Ferndale, DetroitJune 29, 2012
Ferndale resident launches new Detroit Bus Co.
By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer
Andy Didorosi was not happy with the slow progress being made to finally bring a modern, dependable mass transit system to metro Detroit, so he did what any ambitious young entrepreneur would do: He started his own.
While Didorosi’s new Detroit Bus Co. (DBC) so far only has five buses, and only operates on weekends, and only includes a small downtown loop, he believes that it is a step in the right direction for the region — and one with tremendous potential for growth. After all, Detroit may still be the Motor City, but that doesn’t mean that people want to drive their cars everywhere they go.
“It’s such a frustrating thing that we don’t have a mass transit system downtown that people can rely on,” said Didorosi, a 25-year-old Ferndale resident and owner of the Ferndale business incubator Paper Street. “There’s a real need there, but we still don’t have light rail or (bus rapid transit), and we might not for several more years. In the meantime, though, we’ve still got a city to run and people need an easy way to get around.”
The DBC’s business model could not be any simpler: Riders pay $5 for an unlimited, all-day pass and can hop on and off the buses anytime they want. Regular bus hours are Friday from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. and Sunday from 1-10 p.m. The buses also operate two hours before and after every Detroit Tigers home game.
The buses follow a route through Midtown, Corktown and downtown that stops at 12 popular locations such as Comerica Park, Foran’s Irish Pub, Pegasus Taverna, The Majestic Theater, Woodbridge Pub and Green Dot Stables. The DBC also has an official “park and ride” lot at Michigan Avenue and Rosa Parks Boulevard, but Didorosi indicated that he and his business partners are reconsidering that option.
Gary Anglebrandt, chief operating officer for the company, came on board with the DBC about a month ago. As a former web editor for Crain’s Detroit Business, he had sensed that the tides in the area were changing.
“The way I see it, this has been a long time coming,” said the 35-year-old Detroit resident. “I had been noticing a groundswell of new, young entrepreneurs in the area and more people coming to hang out in Detroit. Midtown and Corktown have come alive; the nightlife has really taken off. There has been a lot of demand for something like this, so we thought it would be a great way to connect some of these neighborhoods.”
The DBC may soon be connecting even more neighborhoods, as Didorosi is planning to add a route that picks up bus riders in Royal Oak, Ferndale and Hamtramck and brings them downtown. He is looking to change the city’s approach to transit, which he feels is “very anti-consumer right now,” into one that is more mobile and welcoming.
One of Didorosi’s goals with the DBC was to create a more enjoyable riding experience that would entice downtown visitors to step out of their cars. All of the company’s vehicles are former school buses that were converted to biodiesel, and Didorosi hired three local artists to paint them in bright, vivid colors featuring graffiti-style lettering. He also sought out drivers with talkative, lively personalities to help keep customers entertained.
“Riding a bus can be a pretty boring, unpleasant experience most of the time, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” Didorosi said. “We wanted to change some things that would make it cool and fun for people.”
Other local bus service providers had little to say about Didorosi’s new endeavor. Beth Gibbons, spokesperson for the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART), chose not to comment. Representatives from the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) could not be reached for comment.
Anglebrandt explained that the biggest challenge for the company right now is getting more residents on board with a shifting mindset that embraces mass transit as part of daily life. He pointed out that when he lived in Seoul, South Korea for four years, he used public transportation or walked everywhere he went and never needed to use a car. While metro Detroit is still a long way from that type of transit model, he believes that it may get there one day.
“I rode the bus last weekend, and it was amazing because other people seem to have even more support for this idea than we do,” Anglebrandt said. “I don’t think this would have worked if we had tried to do it 10 or 15 years ago. But more and more young people now are starting to think about using public transportation instead of driving everywhere.”
Didorosi agreed. While the DBC was originally created as a stopgap measure until a government-sponsored public transit system is established, Didorosi can see his company sticking around for the long haul.
“People always say to us, ‘Why didn’t somebody think of this before?’ because it seems like such an obvious solution,” he said. “We’ve got to start somewhere, and right now we have the advantage of being small and quick and agile. It’s really not all that complicated. You don’t have to go to bus school to do this — you just need to figure out where people are and where they want to go. So I really feel like this service can lay a great foundation for the Detroit area.”
For more information on the Detroit Bus Co., call (313) 444-BUS1 or go to www.thedetroitbus.com.
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