By Christy Strawser
CBS Detroit Managing Editor
DETROIT (CBS Detroit) On the heels of a major initiative to shrink Detroit to make its public services better, attract new residents and investment, the Detroit Bus Company is offering ways for suburbanites to explore the city that’s right on the doorstep — and many times ignored.
The private Detroit Bus Company has a roster of winter and spring tours that celebrate Detroit, its architecture and history.
Consider, for example, the “Drunks of Antiquity.”
This tour promises a run through “the early frontier day’s wild revelry, through the bloody freewheeling days of the Purple Gang and Prohibition, through current-day legends of gumshoe reporters uncovering the Kwame Kilpatrick scandal at booth three of a certain downtown pub. We’ll stop at some of Detroit’s oldest, most notorious and most interesting bars, sharing stories along the way- over a few pints, of course.”
The Feb. 2 tour sold out all 70 seats in two days, but another is being plotted for March. And there are plenty more where that came from.
“Storm the Building: An Architectural Tour” will allow visitors on Jan. 27 to check out the city’s most distinctive buildings and the stories behind them; “Frontier Anarchy: A Historical Tour” will lead visitors on 300 years of history, including Hog Island, Log Cabin Park, Scott’s Folly and the State Fair. “Along the way, we’ll talk parties and pranks, pioneers and pony carts,” the website said.
Andy Didorosi, 25, of Detroit, founder of The Detroit Bus Company, goes on every single tour himself.
“There’s a lot of pent up excitement about Detroit, there’s a lot of energy, there are all these people who live just outside city limits and never get inside the downtown,” Didorosi said, adding, “It’s hard to figure out where to go and what to do without a guide. We get you there safely.”
The Bus Company’s tours started Dec. 1, priced at $10 to $30, and Didorosi said the response has been over the top.
“They’ve been explosively growing, it’s really pretty cool,” he said. “We just want to show people our Detroit.”
They bring on tour guides who are specialists in their field — architecture and history — but who also really love Detroit.
“Brian Hurttienne on ‘Storm The Building,’ he owns an architectural firm, he just loves talking about buildings, loves talking about Detroit, Kari Smith just loves Detroit, the old buildings of Detroit, Amy Elliot (Bragg), literally wrote the book on Detroit (“The Hidden History Of Detroit”), when you listen to her, it sounds exactly like it was ripped from the headlines of today,” Didorosi said.
The tours come after Didorosi founded his bus company to help suburbanites get to the city, and residents get around, despite Detroit’s lack of public transit and oft-considered abysmal bus service. “In January 2012 I heard light rail was dead again, so I bought three buses,” he said.
Passionate about the need to get people around, Didorosi looked at solving the situation like an entrepreneur would.
It just keeps growing. Didorosi kicked off “Detroit Bus 2.0” this week where they’re putting together a program to get people from nearby suburbs to work in Detroit five days a week. “We’ll have wheels on the ground in the next three weeks,” Didorosi said.
He also operated a nightlife and event bus system that got people from special events in the suburbs of Ferndale, Royal Oak and Hamtramck to and from the city for $5 from May through December.
In the works is an airport route from Troy, Royal Oak, New Center and Midtown to Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus. The aim is for the bus ride to cost $10.
“People want to go from where they live to where they want to hang out, it seemed super obvious to us … We kicked off this little thing, transit in Detroit and it ballooned into this huge thing, we really dug our hands into the issue,” Didorosi said.