Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mayor Bing Promises to Do Something About Buses - Just Not Sure What

Mayor Dave Bing
Mayor Dave Bing addressed members of Detroit's news media earlier today to discuss the on-going crisis with D-DOT buses being chronically late; imposing hardships on thousands of Detroiters every day. The short version of this press conference is that Mayor Bing promised to do something about the problem within 30 days, it's just not clear exactly what he will do.

He called on the mechanics union to do more to get buses repaired faster and out on the road. It is estimated that almost a third of all D-DOT buses are down for repairs at any time.

The mechanics, however, insist that they aren't the problem. They claim that the real source of the problem is that they often don't have the parts that they need for repairs and that staffing cuts hurt an already strained department.

Mayor Bing raised the possibility of outsourcing some of the repairs to DDOT buses this afternoon. Of course, the challenge will be: if DDOT can't pay for repairs under the existing system, how will they pay for it all with a vendor who expects to make a profit off the deal?

DDOT is currently underfunded and has been for quite some time. Their budget for Fiscal Year 2012 is $140.6 million, which is down more than $10 million from last year. To put that in perspective, Cleveland will spend $225.8 million on their transit system this year while Milwaukee will spend $164.5 million.

Plus, while DDOT's budget has been critically short for quite some time, there is also the fact that the City decided to spend an untold sum of money replacing all of the bus stop signs in Detroit shortly after Mayor Bing took office. The new signs are more colorful, look nicer, and are larger than the old ones. However, in hindsight, it's clear that those funds would've been better spent improving DDOT's fleet.

With all of that said, I would like to remind Mayor Bing and everyone else that I produced a series of specific recommendations earlier this year to save the City of Detroit more than $41 million and do so without harming any of the services that Detroiters receive. A copy of my letter to Mayor Bing, which he never responded to, is available here.

I believe it is time for Mayor Bing and his Administration to take a very close look on what they are spending money on and refocus their efforts on delivering services.

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