Tickets to ride

Dec 23, 1998 at 12:00 am

It's the age-old Detroit holiday season dilemma: How to go out and have a good time on New Year's Eve without endangering yourself (or others) on the way there or the way home.

In many other cities, it's easy to stay off the roads on this or any other occasion — just hop on the subway, or the MUNI, or the El. Not so in the Motor City.

Here, if you don't have wheels, you ain't going anywhere you can't already walk. Still, there are many rolling options that allow those determined to celebrate to do so safely.

One tried-and-true option is, of course, a cab. I once mentioned in this very paper that hailing a cab in this city is a rare feat, much to the ire of one cabbie with e-mail. Truth is, on some of the busier thoroughfares this is most definitely an option, although unless the balmy weather returns, I'd still recommend calling first.

Through the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Life Ride program, some cab companies offer free rides to those who should not be behind the wheel on this most drunken of holidays. The program is in effect in the tri-county area from 9 p.m. New Year's Eve to 5 a.m. on New Year's Day. Call toll free, 877-367-6233, and they'll call a cab for you.

Some bars, such as Woody's in Royal Oak (208 W. Fifth, 248-543-8959) also offer coupons for cab rides.

If you drive somewhere and plan on drinking, take cab company phone numbers with you. Or, better yet, take a cab in the first place.

Limousine services are a great way for groups to get around together, although prices may be higher and companies may be more selective about assignments than on other evenings. Booking in advance is recommended.

"There are a lot of risks New Year's Eve due to drinking and driving and long-term runs are more popular runs for limo companies on New Year's," says Ross Green, owner of Distinct Limousine in Farmington Hills (800-862-9968).

A few companies offer special services for those who find themselves in need of a late-night ride.

St. Patrick's Angels (888-828-3930) offers free "Good Samaritan" rides on New Year's Eve and throughout the year, and Limousine Co-op and Yacht Service (313-259-5516) not only offers a pick-up service but will drive you home in your own car so that both you and your vehicle arrive home safely. Rates for this service vary.

Public transportation is available on New Year's Eve as well. Both the D-DOT city buses and SMART suburban buses will be operating on Sunday schedules that night.

Another option is to make transportation your destination. The Michigan Star Clipper dinner train offers a four-hour ride through Wixom, Walled Lake and West Bloomfield. Guests can choose between musical or murder-mystery packages, which include champagne at midnight.

No matter your mode of transport, it is advised that you reach your destination well before revelers start ringing in the New Year Detroit-style. Some poor planning on my part last year resulted in my treating out-of-town guests to the thrill of gunshots whizzing over our heads as we exited our parked car in Hamtramck. A subsequent attempt to park in safety revealed a cadre of burly valets huddled against a wall with instructions to remain under cover until further notice.

This year, I plan to take the advice of my neighbor (and Detroit's funkiest flute player), Dave Schroeder: "Find out who's having a party on your block and just go there."