The city of Detroit was built on automobiles, but today more than one quarter of households in the city don’t own a car.For cities, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. New York, Boston, DC, and Chicago all have a greater percentage of carless households. But these cities also have comprehensive, world-class public transportation system. Detroit, meanwhile, doesn’t even have a decent bus system. The Wall Street Journal spotlights the sorry state of the city’s bus system, where commuters face travel times frequently in excess of 90 minutes:
Bus lines, which have a daily ridership of 100,000, have been cut or curtailed in recent years. Aging, poorly maintained buses regularly conk out, leaving remaining ones so overcrowded they often blast through stops without taking on new passengers. Many days, nearly one-third of all buses don’t even make it out of their depots because of mechanical or staffing problems, according to transit advocates, union and city officials. The average age of a Detroit bus is 9½ years, the back end of a 12-year life span.
There may be some improvements in the works. The new bankruptcy deal currently under discussion would see more money freed up to pay for improved city services. But there’s no guarantee that creditors or the courts will agree to a plan that sees their payments cut so the city can spend more on public transportation. And in a city where police and ambulances frequently take hours to show up, there are other services that may need the money even more.Detroit’s bankruptcy may be the first step toward a saner politics, but there’s a long way to go before it becomes anything like a functioning city again.