Transit Guide: FAST Bus by SMART

David Gifford
Jan 26, 2018 · 7 min read

FAST is express regional bus service on Gratiot, Woodward and Michigan Ave.

Image from District Detroit

In January of 2018 SMART Bus began an all day regional bus service on three of Metro Detroit’s main avenues: Gratiot, Woodward and Michigan. To differentiate them from their normal bus service, they branded them with big white letters: FAST (Frequent, Affordable, Safe, Transit). Why a regional service? Metro Detroit has two bus providers, SMART and DDOT. Aside from some AM/PM commuter routes into Detroit and connections to major transfer points in the suburbs, SMART mainly stays outside of Detroit and DDOT mainly stays inside of Detroit’s borders. This means that riders have to transfer between systems at the city limits. FAST runs all day long, 7 days a week, making limited stops which is ideal for people who need to travel between rush hours and in the evenings!

Where does it go?

Spirit of Detroit Plaza at Jefferson & Woodward, near FAST bus transfer stops.

Why ride the bus?

Parking is FREE in the suburbs and is expensive downtown! Parking tickets cost $45 and towing can cost hundreds! The FAST buses run on extra wide avenues, which are often less crowded before and after events than the highways, making for a faster trip. Another great feature FAST buses offer is free WiFi. Stay connected as the bus makes limited stops without transfer from the airport, commuting to work, heading to downtown events or as you explore any of the connected cities like Birmingham, Royal Oak, Ferndale, Mt Clemens, Roseville or Dearborn.

Bus riding 101

Perhaps you are a lifelong car driver and have never taken public transit in Michigan aside from the People Mover or maybe the QLINE. What’s great about these new FAST routes is that they are like extended versions of the QLINE because they also go in straight lines. Riding the bus is easy! Use a phone app like SMART or TransitApp to look up nearest stops and schedules. Wait near a FAST sign and the bus will arrive shortly. Pay as you board by inserting bills or coins into the fare box. If you don’t have correct change a card will be issued with your change on it to use for your next ride. You can also purchase a variety of bus passes online or in person. Buses don’t take credit or Apple pay so bring cash. Buses don’t stop when there is no one waiting so if your stop is coming up, pull the cord along the window before your desired stop to signal to the driver you want to get off and exit through the rear door.

How much does it cost?

SMART & DDOT are now using the DART payment system.

SMART buses now use a new fare system called DART. This is a regional pass system that eliminates transfer fees and allows for unlimited rides on SMART & DDOT in any direction. Standard fares are for adults & reduced fares are for students, seniors and those with disabilities. You must apply for a SMART Reduced Fare ID to receive the fare or have another form of identification. Children 5 and under ride for free. A phone app is expected summer 2019 so you can purchase and use fares on your phone. The fare box accepts $1, $5 or $10 bills and will dispense change via change cards which are good for future rides. Save time and buy your pass online.

Starting west to east, the following is an explanation of where the new SMART buses go and where they stop.

For any additional info, contact SMART Customer Service number at (866) 962–5515. The operators work from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

FAST MICHIGAN

Click here for schedule information.

#261 Michigan runs 7 days a week between Detroit Metro Airport and downtown Detroit. Buses stop every 40 minutes and the complete trip takes about an hour. Below are first and last departure times headed EB (eastbound from the airport) or WB (westbound from downtown).

FAST bus stops at the McNamara Terminal (Check-in & departures Air France Door) and at the North Terminal (Ground Transportation Center). See maps below.

DTW transit info — McNamara Terminal
DTW transit info — North Terminal

Where does it go?

Recommended stops along Michigan Ave include: Multiple hotels at Flynn Rd, Romulus Amazon Distribution Center, West Dearborn, John D. Dingell Transit Center, The Henry Ford & Greenfield Village, Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, East Dearborn, Arab American National Museum, Ford Rouge Plant, Historic Senate Theater, Michigan Central Station, Corktown, Rosa Parks Transit Center, Grand Circus Park (stadium & theater district), David Whitney Building & Aloft Hotel, Cobo Center, The Spirit of Detroit Plaza, Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Millender Center and GM Rennisance Center. From downtown stops you are steps away from the riverfront, hotels, shopping and dozens of dining options. Transfer to other transit providers like QLINE, People Mover, DDOT, MoGo and other FAST buses.

FAST Woodward

#461–462 Woodward runs 7 days a week. Bus #461 runs from Troy Civic Center with a stop behind Nordstom Somerset Collection every 30 minutes and bus #462 runs from downtown Pontiac at the Phoenix Center every 30 minutes. From Maple (Birmingham) on down these two buses overlap so buses depart every 15 minutes.

Where does it go?

The FAST Woodward buses stop in downtown Pontiac, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, Troy Civic Center, Somerset Collection, Birmingham, Royal Oak Beaumont, Roseland Park Cemetery, National Shrine of the Little Flower, Berkley, Royal Oak, The Detroit Zoo, Ferndale, Palmer Woods, Highland Park, Boston Edison, New Center, Amtrak Detroit, Wayne State University, Center for Creative Studies, Museum District, Midtown, Cass Corridor, Little Caesars Arena, The District Detroit, Detroit Parks and downtown. From downtown stops you are steps away from the riverfront, hotels, shopping and dozens of dining options. Transfer to other transit providers like QLINE, People Mover, DDOT, MoGo and other FAST buses along the route. *New stop added just a block north of the Little Caesars Arena in front of the WSU Ilitch School of Business. This route is great for reaching downtown as well as reaching Oakland County’s popular downtowns like Ferndale, Royal Oak and Birmingham.

FAST GRATIOT

#561–563 Gratiot runs 7 days a week. Bus #561 runs from Mt. Clemens Park & Ride every 30 minutes and bus #563 runs from Chesterfield (23 & Gratiot) every 30 minutes. From Mt Clemens on down these two buses overlap so buses depart every 15 minutes. Bus #562 runs weekdays only between Mt Clemens Park & Ride to the VA Medical Center and Wayne State.

Where does it go?

The FAST Gratiot buses stop at Waterside Marketplace, E Russell Schmidt Industrial Corridor, Hall Road (possible new Ikea), Mt Clemens, Mt Clemens Farmer’s Market, Metro Parkway Freedom Trail, Macomb Mall, LA Fitness, Downtown Roseville, Macomb Community College South, Eastpointe, Coleman A Young International Airport, Eastern Market, Ford Field, Greektown, Casino and downtown. Transfer to other transit providers like QLINE, People Mover, DDOT, MoGo and other FAST buses. Many of the stops along the Gratiot route are great for transferring to east/west routes.

DOWNTOWN DETROIT

As you can see from the map above, there are many stops downtown Detroit with access to other transit systems. There are way too many restaurants, places to visit and events downtown to list here!

“What can be confusing is where you get off or back on.”

FAST Michigan & Woodward end on Larned with stops near Griswold, Coleman A. Young Municipal Center and Brush Street. From any of those three stops you can transfer to FAST Gratiot. These two routes head back out on Jefferson with stops near Beaubien, Jefferson and Griswold. FAST Gratiot ends on Jefferson at Woodward and Griswold where FAST Woodward and Michigan begin! Just look for the FAST bus signs.

For bus tracking or transit directions, download the Transit App. It is a great guide for all of downtown Detroit’s transit systems from SMART, DDOT, QLine & MoGo. You can even book an Uber, Lyft or any of the scooters through the app! SMART also has a great app for tracking buses, planning trips and buying passes. Want to know about other transit systems? Check out www.transitguidedetroit.com for apps, maps, schedule links & fare information.

For any additional info, contact SMART Customer Service number at (866) 962–5515. The operators work from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. www.smartbus.org

David Gifford

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Avid transit blogger from Metro Detroit.