DDOT buses to resume service Wednesday after drivers reach deal to ease coronavirus fears


DDOT bus in Detroit. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • DDOT bus in Detroit.

Detroit’s public buses will return to the roads Wednesday morning after Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration reached a deal with drivers over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

A vast majority of Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) bus drivers called off Tuesday, saying the city wasn’t doing enough to combat the coronavirus on buses.

As part of the deal, the city will more frequently and thoroughly clean the buses and require riders to exit at the rear. The city also is waiving fares so customers aren’t sharing the fare box, which is close to the drivers.

“We didn’t want to get sick, and we didn’t want you to get sick,” Glen Tolbert, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26, which represents bus drivers, said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. "We need to be safe."

Duggan described the negotiations as cordial and informative.

"This is what happens when you work together. There wasn’t yelling," Duggan told reporters. "They showed me what they needed to get done."

About a third of Detroit residents don’t have access to a car, so a prolonged shutdown of the buses could have had a serious impact on people who need to get to work, the grocery store, or the pharmacy.

SMART bus service had not been disrupted. The regional system is offering free fares and rear-door boarding to keep a distance between the drivers and the riders.

Duggan said the coronavirus “is new to everybody.”

"Every day brings a new challenge," Mayor Duggan said. "Our nerves are on edge all the way around."

Duggan added that eight or nine city employees have been quarantined because of coronavirus concerns.

Of the 65 positive coronavirus cases in Michigan, eight are in Detroit. Health officials emphasized that the number of cases is likely much larger because a shortage of testing kits has prevented most sick people from getting tested.

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