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  #1  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2012, 8:33 AM
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Years Late, Detroit's Monorail Opens (1987 NYT article)

I thought people that know about the system would get a kick out of this old New York Times article I found on the People Mover. Parts of the article could be lifted nearly word-for-word and put in a current article on the system. Read the whole thing.

Quote:
YEARS LATE, DETROIT'S MONORAIL OPENS

by Isabel Wilkerson | Special to the New York Times

August 1, 1987

Nearly two years late and tens of millions of dollars over budget, Detroit's long-maligned monorail system, the People Mover, moved its first riders today above the city's corroded business district.

The 2.9-mile monorail, once considered a possible savior of the city's dying center, is now being greeted with both the excitement of a child trying out a new toy and the dread of a parent wondering what will go wrong first.

Packed People Mover cars whizzed into packed stations today as office workers spent their lunch breaks gliding past the city's rooftops for free. After Aug. 7, each ride will cost 50 cents.

Magnet for Controversy

''This is better than the New York subways,'' said Virgil Knaf, a suburnanite who came downtown to try out the monorail. ''At least you can see where you're going.''

Since its groundbreaking on Halloween morning four years ago, the monorail has been a curiosity, a butt of jokes, a magnet for controversy and a symbol of the obstacles to reviving a crumbling city.

It was built at a cost of $200.3 million, 80 percent of it Federal dollars, and has suffered setbacks ranging from cracked support beams to work stoppages by construction crews charging they had not been paid on time.

Now, it is expected to whisk riders between office buildings, restaurants and special events downtown, eventually spurring development along the route. But critics call it ''a dogless tail'' and ''a horizontal elevator to nowhere.'' They argue that, until there are more places to go downtown, there will be no people to move. 'Nice-Looking Stonehenge'

In a poll by The Detroit Free Press this week, two-thirds of those surveyed said the People Mover was a bad idea. And in a poll by The Detroit News conducted before the system was completed, two-thirds of the respondents said they would not ride the monorail. ''It will make a nice-looking Stonehenge,'' said a respondent to the Free Press poll.

Today city officials put those brickbats aside and celebrated the opening with balloons in the shape of a People Mover car.

...

Detroit's People Mover was originally intended to be part of a larger rail system linking the city and its suburbs. But with about $65 million in cost overruns from the People Mover, Federal money expected to be used for a subway system went to the downtown loop instead.

Now the People Mover is a solitary track dependent mainly on downtown office workers, about 100,000 altogether. Officials once predicted that as many as 55,000 people would ride the People Mover each day. Now they expect about 16,000 a day and, in a city of cars and commuters, some say even that is overly optimistic.

...
Crazy to think that up until last December, the price had remained the same for a ride.
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  #2  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2012, 2:32 PM
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Change the date and update the title and you could write the same article today, lol.
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  #3  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2012, 7:20 PM
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Ahhhh!! It's not a monorail! It's a regular elevated train. Only difference was it came during a time where automated controls weren't all that common. Guess the NYT didn't do their research back then.

"Each ride will cost 50 cents" Crazy that this was written in 1987....and in 2011 it cost exactly the same. The fare has since been raised to 75 cents to assist with filling in the budget gap.

Though it fell way low of expected ridership, it serves a very practical purpose to get people from Greektown to JLA & Cobo or GCP for a ball game. It was desperately needed in a time where people felt unsafe walking between these venues. Though times have changed and downtown is for the most part safe, it still gets overcrowded during big events which is why Detroit needs it.

I wish it could have been expanded. In a perfect world it would run all the way up Woodward. And loop around Midtown and New Center.
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  #4  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2012, 10:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hayward View Post
Ahhhh!! It's not a monorail! It's a regular elevated train. Only difference was it came during a time where automated controls weren't all that common. Guess the NYT didn't do their research back then.

"Each ride will cost 50 cents" Crazy that this was written in 1987....and in 2011 it cost exactly the same. The fare has since been raised to 75 cents to assist with filling in the budget gap.

Though it fell way low of expected ridership, it serves a very practical purpose to get people from Greektown to JLA & Cobo or GCP for a ball game. It was desperately needed in a time where people felt unsafe walking between these venues. Though times have changed and downtown is for the most part safe, it still gets overcrowded during big events which is why Detroit needs it.

I wish it could have been expanded. In a perfect world it would run all the way up Woodward. And loop around Midtown and New Center.
I do too, right up Woodward and even up into the northern suburbs, this way the city centre and the suburbs along Woodward would be better connected, and people wouldn't have to worry about having their cars stolen when visiting the downtown, just keep 'em safe at home.
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  #5  
Old Posted Mar 7, 2012, 11:07 PM
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I think the People Mover technology/system is great.

It's completely grade separated, meaning it can go faster, safer, and without interfering with traffic.


Because it's completely grade separated it can be driverless, dramatically reducing operating costs. Advertisements and fares actually MORE than cover the Vancouver SkyTrain's operating costs. This way money can be concentrated on capital costs, which can be heavily subsidized by the federal government.


Because it's driverless you can run the trains every 5-10 minutes (!!!) all day long without stacking up labor costs. With other systems you usually don't even get to that frequency during peak hours, and the rest of the time it comes significantly less frequently (45 minutes, and hour...).

To me, a transit based lifestyle requires that you can walk out your door and walk to a station without having to look up a schedule. And ideally routes should be clear and logical enough that you shouldn't even have to look those up.


The problem with the People Mover is that it's a little more expensive upfront. The bigger problem is that there's stigma associated with it.

First, assume that the original light rail project was going to be on budget. 500 million for 9 miles is 55 million per mile for light rail. Then let's just say that a People Mover would cost 75 million per mile, which is more than 33% more.

110 miles x 75 million per mile is a total cost of 8.25 billion. A regional income tax of 0.5% would get you .525 billion a year. If you borrowed against that money for 16 years you would have enough to build the entire proposed BRT system as a People Mover, instantly.

Even if my cost for the People Mover was half as much as it should have been, you could borrow against 30 years, which is normal, and you could still build it instantly.
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  #6  
Old Posted Mar 8, 2012, 12:35 AM
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Exclamation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jasoncw View Post
I think the People Mover technology/system is great.

It's completely grade separated, meaning it can go faster, safer, and without interfering with traffic.


Because it's completely grade separated it can be driverless, dramatically reducing operating costs. Advertisements and fares actually MORE than cover the Vancouver SkyTrain's operating costs. This way money can be concentrated on capital costs, which can be heavily subsidized by the federal government.


Because it's driverless you can run the trains every 5-10 minutes (!!!) all day long without stacking up labor costs. With other systems you usually don't even get to that frequency during peak hours, and the rest of the time it comes significantly less frequently (45 minutes, and hour...).

To me, a transit based lifestyle requires that you can walk out your door and walk to a station without having to look up a schedule. And ideally routes should be clear and logical enough that you shouldn't even have to look those up.


The problem with the People Mover is that it's a little more expensive upfront. The bigger problem is that there's stigma associated with it.

First, assume that the original light rail project was going to be on budget. 500 million for 9 miles is 55 million per mile for light rail. Then let's just say that a People Mover would cost 75 million per mile, which is more than 33% more.

110 miles x 75 million per mile is a total cost of 8.25 billion. A regional income tax of 0.5% would get you .525 billion a year. If you borrowed against that money for 16 years you would have enough to build the entire proposed BRT system as a People Mover, instantly.

Even if my cost for the People Mover was half as much as it should have been, you could borrow against 30 years, which is normal, and you could still build it instantly.
75 million is actually spot on. Though costs could go up dramatically depending on future accommodation for longer trains. A seamless system would require demolition of a couple existing stations for longer stations...except for the newer General Motors stop which has longer platforms and an unused transfer platform
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Old Posted Mar 8, 2012, 8:37 AM
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I'd posted this in the transit subforum, but back i 2006 when talk of the light rail began, there was a concept put forth that have expanded the PM along the same route for three miles for $150 to $200 million:

Quote:
People Mover grows up

by Andy Henion | The Detroit News

December 23, 2006

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.

...
So, they were thinking they could do a line of the grade seperated PM for even less than $75 million a mile. At the time, the PM expansion seemed like a pipe dream, but after seeing how much the at-grade LRT plan ended up costing, the PM expansion was actually competitive.
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Old Posted Mar 9, 2012, 7:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LMich View Post
I'd posted this in the transit subforum, but back i 2006 when talk of the light rail began, there was a concept put forth that have expanded the PM along the same route for three miles for $150 to $200 million:



So, they were thinking they could do a line of the grade seperated PM for even less than $75 million a mile. At the time, the PM expansion seemed like a pipe dream, but after seeing how much the at-grade LRT plan ended up costing, the PM expansion was actually competitive.
It's nothing compared to the I-94 expansion that IMO will do more harm than good for Detroiters. It does nothing for improved mobility for city residents and only benefits truck traffic and travelers on through the city. There's good correlations in transportation studies between growing centralized office districts and rail corridors, but not so much for highways...only because the areas they have created growth are incredibly decentralized.

Mdot has proclaimed I-94 will bring economic growth and community connectivity, but there's nothing to support those claims. They are widening the valley and throwing down more concrete. Furthermore, if local traffic was encouraged to take the freeway, that just means less traffic for businesses on the city's more established corridors. They're speaking fluff to make an unattractive plan sound marketable to the community and limit opposition by supplying pretty landscaping and stamped concrete reliefs on bridges as if they are selling them a park.

What the PM can do that I-94 cannot is create permanent non-construction jobs. A people mover would increase pedestrian traffic in areas where there are already businesses and create new opportunities for residential and commercial growth.

I can't say for certain how popular a suburb to downtown line would be, but I could see the line going up to New Center doing quite well. The Woodward area has the highest concentration of combined commercial, residential, and institutional activity in the city.
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  #9  
Old Posted Mar 14, 2012, 10:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hayward View Post
"Each ride will cost 50 cents" Crazy that this was written in 1987....and in 2011 it cost exactly the same. The fare has since been raised to 75 cents to assist with filling in the budget gap.
The real irony is that even at 75 cents a ride on the DPM today is effectively cheaper than what it cost in 1987. According to the inflation calculator, $0.50 in 2010 was the equivalent of $0.26 in 1987. Or you could say that an equivalent price in 2010 to the cost of a ride in 1987 would be $0.97.

A couple years ago the NYC Transit system was running a campaign attempting to illustrate that a single ride in the NYC system today is actually cheaper than it was 20 years ago. Of course, they were simultaneously ramming through a series of fare hikes for approval...
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