A guide to finding school transportation for your child in Detroit

A group of students with their backs to the camera board a yellow school bus.
About 70% of K-8 students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District are eligible for school bus transportation. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

Getting students to school in Detroit can be tough. Transportation options are limited, and they vary depending on where your family lives and which school your child attends.

The lack of transportation resources helps explain why so many Detroit students frequently miss class and lose out on learning opportunities.

Here are answers to some of the common questions parents ask about school transportation in Detroit, and resources to help families get their students to school.

Why don’t most Detroit schools provide buses?

Part of the reason is that they don’t have to. Most students in Michigan don’t have a legal right to transportation to and from school. Only children with certain disabilities or some who are experiencing homelessness have a right to school transportation. 

Buses, drivers and fuel are costly, so Detroit and other districts that have financial constraints limit the amount of busing they provide.

Citywide, around 20% of students this year get to school on a yellow bus.

What transportation options are available to Detroit families?

Walking or biking may be an option, though some families report safety concerns. Some kids living in Detroit do have access to free yellow buses (more on that below). DPSCD pays for transit passes for students who want or need to use city buses. The passes can be picked up at each school’s office. Some families rely on commercial ride share companies, such as Uber and Lyft, though students technically must be 18 to use those services.

Which options are available to my child?

The answer depends on where your child attends school.

Charter schools

Nearly half of Detroit charter schools offer some form of transportation, though options may be limited. For instance, the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences runs buses from a handful of stops across the city, but stops may not be within walking distance of each student’s home.

The Detroit Schools Guide provides a list of charters that offer some transportation, but the guide hasn’t been updated since 2020.

Before enrolling, call the school or visit its website to learn more about transportation options.

Detroit Public Schools Community District

DPSCD recommends that parents and guardians use PowerSchool, the district’s online information center, to find transportation options. Once you verify your address and contact information, you should be able to see your child’s scheduled transportation route. Parents can also call their child’s school directly, or the district’s Transportation Call Center at 313-945-8600.

DPSCD parents can access bus route information through Powerschool using the student reports tab, as this screenshot shows. (Sarah Alvarez / Outlier Media)

No matter where your child attends school, they are eligible for yellow bus service if it’s guaranteed through their individualized education program or the McKinney Vento Act for kids who are experiencing homelessness.

  • K-8 neighborhood public school: You qualify for yellow bus service if you attend your neighborhood school and live at least three-quarters of a mile from the school. Find your neighborhood school by entering your address on this district webpage.

If you move into a new neighborhood and the neighborhood school is full, DPSCD provides transportation to the next closest school.

  • High school: High schoolers are guaranteed a free pass to ride the city bus. They can pick up the passes at their school office. High schools in areas with limited DDOT service provide door-to-door buses or shuttles to school. 
  • Application school: Children who go to these schools do not qualify for yellow bus service.

Schools of choice (districts outside the city)

Many of these districts do not provide transportation to Detroit students. Here are transportation policies for the handful of districts outside the city that enroll the largest numbers of Detroiters.

  • Oak Park Public Schools offers busing to Detroit students, though they must re-register each year. Parents should fill out a transportation request form or call 248-336-7601.
  • River Rouge School District operates bus routes across Detroit. See this map for bus stops. For more information or to select a stop, call 313-203-1497 or email transportation@rrsd.me.
  • Hazel Park Schools does not offer any transportation to general education students.
  • Ferndale Public Schools and Redford Union Schools do not offer transportation to students who enroll from outside the district.

Preschool

Some centers in the Great Start Readiness Program, Michigan’s state-funded preschool, are eligible for free transportation, but there are strict rules about parents signing children in and out of preschool. Some schools allow an older sibling attending the school to accompany the preschooler. See this list of preschool programs in Wayne County that offer transportation.

What if my child has a disability?

If your child’s individualized education program specifies that they need transportation, they are entitled to that transportation no matter what public school they attend. A little more than 2,000 kids attending DPSCD schools get this curb-to-curb service.

What if my family is homeless?

If your family doesn’t have stable housing and you want your child to continue at the school they attended before you lost your housing, they can have access to transportation under a federal law called the McKinney-Vento Act. Families who are staying in a shelter, temporarily staying in someone else’s home, or otherwise lacking stable housing should call their district (DPSCD: 313-748-6383). 

High schoolers covered under this law get DDOT bus passes, unless they wouldn’t be able to get to and from school this way. In these cases the district may also offer shuttles or gas cards. 

I’m having a school transportation problem. Whom can I call?

The DPSCD transportation help hotline is 313-945-8600.

DPSCD bus service for general education students is provided by the following contractors:

  • ABC Transportation: 313-835-2700
  • Trinity Transportation: 313-228-4522
  • DHT Transportation: 313 895-1300

DPSCD bus service for students with disabilities and homeless students is provided by the following contractors:

  • City Cab Company: 313-576-6344
  • New Detroit Cab Company: 313-633-5646
  • Checker Cab: 313-963-5000
  • Trinity Transportation: 313-228-4522
  • Regency Transportation: 313-615-0504

The Detroit Department of Transportation customer service phone number is 313-933-1300.

Koby Levin is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering K-12 schools and early childhood education. Contact Koby at klevin@chalkbeat.org.

Sarah Alvarez is the editor-in-chief of Outlier Media.

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