Reporting Vickie Thomas
DETROIT (WWJ) - Some good news for DDOT riders: Detroit Mayor Dave Bing unveiled brand new buses, as well as a new leader for the city’s problematic public transportation system.
WWJ’s Vickie Thomas reports the buses are part of DDOT’s newest fleet of 46 made-in-America vehicles, which began arriving Jan. 30.
Surrounded by new state-of-the-art buses at the Shoemaker terminal Wednesday morning, Bing introduced the new DDOT CEO Ron Freeland – whose work in Maryland, Virginia, New York and California has made him a highly sought after transit advisor.
“Ron, consider these new buses as your welcome wagon to the city of Detroit,” Bing told the cheering crowd.
Freeland has already met with the president of the bus drivers union, Henry Gaffney, and the new CEO plans to catch a few buses himself.
“Although I have not had a chance to ride the buses yet, I’m going to be out on the street tomorrow. Quite frankly, my first three days have been spent getting used to the environment, spending time in City Hall, getting to meet Mr. Gaffney and his executive board,” said Freeland.
Freeland said he’s the right man for the job because he was reliant on public transportation in the past and therefore understands Detroiter’s need for DDOT.
“I literally took public transportation to middle school, to high school and my first year of college. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to do it because I didn’t have a car, couldn’t afford a car. I know transportation and I know, basically, how important it is to people and that’s important to me,” said Freeland.
Word of Freeland’s appointment comes a week after the city announced it’s ending early morning bus service as part of an effort to cut about $11 million in costs. Public hearings on the proposal, which could also eliminate other bus routes, are planned for Friday.
Drivers are being trained to drive the new buses, which are being prepped for service and will be integrated into the existing fleet over the next several weeks.
The mayor’s office said the new buses provide better passenger comfort and increased use of intelligent vehicle systems — such as automatic vehicle locators, so DDOT knows where their buses are and can avoid overcrowding.