A quick trip to Detroit was a chance for me to check the People Mover off my bucket list. As a public transit buff, I was intrigued by everyone’s derisive comments about it. People say that it doesn’t really go anywhere, and that no one rides it. Would this be Detroit’s “bridge to nowhere?” A folly? Broken transit in a broken city?
Here’s a view of the interior on a Monday morning [okay, okay, I waited until the couple of passengers had gotten off, but the train was fairly empty all morning]:
I had some time to kill, so I did the full loop twice and explored most of the stations. I checked out some amazing public art, which I’ll document individually in coming weeks.
Look, there’s the downtown Windsor skyline. Oh, Canada!
Do these photos remind you a bit of Bladerunner? That film came out in 1982, and the People Mover dates back to 1987.
Being on the train for shits and giggles, and watching the [few] passengers do their thing, I kept thinking about this transportation versus folly question. Does the People Mover offer all the urbane excitement of the El in Chicago, without any of the actual convenience? Looked at another way, DPM offers all the connectivity of a skywalk system with almost none of the walking. In downtown Detroit, that actually makes sense. I imagine that the People Mover gets a lot of use during conventions and events like that, when the distance to and from the hotel may be a bit too far to walk but not really enough to justify a cab ride. So, maybe it’s not a folly after all.
I’ve gotten to know Detroit fairly well over the past twelve years. I attended graduate school out in the suburbs, and I’ve visited many times since. This was my first visit spent almost entirely in an around downtown, alone and on foot. I’ve got lots more photos, but I’ll leave you with one observation to start — on a Sunday morning, I came across four open corner stores downtown. Four! Surprisingly, that’s a lot more than I can say about Cincinnati’s basin.