D-DOT Route #53 + SMART Route #495

The former DDOT route #53 Woodward-John R. was one of the bus routes that resulted from a rather "short-lived" cooperative route-swapping venture by DDOT and SMART, with a possible long-term goal of eventually merging both transit systems. Beginning Saturday, June 25, 1994, DDOT's recently combined #97 Woodward-Jefferson line was discontinued after the Jefferson portion of that route was taken-over by the suburban SMART system. At the same time, the SMART route #495 John R. became part of the DDOT route #53 Woodward line.

This resulted in the Woodward line having two northern branches that separated at Woodward and McNichols. One of the branches would continue along the regular Woodward route to the Michigan State Fairgrounds located near Woodward and Eight Mile Road while the other operated via the SMART #495 John R. route to the Oakland Mall, located near Fourteen Mile and John R. The route signs on many of the DDOT coaches were reprogrammed to display the three-digit #495 route number, which was used on the Woodward coaches assigned to the John R. line.

Although things seemed positive at first, the history behind the demise of this joint venture is worth taking a look-back. The following adds a bit of background information on the brief life of the Woodward-John R. bus route.

Shortly after becoming Detroit's new mayor in January, 1994, Dennis W. Archer attempted to spark a renewed interest in merging
DDOT (city) and SMART (suburban) bus operations.  As part of a pilot program, duplicate bus operations along East Jefferson,
Michigan, John R.
and Fort would merge, with only one of the agencies providing service along each route.  The  SMART system
would operate all of the service along
Michigan and Jefferson Avenues, while DDOT would operate all service along  Fort Street
and John R.

The DDOT routes #25 E. Jefferson  and  #37 Michigan would be operated by the suburban SMART bus system, while SMART
#125 Fort Street-Detroit, #150 Taylor-Detroit (which also operated along Fort Street) and the #495 John R. (which
also operated along Woodward Avenue)
would now be operated by DDOT.

It had been anticipated that merging the bus lines would save the systems money because service along those routes were virtually
duplicated by
DDOT and SMART,...especially in the city of Detroit.  According to then SMART interim general manager and deputy
Wayne County Executive Michael Duggan,
" ...sometimes SMART and DDOT buses are traveling bumper to bumper up
Jefferson.  We're paying for two sets of drivers, two sets of mechanics.

Local officials were also discussing plans for the possible merger of the
DDOT and SMART maintenance facilities. If the pilot program
merging the routes proved successful, officials from both agencies next planned to fully merge the two operations.  However, there
was a down side.  Many off-peak suburban
SMART riders discovered their routes were now "local" service within the city of Detroit.
Meanwhile, financial problems at SMART had been mounting,
and by the arrival of 1994 the agency had approached a
deficit.  This prompted the SMART Board to attempt
to seek a dedicated transit tax in 1995 to eliminate the debt
within five years.  A
0.33-mil property tax would be asked of
suburban voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

However, the new millage campaign push for the support of
a suburban transit tax to finance suburban bus service drew
angry responses from
DDOT and city officials.   The city had
agreed to the route merger plan only if a full-scale merger of
DDOT and SMART came next, which would have required a
higher-mil tri-county-wide property tax.  Mayor Archer wanted
a larger
0.8-mil tax to be levied in both the city and suburbs
to support a merged system.  

According to then
DDOT Director Albert Martin, in a Detroit
Free Press
article written during the time, "...DDOT (had)
lost  10,000  daily  riders  in the  joint venture with
SMART.  ....That translates into an expected loss of
nearly $700,000  in  fare box revenue by June, the
end of the first year."

Because suburban officials decided to seek a tax to continue
financing a separate suburban bus system,
DDOT decided to
discontinue its nine month long cooperative agreement with
SMART.  Consequently, another attempt to merge the city
and suburban bus operations resulted in failure.
The above route map displays DDOT Route #53 Woodward-John R. during its few months of operation.
Click here to return to the "BUS ROUTE HISTORY" Main Page.
© 2007  (PAGE LAST MODIFIED ON 09-08-07)
FOOTNOTE:  Although DDOT operations along John R. was discontinued on April 1, 1995, this would not be the
end of DDOT service along John R. Street. DDOT would later return to John R. at least two more times during the
upcoming years. This is looked at in detail in the article on the
John R. Limited bus line.

Information for the above article was compiled from various Detroit newspapers articles courtesy of the Stan Sycko newspaper
collection, and from DDOT Route Update notices and bulletins archived in the author's collection. Additional information supplied
by SMART coach operator Antoine Tribble.  
(December 23, 1994 Woodward–John R
D-DOT Transfer courtesy of the Stan Sycko Transfer Collection)
Route operated under D-DOT
Effective Saturday, April 1, 1995, DDOT took back the operation of its #25 E. Jefferson and #37 Michigan routes, while SMART resumed operations of its routes along Fort and the #495 John R. Interestingly, DDOT's Jefferson and Woodward routes were never rejoined after the joint venture with SMART failed.

(Reformatted 01-30-14)