BRIDGEDETROIT: So, you don’t have a car?
Christina Debose: Yes, I’ve been car-free since 2021. My car floated away in the flood.
I was living in Corktown and my office is at Bamboo Detroit. I could take the bus that was literally coming in front of my house. I realized that used cars were like 40 percent over the asking price. I was like “OK I can figure it out.”
Cars? I’m sorry. Insurance in the city is so expensive.
It’s my first time without a car. We’re hitting two years.
BD: Tell us more about wanting to reframe the narrative on public transit. How should we change how it's talked about?
DEBOSE: Riding transit in metro Detroit, because we’re the Motor City, people think you are poor. If I would take the bus about to arrive by my house right now, Phillip would be on it. He’s a neurosurgeon at DMC.
People think riding the bus is your social class. No. The bus is for all.
It’s about quality of life, and I want other people to get on so the bus system can be like other big cities. I’ve always wanted to live in New York, but not really because I don’t do rats.
I also need to help people understand how to use the resources so they can handle their day-to-day life using the bus. Even my bus driver one time didn't know you can go online and there’s a real-time bus tracker.
No one talks about the Transit App. It tells you the frequency of the bus, it tells you how often it’s on time.
In order for us to be a full community, we also have to acknowledge these bus drivers need to make more money – or we’re screwed.
BD: What kind of response have you received from people who see your posts?
DEBOSE: It’s mostly positive, especially in the community of Black riders.
Everybody and their mother tagged me about how Dan Gilbert wants more transit. I just want people to feel like they’re heard.
I barely made it home recently, a bus driver was shooting the shit at the Rosa Parks Transit Center and we were sitting outside on a night when it was 29 degrees. An older lady went to a different bus, even though she said she’s going to have to walk an extra 10 minutes, because she couldn’t stand outside any longer.
Is it reaching the people at DDOT who matter? I don’t know.
BD: What common issues do you encounter on the bus? What are the biggest things you’ve learned by documenting your rides?
DEBOSE: The buses are late. I take the 29 because it drops me off in front of my house. Online it says the route starts at the top of the hour. For the last seven months, I'm consistently doing the bus as opposed to having a friend give me their car. In six months I've never seen the 29 leave at the right time.
There are people getting stranded more than they should be.
The new problem I’m having is bus drivers on their cell phone. Like full conversations.
You can live in Detroit, no matter where, and use public transit if you’re invested in it.
But I feel like DDOT and some drivers don’t care about the people. Until they care about people we’re just recycling emotions and actions.
I mean, the drivers are super nice but I've had drivers get into it with other people. The first driver I ever had, you could tell he treated me different because I had a different affluence of life.
I told him I'm going to document my journey. Everyday bus riders are treated with such disrespect.
People have been fighting for a long time. I know how to utilize social media. I know how to tell a story. Like 80 percent of everything I post is positive, but I'm also transparent when things happen.
BD: I hear people say we should be encouraging people to ride the bus, but also talk about how the system isn’t serving people the way it should be. Do you try to balance that?
DEBOSE: We’re talking about accessibility for everybody.
(My posts) improved understanding that the bus isn’t so bad. I’ve had people say they had never taken the bus but their car broke down so they used it for two weeks and saved money on a rental car.
I got my friend from Chicago to buy a week pass for the bus when he was here.
I want to show the higher-ups what is going on. This is not a one-off, it happens every day.
A lot of people think the way to grow transit is to get new riders. We used to have a million residents. Nourish the people you already have so they stay and bring in new people.
Transit needs to realize it's about the people that are already riding. They need to feel cared about and not like they are the shit on somebody’s shoe.
Sorry if you don’t like swear words.