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Old Posted Dec 23, 2006, 10:36 AM
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Detroit People Mover grows up (Proposed Expansion)


Ankur Dholakia / The Detroit News
Red Wings fans ride the People Mover to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The new plan would extend the tram three miles north to West Grand Boulevard, tying in to the Amtrak station and the campuses of Wayne State, Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Hospital.


People Mover grows up
Proposal would extend route to New Center

December 23, 2006

Andy Henion / The Detroit News

Boasting two years of full service and steady ridership, leaders of Detroit's oft-derided People Mover will explore an ambitious plan to expand the downtown loop.

A proposal by former People Mover manager Marsden Burger would extend the driverless tram three miles north to West Grand Boulevard, tying in to the Amtrak station and the campuses of Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Hospital -- its final stop.

"His concept is very intriguing and one that has some substance," said Al Fields, chairman of the People Mover board and an official in Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's administration.

Business and civic leaders are involved in the planning and may pitch in some of the $150 million-$200 million cost -- reflecting a nationwide trend of more private involvement in mass transit.

Fields said he will meet with Burger in the next few months.

Burger, a transit consultant, worked for the firm that built the People Mover and served as the tram's operations director from 1994-96.

"We're going to start discussions with them and look at that, because we feel this system can be expanded on and utilized a lot more than it is now," Fields said.

Experts say any expansion is a long shot given Michigan's flagging economy and Metro Detroit's history of failed transit plans. The People Mover, which turns 20 next year, was initially intended as a regional system, but area officials couldn't win the needed federal funding.

From the start, the elevated three-mile loop was plagued with cost overruns and major service disruptions, including a two-year closure of the popular Renaissance Center station, which reopened in November 2004. (It is closed for the holiday from today through Christmas and will reopen Tuesday morning.)

And despite a ridership that has more than doubled since then -- to about 200,000 per month -- the tram still fills only about 10 percent of its seats and chews up $8.3 million a year in city and state subsidies.

"It's kind of our tragedy in this region that the original vision of the People Mover was never realized," said Jonathan Levine, an urban planning professor at the University of Michigan.

Private support helps

Federal funding for transit projects is scarce and fiercely competitive and it takes an average of 10 years to secure the money, said Art Guzzetti, director of policy for the American Public Transportation Association.

Communities from northern Virginia to San Jose, Calif., have used private money to help fund transit projects, Guzzetti said. Las Vegas' $650 million monorail, opened in 2004, was completely privately funded.

"It's common that the business sector would be involved as a catalyst that's trendy right now," Guzzetti said. "Current federal policies encourage private-public partnerships."

That's why Burger's group wants to fund the expansion with local and state money -- be it private or public -- and grants. While there are no commitments at this stage, some major employers say they'll consider pitching in if the plan proves viable.

"Henry Ford (Health System), along with a number of other businesses, might be interested in that as one possibility," said William Schramm, the hospital's senior vice president for strategic business development.

The group is trying to secure a grant for a $200,000 feasibility study, which could ultimately alter Burger's route, Schramm said. The zigzag extension generally runs parallel with Woodward using Brush, John R and Cass as the northbound legs.

The extension would allow Marilyn Fortner, a Detroit resident and frequent People Mover rider, to go shopping in the New Center area or visit her son, a junior at Wayne State.

"There are a lot of shops on Grand Boulevard," said Fortner, who considers the tram a Detroit jewel. "There's also the historical museum and the Fisher Theatre (along the proposed route)."

Will it stick?

Without the lengthy federal process, Burger said the expansion could be built in four years. It would not require new operating funds, staff or vehicles, he said, since the underutilized system could handle the extra riders.

The extension would have two lanes to shuttle people between downtown and New Center. Burger would split the five two-car trams into single units -- the way they were meant to be used, he said.

"This is the most advanced steel-wheel transit system in the world," he said, "but it could be a much more effective system."

The biggest question, said Levine, the U-M professor, is whether supporters can raise the necessary funds and avoid political pitfalls.

"The pattern in Detroit is that an idea comes up and people get excited about it and then it fails. It's been like that for decades," he said.

"But I think we still need to get excited about ideas. You never know which one is going to stick."

You can reach Andy Henion at (313) 222-2610 or ahenion@ detnews.com.

http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll...ETRO/612230387




Ankur Dholakia / The Detroit News


Ankur Dholakia / The Detroit News

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  #2  
Old Posted Dec 23, 2006, 12:25 PM
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Properly planned and executed, the route and station siting could have a strong influence on future development/redevelopment.
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Old Posted Dec 23, 2006, 5:06 PM
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I think talk of expanding the People Mover is a waste of time, the technology is outdated and was only meant to be a small part of a light rail system. I think we'd be better off doing this through a short light rail line up Woodward from Downtown to New Center
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Old Posted Dec 23, 2006, 11:27 PM
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I would think that light rail would be much more expensive than $150 million, and when you consider that the people mover has a greater range than a straight line along Woodward, I think it would be better. That and the fact that the tracks are elevated above the streets so the trains don't have to wait for traffic.
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Old Posted Dec 24, 2006, 1:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skyfan View Post
I think talk of expanding the People Mover is a waste of time, the technology is outdated
Vancouver uses the same technology and is in the process of expanding their system. This expansion would at least provide an actual reason to use the people mover that is not based on the novelty of the system.
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Old Posted Dec 24, 2006, 2:33 AM
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Holy Cow!
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  #7  
Old Posted Dec 24, 2006, 3:10 AM
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I will bust a nut when the new line opens. LONG overdue!

I love the DPM!!!!
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Old Posted Dec 24, 2006, 3:17 AM
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I hope they plan a larger expansion-- Detroit should lay it down before they experience another boom.
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Old Posted Dec 24, 2006, 3:29 AM
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so this is an official proposal?
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  #10  
Old Posted Dec 24, 2006, 3:30 AM
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BTW, just so you all know, the Detroit People Mover uses the Bombardier Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) technology which is used by people mover lines in Toronto, Vancouver, New York, and Kuala Lumper. Also, according to Wikipedia, a line near Seoul will use this technology, so it's still being manufactured. I think the often thrown around idea that the technology sucks is probably more of an excuse, and that the breakdowns are probably more lack of regular maintenance than anything else.
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Old Posted Dec 24, 2006, 4:54 AM
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Does the People Mover break down that often? I probably only ride it about 4 or 5 times a year, but I've never once had a problem with the service.
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Old Posted Dec 25, 2006, 11:01 PM
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It would be awesome to see this expansion, as it stands today the people mover is useless - nice for a 50 cent tour of the downtown but little else.
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Old Posted Dec 26, 2006, 1:26 AM
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It doesn't break down that much. I've experienced more breakdowns on a New York subway in 3 months than I've heard of DPM breakdowns throughout my lifetime.
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Old Posted Dec 26, 2006, 8:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by detroit_alive View Post
Vancouver uses the same technology and is in the process of expanding their system. This expansion would at least provide an actual reason to use the people mover that is not based on the novelty of the system.
Exactly. If the system was bigger, more people would choose to ride it. The system isn't anymore outdated than any other mass transit system. But the article calls it a tram, and it isn't a tram.
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2006, 5:26 AM
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The problem is that even extending the system to New Center keeps it in the downtown area, and while it will be great for those who live and work in the downtown area, those coming from the suburbs probably won't use it in their commute. They need to extend the system into the suburbs via the major avenues (E Jefferson, Gratiot, Woodward, Grand River, Michigan, and Fort)
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2006, 8:26 AM
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Originally Posted by hudkina View Post
The problem is that even extending the system to New Center keeps it in the downtown area, and while it will be great for those who live and work in the downtown area, those coming from the suburbs probably won't use it in their commute. They need to extend the system into the suburbs via the major avenues (E Jefferson, Gratiot, Woodward, Grand River, Michigan, and Fort)
That's where commuter trains come in. I would think a slightly larger expansion would work though. Maybe like a west loop through Corktown and into Mexicantown. Then an east loop going through Lafayette Park, Rivertown, Gold Coast, and maybe to Eastern Market.
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2006, 8:25 PM
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This is not a formal proposal yet. It's so abundantly clear that connectivity to the assets of the Detroit Metro region is the answer. It's amazing how much of a back burner issue this is for some of our elected leaders. This scenario of major cities using transit and connectivity to stabilize themselves on a long term basis has played out everywhere except in Detroit.
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2006, 8:51 PM
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Why has the People Mover's ridership fluctuated so much?
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Old Posted Dec 27, 2006, 11:41 PM
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Well, the big dip can be attributed to the RenCen renovation, which shut down its station when the entire front of the complex began its restructuring. Before then, there was a big dip after the track was damaged during the demolitions of the Hudson Department Store tower.
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Old Posted Dec 28, 2006, 4:38 AM
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I can't remember, did Compuware construction prevent the DPM from doing a full circuit? I mean all they did was built around the track, they didn't even reconstruct the station.

Building the new track and station for the RenCen was a bit of an annoyance. You would get on at Greektown, and it would go to Bricktown, and then back to Greektown. It was really pointless to ride it during that year.

Although, I used to think it was pointless to ride it in general, I think it is very succesful in its current configuration for major events downtown. It's nice to be able to park over on Washington, go to a Tigers game, then walk to Greektown, and then take the DPM back.

I also noticed the DPM just doesn't seem as empty as it used to be in past years. Hopefully ridership will continue to increase in the meantime.
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