Transit in suburban Detroit had its origins with the interurban railway system, which from 1901 until 1928 was part of the Detroit United Railway (DUR). The interurban routes were basically extensions of the streetcar routes operating over the main streets radiating from the center of Detroit. Originally, the interurban companies were separate from the street railway companies within the city.


The Detroit United Railway operated interurban railway routes in seven directions from downtown Detroit.

West Jefferson Corridor

Fort Street Corridor

Michigan Avenue Corridor

Grand River Corridor

Woodward Corridor

Gratiot Corridor

East Jefferson Corridor


In 1922, the city took over the streetcar operations within Detroit. But DUR continued to operate its interurban trains into downtown Detroit over city streetcar trackage, for a fee.

In 1928, DUR was sold to Eastern Michigan Railways. And in 1934, the last interurban railway line was replaced with buses. Various bus companies served Detroit's suburbs until the early 1970's, when they were taken over by the Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA). SEMTA was approved by the state of Michigan in 1967. In 1989, SEMTA was reorganized and became SMART (Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation).

These interurban railway lines, and the bus lines which replaced them, enabled people from outlying areas to travel in and out of downtown Detroit. But with the decline of downtown Detroit, along with the evolution of the suburban areas to an automobile culture, such travel is now less significant. These main bus routes continue to exist under SMART, but now instead carry more city residents to and from suburban jobs and shopping destinations.


Four private bus companies operating in Detroit's suburbs were acquired by SEMTA in the early 1970's.

Great Lakes Transit
The only transit operation to trace its history directly back to the Detroit United Railway, which had previously operated all electric railways in Detroit and southeastern Michigan. In 1928, Detroit United Railway reorganized as Eastern Michigan Railways, with Eastern Michigan Motorbuses as its bus subsidiary. In 1941, Eastern Michigan Motorbuses became Great Lakes Greyhound Lines, part of the nationwide bus system. In 1958, Greyhound sold the Detroit suburban bus operation to American Transit Corp., renaming the operation Great Lakes Transit Corp. SEMTA acquired Great Lakes Transit in 1974.

Lake Shore Coach Lines
One of two operations which evolved from Detroit Motorbus Co., which began operating in 1920, in competition with the electric railways in Detroit and suburbs. In 1932, after the city Department of Street Railways took over the bus operations within Detroit, Lake Shore Coach Lines was formed to operate the east suburban routes. SEMTA acquired Lake Shore Coach Lines in 1971.

Metropolitan Transit
Also evolved from Detroit Motorbus Co. When Detroit Motorbus Co. was disolved in 1932, Dearborn Coach Co. was formed to operate the west suburban routes. Dearborn Coach Co. became Intertown Suburban Lines in 1950, which became a subsidiary of American Transit Corp. in 1960, and renamed Metropolitan Transit in 1962. SEMTA acquired Metropolitan Transit in 1974.

Martin Lines
The smallest of the four suburban bus companies to be acquired by SEMTA. The Martin Brothers had originally operated between Highland Park and Royal Oak beginning the early 1920's, using a converted truck. But the operation was bought out in 1927 by Detroit United Railway. But the Martin Brothers wanted to get back into the bus business, so they then organized as Martin Lines. Two routes operated north of Highland Park through Royal Oak. SEMTA acquired Martin Lines in 1975.


Some private predecessor companies had earlier acquired various smaller bus companies.


For various reasons, some bus routes in Southeastern Michigan never became part of the SEMTA or SMART system.


Scanned images from various timetables and maps covering suburban Detroit.

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