- The Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) have teamed up to create Dart, a unified bus fare payment system. Dart will launch on May 1.
- Four types of Dart passes will be available and passengers can use them interchangeably on both lines, eliminating transfers, additional fees and the confusion of dealing with different fares for each bus system. A Dart mobile app will launch this summer to allow users to purchase and use passes from their phone.
- Under Dart, for the first time regional passes will be available at a reduced cost for seniors, riders with disabilities, Medicare cardholders and youth.
Although DDOT and SMART are collaborating on the Dart payment system to make payment more seamless for riders, they will remain separate transit authorities. They anticipate that at some point Dart will be expanded from the region's bus systems to also include Detroit's QLine streetcar and downtown People Mover.
This highlights a challenge with transit in Detroit: it's rather disjointed. DDOT and SMART both operate bus lines, Detroit Transportation Corporation operates the People Mover and M-1 Rail operates the QLine. Having so many different entities operate the different modes of transit in an area creates challenges for passengers including time spent on transfers, confusion over different systems' operations and fare systems, extra fees for transferring between transit networks and overall difficulty getting from one point to another when using multiple forms of transit.
The complexity is not lost on passengers. Multiple news reports about the new Dart fare payment system say the existing way of operating has been "inconvenient" for passengers and it's "about time" the agencies come into alignment. Dart will be a way for two of the transit authorities to simplify transit for customers. It will continue the work going on to improve the Detroit region's transit, including last year's release of a Strategic Transportation Plan that outlined 82 strategies and action items such as revamping and increasing service on DDOT's bus system, installing new bus shelters, using smart traffic signals, reworking curb space and expanding the bike-share system.
Dart also will increase equity for riders. Offering fare discounts to citizens who traditionally have lower or no incomes increases transit access for groups that previously may have not been able to afford using these transportation services regularly.