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 The Red Line Big Beaver shuttle leaves the stop at the Troy Civic Center on a morning run in 2017.

The Red Line Big Beaver shuttle leaves the stop at the Troy Civic Center on a morning run in 2017.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Big Beaver shuttle to be scuttled

Funds may be redirected to senior ride service

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 24, 2019

TROY — Although ridership has grown, the Troy City Council directed city staff, by consensus, to proceed with a city budget that does not fund the Big Beaver shuttle for 2019-20.

“This is a stop point where we really need input from the council,” Troy City Manager Mark Miller told the council at its April 15 budget study session.

If approved, the budget would direct the $230,000 annual stipend for the shuttle service to Medi-Go, which provides transportation to seniors and those with disabilities to medical appointments.

The Big Beaver shuttle, free to riders, runs on two routes — the Red and Blue lines — 4-11 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. The discontinued morning run  operated 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

West loop, or Red Line, shuttles run from Livernois Road to Coolidge Highway and arrive at stops every 15 minutes or less. Three vehicles service the west loop.

East loop, or Blue Line, shuttles travel from Livernois Road to John R Road and make stops every 30 minutes or less. One vehicle services that loop.

Emily Frontera, the city’s public works coordinator, said via email that the 2018 fourth-quarter totals equaled 5,096 riders, with the Red Line servicing 3,629 riders and the Blue Line transporting 1,467 riders.

The total number of riders from startup on Dec. 19, 2016, to December 2018 comes to 29,848 passengers, Frontera said.

Miller explained that the shuttle’s $180,000 in annual credits from the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation can be transferred to the Medi-Go program. SMART provides the vehicles for the shuttle and to Medi-Go at no cost to the city through grant funding.

Miller said the average weekly ridership for the Big Beaver shuttle is 372 riders and the cost per rider is $11.79 for the city. The city’s SMART credits must be used for public transportation. The city also  allocates an additional $100,000 to fund the program.

“The shuttle, although a novel idea, I don’t think it’s right for our community,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ethan Baker. “I don’t think it’s worked as expected.”

Miller said there is increased demand for Medi-Go services. In 2018, 528 requests for service went unmet.

“We have an immediate need with the seniors for Medi-Go,” said Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek.

Miller said there were roughly 19,380 Medi-Go riders in 2018.

Currently, Medi-Go leases the buses from SMART free of charge through a community  partnership.

Councilman David Hamilton said that the shuttle’s per-rider cost of $11.79 is steep.

“It’s unfortunate. I know the value of public transportation,” he said.

The council decided, by consensus, to bring the city’s transportation services in-house at a cost of $510,000 and to allocate the Big Beaver shuttle funding and SMART credits to the in-house program — redirecting $230,000 from the shuttle fund, transferring $180,000 in SMART credits and earmarking the $100,000 the city kicks in for Medi-Go for $510,000 total to add a full-time manager, a full-time scheduler, a part-time scheduler and eight part-time drivers; the current shuttle drivers will be encouraged to apply.

The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2019-20 and three-year budgets and will then consider them for approval at its May 6 meeting.

If the budget is approved with the changes, Department of Public Works Director Kurt Bovensiep said, the shuttle service will stop by June 30.