Disclaimer: TRU supports CDC recommendations of social distancing and reminds everyone to only ride transit for essential needs. This piece is intended to provide one person’s on the ground insight.
Detroit author and former Detroit Free Press copy editor Oneita Jackson, 51, lives without a car and has used public transportation all her life. Working at a medical facility, Oneita has been deemed essential, and was riding the bus during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Despite DDOT urging people not to ride except for essential trips, Oneita noticed an uptick in bus ridership. With DDOT service now fare-free, she believes the lack of fares has more people riding. “There are too many people… and not enough social distancing,” Oneita says. The increased density has her worried.
“I am freaking out. People seem unaware of the precautions. The Woodward bus is packed,” Oneita observes. While some routes are seeing greater ridership, Oneita has seen service limitations leave other stops completely empty.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Oneita was displeased with the level of routine cleaning DDOT buses received. She typically found them dirty and neglected. Due to sanitation efforts though, Oneita thinks the buses are cleaner than ever, the cleanest she has seen during her 19 years in Detroit.
“It shouldn’t take a virus to wash a window,” she says.
Oneita regularly speaks with DDOT drivers, and says they share her concerns. “People still have to get to work, but drivers are scared.” Oneita wants to see better driver protection in future emergency protocol. She also expresses great remorse for the recent passing of DDOT driver Jason Hargrove.
Despite the current pandemic, Oneita believes life without the bus would be “unfathomable.” “People [in the city] do not have access to many resources, so how would they get to work?” Oneita remarks. In all, the busremains an essential service for Oneita and other Detroit residents, one that needs to be properly adapted to drivers’ and rider’s changing needs.