Sunday, August 02, 2015

Detroit is building another train line to nowhere

After the Renaissance Center failed to reignite Detroit in the 1970s, the next attempt at urban rebirth was the People Mover--a Disney-esqe train system that was expensive to build and is expensive to maintain. How expensive? It costs the local transit system $3 per mile per passenger--whereas the New York City subway only costs a tenth of that. Like Disneyworld's trains--ridership is the highest on the weekend, which means the line benefits out-of-towners more, not commuters. And the 2.9 mile long People Mover only moves people in the downtown area. It doesn't extend into the blighted neighborhoods.

Pictured here are two Detroit failures--the RenCen and the People Mover at sunrise four Mondays ago.

What to do now? If your city is run by liberals--you do the only thing that you can do--double down on failure. Now Detroit is building a 3.3 mile light rail line--which will serve only downtown, Midtown, and New Center--and it will not extend into the blighted neighborhoods. Just as the People Mover doesn't.

The service is currently called the M-1 Rail Line or the Woodward Avenue Streetcar--M-1 is the state highway name for Woodward Avenue. Construction of the line began last year and the trains are scheduled to begin running in 2016. The budget for this project is $137 million. Of course there is a great deal of federal money invested in the M-1 by the Obama administration--progressives love trains because they only go where there are tracks. Unlike cars--which of course made Detroit great a century ago. And there is also much private financial backing for the plan, but even the big-government supportive Washington Post is skeptical of the motives of those who have kicked in funds. Is Quicken Loan's founder Dan Gilbert pumping cash into the M-1 to further his own interests? Could be, as Quicken owns the naming rights for the line.  Although a moniker has yet to be chosen.

I have a question. Will Gilbert still be dumping cash into the train line thirty years from now? Or will taxpayers be paying the entire bill? I think you know the answer.

Off the grid from the People Mover and the M-1 is Michigan Avenue in Corktown--just steps away from the site of old Tiger Stadium. Although its streets are in terrible shape--Detroit has many wide boulevards with little traffic. The expressways flow smoothly too. There is an advantage of living in a depopulated city. Again, if it weren't for those damned potholes and the buckled pavement the Motor City would be a motorist's dream.

Take a close look: There's a railroad tie emerging from the asphalt. Detroit used to have streetcar service--it ended in 1956 when more economically sensible diesel-powered buses took its place.

Also in Corktown is another reminder that the demand for trains isn't what it used to be. Michigan Central Station has sat unused since 1988.

Also off the grid is the Piquette Avenue Historic District. Yes, that's a sidewalk.

While the M-1 will extend to New Center, it won't make it to the adjacent NW Goldberg neighborhood. Here are two people who would probably prefer a sidewalk.The woman standing--a panhandler who got a dollar from me--and her friend riding in a motorized wheelchair, are using the street to get to their next destination rather than the impassable sidewalk.

A typical NW Goldberg abandoned home.

Around the corner is an alley. Yep, that's an alley one that has been overwhelmed by plant life. No trains here.

Mark my words: Thirty years from now I might be dead but someone will surely say, "Y'know, what Detroit needs is a subway to connect to the People Mover and the light rail line. That will return the city to greatness."

From my post at Da Tech Guy:

I walked its streets--the tragedy of Detroit.

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