to the Ford Rouge-DSR Miller Road Yard in Dearborn. This combined operation lasted until the Michigan
Avenue portion of the route was converted over to diesel bus operation beginning on Wednesday, September 7, 1955,
and the two lines became separated, with PCC service still continuing for six months along Gratiot Avenue.
The next time these lines would be combined would be on Friday, June 15, 1973, during one of the last major route ad-
justments implemented under the former DSR operation. Beginning on that day, DSR routes #12 Michigan and #25
Gratiot were merged, forming the combined route #12 Michigan-Gratiot.
In early April, 1973, DSR assistant general manager Don Edmondson announced that the DSR would soon be initiating
a plan that could eventually lead to a union of most of the system's 26 bus lines that terminate downtown. This change
would enable a DSR rider to board any one of a number of buses in northwest Detroit, pay one fare only, then travel
through downtown and out to the city's far northeast side.
According to an April 3, 1973, Detroit Free Press article, the proposed changes would also mean:
- An end to the long walks by downtown employees who at present may be dropped off by a west side line on the
west side of downtown and must walk, sometimes in heavy winter snow, to their jobs on the east side of
- An end to the use of the main street in Greektown, Monroe between Randolph and St. Antoine, by all but
- Fewer buses clogging the downtown area and a 50 percent cut in the number of buses crossing Woodward Ave.
- A saving of up to $1 million a year for the deficit-ridden DSR if all possible lines are merged. The money would be
saved by eliminating overlapping mileage.
The Michigan and Gratiot routes were selected for the first merger partially because the 1970 census showed that the
northeast area serviced by the Gratiot line was the area with the city's highest percentage of workers in the downtown
Central Business District (CBD). If no major hitches were encountered with the merged operation after two or three
months, the DSR had planned to also merge other lines, such as the Fort and Oakland, Woodward and Jefferson,
and Michigan and Mack routes.
One example cited in that Free Press article was the Grand River bus line—–were passengers were dropped off at the
Capitol Park terminal on the northwest side of downtown. They were then forced to transfer or undergo long walks to
their jobs while their bus headed back out Grand River. Under this new plan, however, the bus would proceed through
downtown, dropping off riders near their place of employment and continuing to the northeast. Although the Michigan
and Gratiot lines were combined on June 15, 1973, the plan was never broadened to include other downtown lines.
That following November, the voters of Detroit approved a revised city charter, which resulted in the financially plagued
DSR being reorganized into the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT). No further route mergers resulted
during the remaining months under the DSR.
Under DDOT management, new route numbers were assigned to all existing bus lines—-with the Michigan-Gratiot line
becoming route #34 Michigan-Gratiot. On weekdays, headways on Michigan-Gratiot averaged 4 minutes during
the peak hours, and 7-minute headways during the base and evening hours. An east-side route #75 Gratiot Express
also operated weekdays during the AM and PM peak hours, with 6–8 minute headways between 3rd and Porter streets
downtown, to either East Eight Mile Road and Gratiot, or the Eastland Mall Shopping Center.
This DDOT route map displays the through-routed #34 MICHIGAN-GRATIOT
bus line that operated during the mid-1970's. Some runs would actually
operate from the Eastland Mall Shopping Center in Harper Woods,
across the east and west sides of Detroit, to the Ford Rouge plant
Miller Road Gate #2 in Dearborn. One-way through trips would
require approximately 1-hour and 21-minutes of travel time.
Meanwhile, under the new DDOT management, the downtown through-routing plan for additional
routes was never implemented. Instead the reverse resulted, when on Saturday, April 15, 1978, the
Michigan and Gratiot routes were again separated after major service interruptions resulted when
coach and manpower shortages occurred at the two terminals which serviced the combined routes.
Major service gaps were encountered during the winter of 1977-78, as the department experienced
its worse on-time performance up to that time in its history. The two routes were again separated in
order that the two terminals could better manage their individual lines.
After the two lines were separated, the Gratiot line retained its #34 route number designation, while
the Michigan line was reassigned as route #37 Michigan. This new reassignment resulted in those
DDOT routes starting from route #37 Plymouth now having to be reassigned one route number
higher. Consequently, the former route #37 Plymouth became the current #38 Plymouth, while
the former #53 Wyoming became the current #54 Wyoming. (see DDOT Routes & Numbers)
On an interesting footnote, a number of DDOT bus routes (including some mentioned earlier) were
later combined for similar reasons expressed years earlier by former DSR management. Effective on
September 5, 1992, the DDOT Baker and Oakland, Joy Road and E. Vernor, Woodward and
E. Jefferson, and once again, the Gratiot and Michigan lines were combined and through-routed
into and out of downtown.
Information for the above article compiled from numerous sources, including "Detroit's DSR, Part 3" — May–June 1993 edition of Motor Coach Age (MCA).
Additional information acquired from miscellaneous DSR and DDOT Service Maps already in the author's possession, and from the April 3, 1973, Detroit
Free Press article titled "DSR Plans Link Of East and West," courtesy of the Stan Sycko Collection. The Michigan-Gratiot 1977 transfer also courtesy of
the Stan Sycko collection.