Pex to offer door-to-door services, replacing Novi Senior Transportation program

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published April 4, 2024

Photo provided


NOVI — Curb-to-curb and door-to-door public transportation services throughout Oakland, Livingston, Washtenaw and Wayne counties will soon be readily available to residents of the city of Novi, as the City Council narrowly approved a resolution March 18 to name the People’s Express as its mode of transportation services for the elderly, disabled and all others ages 14 and older.

“People’s Express is going to offer a service to Novi residents 14 and older. The service that we offer is to residents 50 and older and/or those with disabilities, and now I think we are really opening up the door, so to speak, for so many more residents. So I am thrilled that we are having this conversation,” Mayor Pro Tem Laura Casey said.

“I just wanted us to take a moment to really emphasize just the awesomeness of this opportunity — the fact that we will be able to expand from not only providing the service to aging adults but everyone 14 and above,” Councilman Matt Heintz said.

This not only expands the range of people who can utilize public transit, but it also extends the hours the city is able to offer it. Currently, Novi Senior Transportation is available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. People’s Express, commonly called “Pex,” which will replace Novi Senior Transportation July 1, has service available 6 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays, 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays. Regional connections and transfers are available with SMART and other local carriers for out-of-boundary trip-making. Those with disabilities will receive door-to-door service.

“Congratulations to Novi, one of Oakland County’s job-rich communities, for voting to collaborate with People’s Express, expand transit service and provide more options to get to shopping, appointments, jobs and school,” Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said in a press release. “This is great news for the residents of Novi who can now access both SMART bus service and door-to-door rides.”

Eveliina Taylor, the deputy director of Pex, said that the transportation company’s drivers are required to go through an extensive driver-safety training program. New drivers go through defensive driver, passenger safety, sensitivity, paratransit, first aid and CPR training, as well as on-the-road training.

Pex drivers are also assessed to make sure they are physically capable of securing a wheelchair properly. All drivers must submit to background checks and will have annual training to refresh their past training, and there is recurring training throughout the year. Taylor also said that the vans are equipped with dashcams to provide footage of their performance on the road.  She said the cameras are visible to riders. 

Mayor Justin Fischer and Councilman Dave Staudt expressed their dismay over the issue.

“Our county commissioners I expected would have been supportive of Novi being funded and providing a service that was Novi-focused and Novi-run, but clearly we have lost in this. Our residents have lost. Our seniors are going to lose. And two or three years from now, if this doesn’t work, we will have nothing to start from,” Staudt said.

Staudt also expressed concern for the cost of the service, which is estimated to be in the ballpark of $1.5 million and will be paid by Oakland County through the millage that was passed 18 months ago.

“You just heard that this service provider is going to get a million and a half dollars. Why are those funds not better served coming back into the city of Novi and letting us continue to run a program that we were doing on an extremely low-cost basis?” Staudt asked County Commissioner Ajay Raman.

Raman said that although Novi is very good at delivering senior transit, using Pex will allow the city’s residents to be connected with the rest of the county and able to travel around a greater radius.

“Novi could do a really good job with $1.5 million,” Staudt said. “We could buy all-new buses. We could have full-time employees. We could have software. And we were told point-blank that was not an option, and I’d like to understand why. I’ve never gotten an explanation as to why. We’re a very capable city,” said Staudt.

Fischer expressed concern that the city might still have to budget for the seniors to get a free ride. Rides are currently free under the Novi Senior Transportation service for those traveling within the city’s boundaries and $5 for those going outside the boundaries of the city. Pex will charge seniors and those with disabilities $2 a ride, and younger riders without a disability $4 a ride.

“If we go down this path and we still have to subsidize out of our budget for our seniors to get a free ride, that’s going to be very disappointing with the amount of money that Novi residents put into the county, and with how much money is going from the county to this program. The fact that this city would then still have to pony-up and pay for that $2, if the county and Pex can’t figure that out, I will be very disappointed,” Fischer said. “I find this to be a pretty early and not fully well-thought-out strategy at this point. We’re hearing the word ‘outsourcing’ and how we do it all the time, and I love outsourcing when we might be able to save a little money or maybe it’s cleaning some of our facilities or maybe we help our (Department of Public Works) and maybe hire some other firms to do some of our snowplowing. I don’t outsource our people. I wouldn’t outsource our parks department to do camps for my kids, and I don’t think we should be outsourcing this on our most vulnerable residents, our seniors.”

The council approved of Pex with a vote of 4-3. Fischer, Staudt and Councilwoman Priya Gurumurphy voted against the move. There will be a 90-day adjustment period before Novi Senior Transportation is eliminated.

“I commend our staff on the work they have done both here in the Civic Center and all of the drivers for the work that they’ve done. Our movement to Pex is not in any way, shape or form any kind of indication that we are less than happy with the service that we have been providing all these years,” Casey said. “This is just our chance to enhance it.”

“For the first time ever, all Novi residents will soon have access to local connector transit, brought to us by the Oakland County Public Transportation millage,” County Commissioner Gwen Markham said in a press release. “Everyone who needs an alternative to driving will have new options, beginning this summer.”