Major paratransit contract up for vote in Detroit

A vote impacting many disabled residents in Detroit is expected Tuesday when the city council considers a new $50 million contract that would continue public transportation services.

In an effort improve services for disabled customers and those who struggle to get around, the Detroit Department of Transportation is looking for the approval of a five-year contract that increases the agency's current budget to $15 million.

Under the new contract, transportation services would be split between two groups: Transdev and People's Express. 

However, if approved DDOT would take over more oversight duties from Transdev, like reservation taking, hiring proper staff, scheduling, dispatching, and customer-complaint responses. The French company is currently in charge of those services, though many have complained about the quality.

The criticism prompted DDOT to rethink its public transit model to better accommodate its disabled citizens. If the city council approves the contract, DDOT would take over management roles currently served by Transdev on Jan. 1, 2023.

A majority of the funds from the proposed contract would be used to purchase services from three subcontractors: Big Star, LLC, Moe Transportation, and Delray United Action Council. 

People's Express, which had a $16 million contract approved earlier in November, will provide about 30% of the service - which is about 300 trips a day. 

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In an overview of the proposed contracts, the city of Detroit urged the city council to approve them.

"If Transdev is not awarded the contract, DDOT runs the risk of not being able to deliver the current 1,000 trips a day. Only 300 trips a day would be possible using People’s Express which will provide 30% of the service being January 1, 2023. That’s a loss of 70% of the capacity of the system. Transdev’s current contract expires on December 31, 2022," read the report.

DDOT also said any delays in the contract being approved could render "serious repercussions" from the federal government for failing to be provide services that are ADA compliant.