Voters may have deflated hopes for more robust public transit when it defeated the Regional Transit Authority proposal last fall, but that doesn’t mean backers have given up. Ferndale is pushing a plan to launch free weekend shuttle service linking neighborhoods and shopping districts in Detroit, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak with the Detroit Zoo.
Ferndale has dubbed the trolley service the “Fab Cab.” Officials envision the four cities and publicly supported zoo each chipping in to support a trolley and shuttle bus service that would run Friday through Sunday from May 1 to Oct. 31.
The shuttles would run between the University of Detroit-Mercy and downtown Royal Oak, with stops along the Avenue of Fashion on Livernois, the former Michigan State Fairgrounds, downtown Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, the zoo and downtown Royal Oak.
Ferndale would run the three-year pilot program and has committed to spending $260,000 over at least two years. It’s looking for $50,000 each from Royal Oak and Detroit, $30,000 from the zoo and $10,000 from Pleasant Ridge, which has reportedly already been approved.
The city hopes that sponsorship revenue will cover the majority of costs by the end of the three-year pilot.
Ferndale officials say the program will help alleviate parking shortages at both the zoo, which saw record attendance last year, and its own downtown, where it is planning to construct a new four-story parking garage. It would also help people who don’t have access to a car.
Backers also cite the proliferation of development happening along Livernois Avenue — including new locations for Motor City Brewing and Bucharest Grill south of Eight Mile Road and Axle Brewing Co. and new apartment units north of it.
The service would emulate Grosse Pointe’s popular K-Line Trolley, which runs along Kercheval Street Fridays and Saturdays from 5-9 p.m. and has its own mobile app. That service is run by the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce and was funded by family foundations, the chamber and local businesses.
Troy also operates a free shuttle service along Big Beaver during extended lunch hours and weekday happy hours, according to the Freep.
Ferndale has enlisted help from the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, operators of the SMART bus service, to determine best routes and timing. The idea is to have two shuttles in service at all times.
Daily Detroit left messages seeking comment with Jordan Twardy, Ferndale’s director of community economic development.