DETROIT (WWJ) - Southeast Michigan’s regional bus system that serves about 40,000 people daily plans to cut services by 22 percent later this year and lay off more than 100 employees. The changes will affect 30 of the system’s 53 routes.
SMART bus systems made the announcement of the proposed service changes and cuts Thursday morning. Beth Gibbons, spokesperson for SMART, said there are three main reasons for the cuts.
“One, we have less millage money coming into our system because of the drop in property values. We have less federal and state funding, and one of the reasons for that is when DDOT made their cuts to service, SMART is affected by that. And thirdly, after months of negotiation, the unions have refused to make any concessions,” Gibbons said.
SMART said it’s being forced to make the cuts in part because of lower tax revenues, declining federal funding and increasing costs for health care. The bus system said its biggest loss in revenue has resulted from the drop in property values: a 24 percent decrease since 2009; with an 11 percent decrease in millage revenue this year alone.
SMART will also receive less state and federal funding because of the cuts in service made by the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT). While all other Michigan transit agencies are funded independently of each other using uniform formulas, Michigan’s Act 204 treats SMART and DDOT as one entity for funding purposes. This means any cuts made by DDOT reduce state and federal funding available to SMART.
The proposed cuts will result in the loss of jobs for over 123 drivers, mechanics and dispatchers. This will also mean fewer routes, reduced hours and fewer stops along routes – affecting about 30 of their 53 routes. The service cuts are expected to take effect Dec. 12. For a complete list of the proposed service changes, click here.
SMART is seeking public input on the proposed service changes by holding public hearings on Nov. 3, 7 and 9. You can also submit written comments through Nov. 10. For more information, visit www.smartbus.org.