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Detroit Hotels Want Shuttle Service; Airport Doesn’t See NeedPrint

Thriving Communities | September 17, 2013 | By James Bruckbauer

Metro Airport officials in Detroit don’t think people want more transportation options to and from downtown, according to a recent post by Deadline Detroit blogger Jeff Wattrick.

But, Wattrick says, Detroit’s hotel and tourism officials disagree; visitors from out-of-town complain about the lack of options, and demand for a shuttle service is growing. So the officials are urging the Wayne County Airport Authority, which manages the Detroit Metro Airport, to allow hotels to run shuttle services, the Detroit News reports.

Last year, on a visit to Detroit during the Michigan Transportation Odyssey, it took me more than two hours to get from the Metro Airport—the 24th busiest airport in the entire world—to downtown Detroit.

The lack of public transit there turns off many visitors, especially business people, many of whom are coming from Asia and Europe. (The airport is Delta’s primary gateway to Asia and third busiest to Europe.)

And Detroit’s not alone. Most of Michigan’s major airports lack reliable transit connections. Here in Traverse City, a bus ride from the airport to downtown can take about 50 minutes and riders are required to get out of one bus and board another at a transfer point. In Grand Rapids, transit riders from the airport have to transfer to a new bus before entering into the city.

Cities that are embracing a transit-first strategy—Toronto, Mexico City, St. Louis, and even nearby Cleveland—rank high in global competitiveness and overall quality of life. Without exception, these and other robust metro regions have strong transit connections to their airports.

It sounds like Detroit’s tourism officials understand this.

This year’s Transportation Odyssey, a two-day trek across Michigan using only bikes, buses, and trains, begins next week Thursday. Travelers will ride from Traverse City to Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor and Detroit, including the Detroit Metro airport. Can they beat last year’s two-hour trek between the airport and downtown? Judging by the airport officials’ comments, it’s not likely.

You can track the travelers online on Transportation for Michigan’s site: www.Trans4M.org/odyssey

James Bruckbauer is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s transportation policy specialist. Follow him on Twitter: @jimbruckb. Reach him at james@mlui.org.