I’ve spent the past couple days riding the new RefleX bus, a limited-stop, express bus service between the suburbs and downtown Detroit, and I’m here to tell you: The Duran Duran song by the same name totally keeps popping into my head.
Also, the three-year pilot program is a welcome new transportation service.
The RefleX (fle-fle-fle-fle-flex) is a new service from the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan that provides service between the suburbs and central business district seven days a week. (Yes, it feels weird to write that about a major American city in 2016, but here we are.) It operates early in the morning and late at night, with no gaps during mid-days and no need to transfer bus systems at 8 Mile Road, addressing a key weakness I’ve already outlined.
The service also showcases a practically unheard of level of cooperation between DDOT and SMART and offers a taste of the kinds of changes planned if voters in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties approve a 1.2-mill property tax in November to fund the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan’s master plan. The RTA, whose logo is emblazoned on the buses along with those of SMART and DDOT, functions as an umbrella organization for the three-year pilot bus services.
Trips from my home in Ferndale to the terminus stop downtown are at least 10 minutes quicker than conventional buses, though the logjam created by the M-1 Rail construction is still considerable.
To be sure, the RefleX isn’t a panacea.
By its express and limited-stop nature, you’ll probably have to hoof it a bit to get to a stop. I certainly do, with the nearest stop a 15-minute walk from my house.
But that’s the thing about public transit that too many in the Detroit area fail to understand: By design, you’ll be walking, outside in the elements and fresh air, more than before. Even in cities with already-robust public transit, it isn’t too often that a bus or subway drops you right outside your office.
You can choose to accept this, and you might find you enjoy it. Personally, I love walking around downtown before work, taking time to peer inside windows of stores I usually only admire fleetingly from a passing car. Or stopping somewhere to buy coffee because, hey, I don’t have to worry about parking!
Or you could use your bike to get there. Or bum a ride from your roommate or spouse. At least it’s easier now to go downtown without having to worry about parking.