Paratransit in Detroit in limbo after council rejects $49M contract

The Detroit City Council rejected a contract with an out-of-state company to provide transportation options to disabled Detroit citizens in a dramatic vote this week.

After initially approving the $50 million contract with Transdev by a 5-3 vote, the council reversed course after District 6 Councilwoman Gabriela Santiago-Romero requested a motion to reconsider the vote.

When a re-vote was held, the roll call was 4-4, meaning the contract failed.

The rejection means the Detroit Department of Transportation will reduce its services by approximately 70% beginning Jan. 1, 2023 - about 1,000 fewer daily rides for residents with disabilities. A contract with People's Express, which was already approved earlier in November, is still in place.

The DDOT Director Mikel Oglesby had lobbied for the contract renewal, arguing that services would be improved either way because the city was taking over more of the direct services with residents. 

Yet, many of public comments about Transdev were critical of the company during the city council meeting. 

Transit Riders United, an advocacy group for alternative forms of transportation said that while disability advocates didn't say they were okay with losing a majority of services, "they are also not okay with giving Transdev a 5-year contract. 

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"They refuse to accept either option - unfortunately Council doesn't have that option right now."

DDOT previously warned that if the contract wasn't renewed, they could see penalties from the federal government for failing to remain ADA compliant.