COVID-19 surge causes service disruptions in metro Detroit bus systems


COVID-19 has caused service disruptions in Detroit's bus system. - CITY OF DETROIT
  • City of Detroit
  • COVID-19 has caused service disruptions in Detroit's bus system.

The bus systems in Detroit and the suburbs are experiencing service disruptions due to driver shortages from a surge in COVID-19 cases.

SMART announced that 20%-25% of its services have been canceled or are delayed on a daily basis.

“Due to the spread of the omicron variant and Covid, SMART bus service is being significantly impacted forcing the agency to cut trips when there is no bus operator available,” SMART spokeswoman Beth Gibbons said in a news release. “While SMART staff is updating daily service cuts/changes to its real-time arrival system they are also working to make changes to the existing bus schedule. By scaling back service levels, riders will be assured of more reliable service to get to work or to other important destinations.”

SMART is encouraging riders to check a real-time arrival app, such as Transit app, for trip information.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, SMART has lost about 80 bus drivers and has only been able to operate at about 75% of its pre-pandemic service levels.

The Detroit Department of Transportation has also been short of bus drivers, and in November, the city suspended three routes and reduced the frequency on 17 routes. The change was expected to be temporary, but a driver shortage and lower ridership have left the service disruptions intact.

Over the summer, the city said it lost about 100 bus drivers during the pandemic. Riders have been complaining that buses are late or never show up.

For a day in March 2020, the city shut down the bus system because a vast majority of the drivers refused to work over concerns about the coronavirus.

A month later, Jason Hargrove, a beloved 50-year-old bus driver, died from the coronavirus after posting a viral video in which he complained about people who weren’t taking the pandemic seriously.

Corey Ogelsby, executive director of DDT, tells Metro Times that COVID-19 is not causing any service delays.

"We do have a operator shortage issue, but it’s not directly a COVID case issue at this time," he says.

Ogelsby says riders can view the bus schedule in realtime on a cell phone app and the city's website.

The highly contagious omicron variant is sweeping across Michigan and the U.S. at an alarming rate. Over the past week, the state has reported record numbers of new COVID-19 cases.

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