Duggan uses emergency powers to continue providing paratransit services in Detroit

Detroit was at risk of federal oversight if it didn’t find a quick solution

Dec 8, 2022 at 3:03 pm
click to enlarge A Detroit Department of Transportation bus. - City of Detroit
City of Detroit
A Detroit Department of Transportation bus.

Mayor Mike Duggan unveiled an emergency plan Thursday to continue paratransit services after Detroit City Council rejected a contract to fully fund rides for people with disabilities in 2023.

The mayor’s administration is working with four companies on a temporary basis to take over work from Transdev, a French company that riders complained had provided subpar services.

City council rejected a new contract with Transdev on Nov. 22 at the request of paratransit riders. But by doing so, the city was on the verge of losing most of its paratransit services in the new year because Duggan’s administration said it would take months to find a new provider through the required bidding process.

“For the last month, it has been unfortunate that many of our most vulnerable residents have had the anxiety of not knowing whether their transportation was secure,” a visibly frustrated Duggan said at a news conference Thursday.

After Duggan said the city would have no choice but to reduce paratransit service by 70% in 2023, the Federal Transit Administration admonished the city, saying it was violating federal law by failing to fully fund the services and could find itself under federal oversight.

Duggan responded by using his emergency powers to continue funding the services by working with four companies that will take over Transdev’s work: Moe Transportation, Big Star Transit, Checker Cab Company, and Delray United Action Council.

Those companies will provide services for the next six months while the city seeks bids for a permanent provider. Every week, the city will evaluate the quality of each company’s services to ensure they are meeting riders’ expectations.

After hearing complaints about Transdev’s services, the city was in the process of hiring workers to dispatch rides and field complaints from riders. Until now, Transdev had handled the complaints, which left the city in the dark about poor quality services, Duggan said.

“I don’t have any excuse for the poor performance you got in the past,” Duggan said. "We are completely taking control of the situation.”

Duggan added, “Transdev should not have been supervising themselves. It was a flawed structure. Everything you have heard about the complaints in services is true.”

Asked why the city wanted to rehire Transdev following the myriad complaints, Duggan said his administration had no choice but to follow the city’s rules for awarding contracts through the bidding process.

“The city of Detroit is going to honor the procurement ordinance, and people are entitled to bid, and we will have a long-term answer,” Duggan said.

The emergency plan will cost $5.8 million for the first six months of 2023, compared to $4.8 million under the contract that the council rejected.

“It’s going to cost $1 million more,” Duggan said. “I feel the security of our disabled community was worth it.”

Earlier in the week, Duggan lashed out at the city council for rejecting the Transdev contract.

“We’re dealing with a dysfunctional City Council for the first time in nine years, I’ve got to get adjusted to that,” Duggan told reporters at a news conference for an affordable housing development in Southwest Detroit.

Council President Mary Sheffield, who voted to renew the contract with Transdev, called out Duggan for the insult.

“Unfortunately, intimidating that City Council is ‘dysfunctional’ or that the Administration has to clean up ‘Council’s mess’ is a false narrative, shameful and highly inappropriate rhetoric directed towards a duly elected body,” Sheffield said in a statement Wednesday. “I hoped we were past these attempts at an outdated type of bully politics.”

Duggan said he doesn’t expect Transdev to put in a bid for a new contract.

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