The Detroit Connector, a University of Michigan bus service connecting the Ann Arbor campus to Detroit, is being discontinued. The cancellation prompted some students to criticize the decision’s effect on lower-income riders.
Feodies Shipp, director of the Detroit Center, said the discontinuation of the Detroit Connector has been replaced by a new service called D2A2. The D2A2 bus service is sponsored by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority, which is independent of the University. D2A2 launched on March 16 but was suspended on April 1 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Detroit Connector ran seven days a week and was available to the general public with stops at the Central Campus Transit Center in Ann Arbor, U-M Dearborn and the U-M Detroit Center.
LSA senior Dipita Das started using the Detroit Connector during her time in the Summer Bridge Scholars Program in 2017. Since then, she said she has used it at least three times a month to go home on the weekends.
“It got to the point where the bus drivers would recognize all their frequent riders and it became sort of like a small community,” Das said. “Some of us even carpooled to the bus stop together.”
Without the Detroit Connector and with D2A2 down, Das said it will be more difficult to go back home as often as she usually does. She said her parents’ work schedules and the nearly two-hour round-trip commute make it difficult to arrange rides to and from the Ann Arbor campus.
“It will be a struggle for me to go back home more often than usual,” Das said. “Both of my sisters are still in elementary school and high school, and they rely on me a lot to do the translating or tutoring. All of that would have to be virtual now since my transportation is limited.”
Shipp said the D2A2 service would be as accessible as the Detroit Connector, if not more.
“What contributed to the decision was the creation of a similar, if not duplicate, service from the AAATA,” Shipp said. “(The D2A2) was actually a more expansive service than the Detroit Connector and it was priced the exact same, if not a little bit less expensive, so we felt that there was an alternate service that students could definitely utilize.”
The University was going to phase out the Detroit Connector by assessing the D2A2 service through a survey for community feedback and town hall meetings, Shipp said. However, this plan was interrupted by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the cancellation of in-person classes.
According to Shipp, the survey is now open again and will help determine if the Detroit Connector needs to resume service.
“With the advent of the other service and coming back in the fall, we are leaning on this other service that is out there for the community to utilize and collecting feedback to determine how it meets their needs and whether or not we need to bring back the Connector,” Shipp said.
If students are not able to coordinate rides home, Das said she worries it will be harder for first-generation students and students of color from Detroit to attend the University.
“For a lot of my other friends, the biggest reason why they were able to come to U of M was because they made a compromise with their parents about how often they would come home,” Das said. “Now that this method of transportation isn’t there anymore, I’m not sure what the future holds for incoming students especially those who come from first-gen or immigrant communities … I feel like the population of first-gen immigrants and students of color from the Detroit area will decrease.”
Sarosh Irani, a first-year medical student at the University, previously attended Wayne State University in Detroit as an undergraduate. He said he used the Detroit Connector to occasionally travel to Ann Arbor to visit friends as he does not own a car.
Irani said he liked the affordability and convenience of the Detroit Connector.
“For me, the Detroit Connector was a really convenient way to get from Detroit to Ann Arbor,” Irani said. “It was the only transit link between the two, and it was also really cheap at $6 one way, which isn’t very expensive for a 45-minute bus ride.”
One thing the D2A2 service is lacking is a stop at the U-M Dearborn campus, Irani said. He hopes the AAATA will respond to potential demand for a stop at the Dearborn campus should the need arise.
Irani thinks the D2A2 service will be comparable to the Detroit Connector, but he believes the program could subsidize the bus trips for University students.
“(The fare) isn’t crazy high, but it can be a little bit of a burden for college students,” Irani said.
Daily Staff Reporter Celene Philip can be reached at email@example.com.