Occupy Detroit demands good bus service for the people Oct. 28, 2011

No notice given; regular monthly “customer comments” meeting Thurs. Feb. 16, 5-7 p;m. D-DOT HQ; contractor’s plans include regionalization  

By Diane Bukowski 

February 9, 2012 

DETROIT – If Detroit bus riders thought they were in bad shape last year, waiting three and four hours for buses that sometimes never came, they will be in shock February 24 when the city eliminates 24-hour and weekend service and institutes drastic cuts in bus personnel. 

ATU Div. 26 President Henry Gaffney speaks at press conference after drivers' sick-out Nov. 4, 2011

Henry Gaffney, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Division 26, represents the city’s bus drivers. He confirmed the accuracy of fliers circulating around Detroit headlined “BUS CUTS/BUS CUTS.” (See flier at top of article.) 

“Mayor Dave Bing said last year that he did not want to see seniors and children waiting long hours for buses in the cold,” Gaffney told VOD. “But he hasn’t even held hearings or informed the public yet that D-DOT will eliminate week-end service beginning Feb. 24, along with night-time service from 1 a.m. to 4 or 5 a.m.” 

The only meeting scheduled on the Detroit Department of Transportation (D-DOT)’s website is a regular monthly “customer comments” meeting Thurs. Feb. 16, from 5-7 p.m. at D-DOT headquarters at 1300 E. Warren, off the Chrysler (I-75) service drive. 

Grand River bus around corner from Rosa Parks Terminal Sept. 2011

Gaffney said bus drivers know about the new schedules because they have been posted at the terminals. He said driver lay-offs were reduced from 163 (cited in the flier) to 78 only three days ago. The fliers call on the public to contact Bing’s office as well as City Council members to express their outrage. 

“The lay-off of 78 drivers is still devastating,” Gaffney said. “We don’t have enough drivers now. People are retiring faster than I can breathe. The least senior drivers are those who work the weekends and so they will go first. The current situation is terrible as it is already. The buses are packed early on and have to pass by many stops because there’s no room. They’re already down to a bare minimum on the week-ends, one or two buses running on each route.” 

Gaffney said he cannot understand why transportation is not considered a priority in Detroit. 

City is trying to avoid dealing with riders at public hearings like this one in 2009; since then, dozens of routes have been canceled and hours shortened.

“At least 120,000 people ride the buses every day, not because they want to, but because they have to. A good transit system can bring in millions of dollars to the economy, but we have two failing systems, D-DOT and SMART. SMART laid-off 70 drivers last year and cut their weekend service. What will people do about getting to their jobs and other places they need to go?” 

Management of the Detroit Department of Transportation (D-DOT) has been contracted out to Parsons Brinckerhoff Michigan, Inc. according to a work order obtained by VOD.  Parsons has subcontracted to an obscure start-up company, Envisurage, LLC., whose CEO is Mark Aesch. Aesch was CEO of the Rochester Genessee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA) in New York state from 2004 to 2011. Their contract began Jan. 1, 2012, meaning they are effectuating the lay-offs and route cuts. (Click on PBE_0001_NEW to view work order. Under “page display” on PDF menu, click on “single page view” for ease of reading.)

AFSCME Local 312 President Leamon Wilson demanded more mechanics and parts availablity, no contracting out, at City Council public hearing Sept. 16, 2011

The original concept behind contracting out management, according to discussions last year between the Bing administration and AFSCME Local 312, representing bus mechanics, was that it would prevent the lay-offs of mechanics and drivers, increase available work time including overtime, and allow for hiring more workers in the wake of rampant retirements. 

But a primary goal listed in the work order is to “design alternatives to transition the governance structure to exist in a regional authority.”

There have been numerous proposals in Lansing over the years to merge D-DOT and the pseudo-public SMART (Suburbuan Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation). Michigan Gov. Rick Sndyer has now proposed to use federal funding to create a regional authority, bypassing both systems, their workers and riders. Many Detroiters fear that a regional authority will condemn Detroit to second-class transportation status, and mean a loss of funds for Detroit bus routes, as well as jobs for Detroiters.

In its “Operations Plan for DDOT,” Parsons Brinckerhoff/Envisurage (PB/E) says under the heading Evaluate Staff, “We undoubtedly have too many employees and we certainly have too many employees that lack a vested commitment to excellence. All employees will be given the opportunity in very short order to demonstrate their personal commitment to organizational success. Absent that, staff changes will be necessary both financially and culturally.” 

AFSCME says: Hire city youth, no cuts, Detroit won't go to the back of the bus

Through the past years, city administrations have touted diversity and cultural change in departments such as the water department. According to union representatives, the result has been massive privatization schemes that have resulted in the loss of city jobs held primarily by Black Detroiters, and Detroiters’ loss of control over city services, including those that bring revenue to the city. 

PB/E says they will accomplish the “staff changes” through the following means:

  •  Establish work plans—tied to strategic objectives—with quantifiable collaborative goals.
  • Each month conduct over-performers/under-performers meeting.
  • Establish staff reduction plan to bring levels to a benchmark norm.
  • Reduce staffing levels to drive savings and match industry norms. 

    Occupy Detroit protest last October

The implications are that staff reductions will be tied to performance, not seniority, a violation of union contracts. 

D-DOT receives the majority of its funding from federal and state grants. PB/E’s proposed actions can cause the city to lose millions from the feds. Under the Federal Urban Mass Transportation Act (UMTA), funds can be withheld if the city does not provide “fair and equitable protective arrangements” for D-DOT employees. These include:

  • The preservation of rights, privileges, and benefits under existing collective bargaining agreements;
  • The continuation of collective bargaining rights;
  • The protection of employees against a worsening of their positions with respect to their employment;
  • Assurances of employment to employees of acquired mass transportation systems and priority of reemployment for employees terminated or laid off; and
  • Paid training or retraining programs.

    Mark Aesch--Detroit's new bus czar?

Under the work order, PB/E will be paid $2,068,000 for 11 months of work. Added to that will be “Incentive Compensation,” which could provide as much as $2,015,000 additionally, according to a complex schedule, a total of $4,083,000. 

The order says the company’s goal is to reduce the city’s contribution to D-DOT from $6.3 million a month to $4.6 million a month, or on a yearly basis, from $75.6 million to $55.2 million. That goal is part of the incentive plan, with PB/E given bonuses for every reduction. 

Additionally, there will be hidden costs. 

PB/E says it will hire a five-person senior executive team, which will cost $1.1 million over 11 months. In addition, it says it will perform “staff augmentation” as necessary, in the wake of the lay-offs, with the new workers employed by PB/E. 

The work order creates a new classification of “Senior Management Consultant” at a “Total Average Hourly Rate” of $311.42, including $28.31 an hour in profit and $172.52 in “overhead.” The order does not specify how many of these consultants will be hired. 

PB/E also says it will build “high quality” information systems, with unknown amounts going to contractors, review and renegotiate vendors’ contracts if need be, and analyze D-DOT’s capital program to determine “cash availability” in federal grants. 

PB/E wants to cut number of buses.

“The single most important task we can focus on to drive financial success is to more efficiently schedule our equipment,” says the work order. “Buses that are scheduled simply to burn gas and pay overtime will be eliminated.” PB/E claims that it will identify “standing loads and over-crowding—add service where appropriate.” 

It will also “work to identify appropriate downsizing of the fleet,” while at the same time “defeat all obstacles to increasing fleet availability (drivers, attendance, parts availability, supervision attentiveness) . . . .” 

They also claim they will focus on “communications with the community,” although they have scheduled no public hearings on the proposed cuts. 

Pres. Gaffney said he has spoken with ATU local officials in Rochester, New York, where the Rochester Genesee Regional Transit Authority (RGRTA), where Aesch was CEO. He left at the end of 2011, allegedly to work in “the private sector,”
according to a story on ABC 13.

Prior to his departure, he had unsucessfully proposed combining four Bus riders in Rochester N.Y. (above)         regional transportation systems established by the New York State Legislature in 1969, into one, encompassing 250 square miles. The proposal was criticized as unwieldy.

 “They told me we had better start praying,” Gaffney told VOD. He said no one from PB/E, including Aesch, has contacted him, and he has been unsuccessful in contacting any of them. He added that the city has refused to give him a copy of the actual contract with PB/E, and he has had to request it through the Freedom of Information Act.

Gary Rauen is an ATU International Vice-President in Washington, D.C., who worked with the Rochester ATU local for three and a half years while Aesch was CEO of RGRTA. 

D-DOT rider talks with bus driver William WIlliams about common concerns Nov. 4

“My involvement with Mark Aesch during that time was zero, zilch,” Rauen said. “He never even one time met with me and the union regarding routing changes or levels of service. He never got involved with contract negotiations. When he left, we had 378 pending arbitration cases, involving progressive steps of discipline leading up to termination, and there are only 325 drivers in the local. Morale was terrible. If I was CEO of any company, and knew that many cases were pending, my face would have been across the table from the local union. He was a terrible boss, with a totally closed-door policy.” 

Rauen said Aesch’s attitude toward the community was no different. 

Mark Aesch promoting his book

“He’s a fabulous communicator with the politicians, but not with the people, and certainly not with the riders,” Rauen said. “He was about self-serving purposes, writing his book and promoting himself.’ 

Aesch’s book is “Driving Excellence.” His company, Envisurage, is apparently a start-up company that is not even listed on the state of Michigan’s business entity website. 

Envisurage’s website, at, says, “Under his leadership in Rochester, Mark successfully introduced the concept of managing a public sector agency with a private sector mindset. The results have led the nation – a reduction in fares, multi-million dollar surpluses and actually reducing their reliance on taxpayer dollars.”

Bing has broken promises made to DDOT drivers, workers, and riders

A recent article from noted that beginning with Aesch’s term as CEO, the RGRTA “scaled back its service to its most profitable routes in the city and first ring suburbs, . . But RGRTA did not simply abandon routes that significant numbers of passengers relied upon for their jobs. It negotiated partnerships with nursing homes, colleges, public schools, hospitals, businesses and other transit-dependent institutions to continue service.”

According to the article, RGRTA now has 50 contracts with such entities, which pay RGRTA to subsidize the service they provide to their constituents.

Rauen noted the RGRTA surpluses resulted from its previous CEO’s integration of the region’s school districts’ transportation into RGRTA, not from anything Aesch did. 

The website says Aesch lives in Tampa, Florida and is also a “Senior Advisor with the global engineering and consulting company, Parsons Brinckherhoff.” 

The Huffington Post notes that while living in Livonia, New York, Aesch contributed $2500 to Republican Rick Perry’s campaign for President. Aesch previously served as district director for U.S. Rep. Bill Paxon (R-New York).

 Attempts were made to contact Aesch by an email service provided on the Envisurage website, which does not list a phone number for the company. Intelius lists Aesch’s addresses in Livonia N.Y. and Tampa, Florida, but does not list an address in Michigan. 

Neither Mayor Bing’s press representative nor Aesch returned VOD’s emails and calls before press time. ATU Pres. Gaffney said D-DOT’s former director, Lovevett Williams, has retired.

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  1. Pingback: DDOT Service Changes 2012 - PUBLIC HEARINGS & RALLY | Occupy Detroit

  2. vizionara says:

    Here is what is going down:
    DDOT closed the doors on the 16th of February to customers who were looking for information and answers about service cuts at the Customer Service meeting. DDOT Main Office is technically open until 6pm on Thursday, the new management informed security to lock doors early with the purpose of pushing out concerned riders. This would have precluded anyone who needed to access DDOT to buy bus passes, pick up schedules, or conduct any other business. They purposefully shut down freedom of speech and avoided confronting the public’s response to their service cuts.

    Normally DDOT holds multiple meetings, typically 4 locations throughout the city, different days, with various meeting times of day. The new management is doing the absolute minimum possible to meet legal requirements identified in DDOT service standards. They are only holding meetings on one day, in two locations.

    And since the Mayor has cut more driver positions from DDOT, when they were ALREADY missing the minimum # of drivers to meet the scheduled need, it is almost guaranteed that the buses operating in this new schedule will not be on time or running on schedule. DDOT doesn’t have enough personnel.

    The new managment team has a history of going in, cutting service, and setting up contracts with private transit firms like Veolia transportation that will give an unrealistic low-bid to run service in Detroit. They will operate at a loss for a year or two, and then jack up prices to municipality and customer alike, and reduce service. But by the time they do that, they already have secured a contract and disbanded local alternatives that can run public transportation. I’ve been informed that Mark Aesch of Envisurage recently set-up just this situation in Long Island before coming to the city. (
    It is a sell-out. Veolia et al. do not care about Detroiters, providing excellent transit service, they only care about profits. DDOT used Veolia before and they were so scandalous that we have been in court with them and have banned them from ever coming to Detroit again. But that might not be the case if they use a sub- or sister- company, the ways to sneakily put in a bid are endless. Yes DDOT needed some restructuring help, but this is the not the kind that it needed.

    Ways new management should be lowering costs are
    1. Getting overtime costs under control,
    2. Increasing productivity of mechanics,
    3. Getting enough drivers hired to do #1 and deliver service
    4. Managing service on the street.

    You don’t need to contract for new management to lay off employees and cut service.

    The Mayor’s team:
    Chris Brown – COO of the City
    Beau Taylor – MBA and advisor to the Mayor on Transit
    Sheila Johnson – Mayor’s office

    Parsons Brinckerhoff:
    Sharmila Mukherjee – consultant
    Ed Tatem – consultant

    Envisurage (sub-contracted by Parsons Brinckerhoff)
    Bill Nojay – New COO of DDOT, will be bringing in his cronies from various parts of the country to receive fat salaries
    Ron Freeman – New CEO of DDOT. Of fame in Maryland for expanding the I-95 Freeway (sound familiar to I-94 expansion?)
    Mark Aesch – consultant
    Ryan Gallivan – consultant
    PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF AND ENVISURAGE ARE USING DDOT EMPLOYEES AS A FRONT FOR THEIR SERVICE CUTS. THE MAYOR’S NEW TEAM including Mark Aesch should be right out there in front of the public on these public hearings. (it’s in their contract). Beau, Sheila and Chris Brown too. DDOT is their baby now.

    We need people to come out in droves on the 24th to BOTH public hearings, and bring a LOT of media. I mean FlipCams, Cellphones, Voice Recorders, Block Clubs, Cousins, Friends, whatever you can think of. Fill out request to speak forms early on. I hope that everyone will post the hell out of this scandal on facebook, blogs, etc. etc.

    Ask who Mark Aesch is, Bill Nojay, and Ron Freeman. Ask why they are being paid $2 Million+ to make cuts and layoffs that any person off the street could have done. Ask them what the methodology and analysis process was for cutting particular routes.
    Info for Public Meetings:

    DDOT will hold public hearings on Friday, Feb. 24 at:
    The Northwest Activities Center – 18100 Meyers Road and
    Wayne County Community College at 5901 Conner St.
    Each location will hold two sessions, one 11 a.m. – 1pm and another at 6 p.m. – 8pm

  3. Jacob Smith says:

    Based on the cuts proposed, and the fact there appears to have been no public hearing, the question is, was a proper Title VI (goes back to Civil Rights Act 1964) and Equal Justice study done on any these proposals? If they have not, Mr. Aesch/PB and the DOT management are in violation of Civil Rights law and FTA Guildlines. The ATU should investigate this immediately!

  4. Joel A Lee says:

    My Badge number 3012 he never negotiated for the local 282 out he is also a POS Gary is also not a fair man he is a POS

  5. Joel A Lee says:

    Let me first say Gary Raurens is not to be trusted he is also like the garbageman Mark Aesch I was never represented when I need the union he is just as bad as Mark and he did not in good faith negotiate for the Local or me or other drivers signed alot of back door deals

  6. LINDA KERN says:

    I have only one thing to say to ALL employees of Detroit’s transit system, especially the drivers and secondly the mechanics, and the people that ride the buses …. BEWARE OF THE SNAKE IN THE GRASS. Mark Aesch made working at RGRTA a living hell. He didn’t care about anybody or anything except himself. There are 25 – 30 year drivers there that use to love their jobs and now hate it. BE CAREFUL !!

  7. Carole A. Kronberg says:

    What was that statistic Jack Lessenberry cited in the Metro Times? The (very high)percentage of Detroit residents who can’t afford to own, operate and insure a vehicle is….WHAT?

    (Why does this development bring to my uneasy mind the many insects and snakes and other creatures in nature that immobilize/paralyze their prey before they kill it?)

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