A SMART way to get downtown and back

The state of mass transit in Detroit is the source of considerable consternation for many of its mobility challenged inhabitants. The cost of driving to Wayne State and paying the exorbitant rates they charge: $25 per week is equally angst provoking. As one of the elite few that have a bus run through their backyard, I take advantage of what little transit we have to its fullest.

Here’s the skinny: to go from downtown to the burbs, via a cab will cost you no less than $20. To take a bus, you will spend $3 a day. That alone is less than parking. To find routes, go to www.smartbus.org. There are two lines that run in the city – Smart and D-dot. “Smart” connects the city proper and its adjoining communities (like Grosse Pointe). D-dot is intra-city.

I have been hitching rides with the red and white buses for about a year now, and apart from an occasional snag it has been a great experience for me. Prior to riding smart buses, the last buses I rode were yellow, so I entered the inbound 610 line haul with some trepidation and a camera. The camera would help the police catch anybody who tried to mug me ;), and allow me to take some cool pictures as I drove so close to the buildings downtown, I could look up their skirts.

Apart from my compromising pictures of some of Detroit’s architecture, I ran across an unexpected benefit to this mode of travel: meeting cool people. Today I talked to a visually impaired guy named Gabe who is taking some placement tests at a training facility so that he can attend college to become a music instructor. Apparently, he needed to demonstrate his proficiency in comprehension of material to be admitted as a student. I learned a lot about the blind community and received an education about the original “Batman” comic book series as well – incidentally, from what Gabe says; the latest installment is closer to the original than the Keaton/Clooney watered down pabulum I grew up with. We exchanged emails, and I promised to send him a URL for a site that reads text out loud (to help him with his paper writing). Be sides Gabe, I have talked with a couple of dozen other folks that really shortened my bus ride, and broadened my understanding of our city and its people.

My one piece of advice for the first timer is to wave furiously when you see your bus approaching – the drivers have a lot to look out for and can blow right past you or accident if you do not get their attention. And if you ever take the 610 outbound at 3:07, tell Carl I say “hi,” if I’m not there…His one of the friendliest and most competent drivers you could meet. So, bring a camera, and catch a lift – together we can make the Penobscot blush. :)

1 Comment so far

  1. girl.in.the.d (unregistered) on August 23rd, 2005 @ 6:09 pm

    Great article! I have never ridden the SMART to work, but am seriously considering it given the high gas prices and high level of anxiety I experience every time I drive in metro Detroit.

    Plus, one less vehicle pumping fumes into the environment is good for everyone.

    I’ll let you know how it goes and thanks for the tips!

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