Jan 17, 2024 - News

Detroit People Mover eyes expansion possibilities

People Mover in 2022.

The People Mover in 2022. Photo: Samuel Robinson/Axios

City officials who want to better balance downtown among offices, entertainment and residential see the People Mover as a key tool to connect all three.

Driving the news: Robert Cramer, leader of the Detroit Transportation Corp., which operates the People Mover, tells Axios the DTC is looking at ways to prepare for a potential reconfiguration.

What they're saying: West Riverfront Park, Belle Isle, the future U of M Center of Innovation, Michigan Central, Eastern Market, the future redevelopment at the Brewster-Douglass site and even Henry Ford Hospital were all thrown out by Cramer as potential sites for the transit system to expand.

  • "What I'm hearing what the mayor is interested in is making sure that we're ready for opportunities when they arise," Cramer tells Axios. "It's not like just saying, Michigan Avenue or Gratiot or Woodward — I think if you put all your chips into one, you're limiting yourself."
  • "Let's study lots of opportunities [for] if and when the stars align, whether it's a government fund, a development team, who knows," Cramer says.

Yes, but: Duggan prefaced his comments by saying the kind of changes he's talking about are typically thought about over a 10-year period, adding that "10 years from now we may very well have Ubers that are driverless, that are very cheap."

Flashback: The People Mover was built in the '80s when downtown was more of a hub for workers during weekdays instead of the weekend destination it is today. The Red Wings were the only pro sports franchise downtown when the system opened July 31, 1987, for 50 cents a ride.

  • The complete vision at the time included a subway from Royal Oak or Pontiac to distribute suburban workers to downtown offices.
  • "They built the People Mover and the subway never came," Duggan told reporters. "If you were to design a People Mover today, you'd look at these high-rise apartments in buildings and you'd be connecting them to each other as a neighbor."

Of note: Improvements are already being made to the People Mover to boost rider experience ahead of the NFL Draft.

  • Officials say the stations at West Riverfront (formerly Joe Louis Arena) and Grand Circus Park are closed this week to add security cameras and new public address systems that let riders know when a train is coming.
  • The Huntington Place and Millender Center stations will close for similar updates from Jan. 22-26.
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