Metro Detroit never thought a transit system operating down the Woodward corridor was actually going to happen. Then it seemed possible. Then it fell apart. And then it was revived once everyone decided to stop putzing around.
Now, with the feds giving their required environmental clearance, construction is finally set to begin on the 3.3-mile streetcar rail line along the busy M1 this summer. Finally, something that will feed into Detroit's People Mover, the 2.9-mile monorail that circumnavigates Detroit's downtown business district, creating a somewhat smaller-scaled version of the grand plan for southeastern Michigan transit like it was envisioned all along, right? Right?
Throughout this time, there's been nothing more for metro Detroiters to see than a few renderings depicting where each generated route would run. This is what our hungry eyes have been given as a visual for the project:
Renderings are inherently boring. That's fine. But that's why I want to attempt to bring a little life to the project — offer a real-life shot of what we'll see along each stop of the system once it's constructed, as well as the original 9.3-mile design. It seemed like a fun idea to compare the two concepts and showcase what each route will (or would have) served.
So, this first post will focus on what we are getting — the 3.3-mile route that runs from Congress northbound to Grand Boulevard. Call it a sort-of guide for some of the things you'll be able to get to with ease coming off each stop on the streetcar line.
Who knows what's next after the line is up and running, which is expected to be sometime in late 2015. A regional transit authority was implemented this year after 23 failed attempts that will eventually helm alternative transportation systems across southeastern Michigan. Another plan that's been on the table nearly as long as a light rail system along the Woodward corridor is a regional bus rapid transit system.
But, we're going to focus on the Woodward streetcar project. Since it was first announced — Christ, nearly six years ago (there goes time) — the plans have changed numerous times, as a number of designs at various lengths have come and gone. At one point, it was going to be a light rail system with a 9.3-mile route with 19 stops that ran from the old state fairgrounds at 8 Mile Road to the Rose Parks Transit Center downtown. Now, with what's in place, we have a 3.3-mile route with 12(ish) stops that travels through the rather flourishing downtown, midtown and New Center districts.
1. Congress St.
Perhaps you want to take a stroll along the Riverwalk or, for whatever reason, have a bizarre inkling to gawk at the famous Joe Louis Fist Statue. If so, then you'll be getting off at Congress.
2. Campus Martius Park
If I'm a Quicken Loans employee that has to park in New Center for the time being until some new parking arrangements are made, I may stop here before heading into work. There's enough breakfast spots and coffee joints and a nice pond that I can sit and meditate at prior to bogging down for the daily grind.
3. Grand Circus Park
The Detroit Opera House, Comerica Park and Ford Field are all within spitting distance of Grand Circus Park, which also serves as a stop along Detroit's People Mover (!). One short transit line feeding into another, how lovely. There's also former Detroit mayor Hazen S. Pingree's statue on-site.
It's a short jaunt between Grand Circus Park and the Foxtown stop, but here you'd find even quicker access to the Detroit Tigers game, as well as the gorgeous Fox Theatre or The Fillmore Detroit. If you like jazz, there's Cliff Bell's a step away.
5. Sibley St.
Unless Detroit Red Wings owner and Little Caesars founder Mike Illitch manages to build the vague $650 million new (say it with me now) entertainment complex/hockey arena district/bridge between downtown and midtown — with reportedly some money that would have gone to the School Aid Fund — within the next two years at (more than likely) this location, if you're getting off at Sibley, you probably parked for a concert at the Fox or have tickets to the football or baseball games. Maybe you live in one of the condos across the street from the Gameday parking lot empire. Regardless, there are parking lots. You are parked here.
6. Martin Luther King Boulevard
There's a Starbucks, a dentist, some banks, (soon-to-be) Whole Foods, the Max M. Fisher Music Center and more. MLK is a stop medical personnel based along one of the many hospitals along John R. will probably enjoy. On Sundays, I usually buy a copy of the Detroit Free Press at the corner here. Eastern Market is about a 10-minute walk.
7. Canfield St.
Get off here and slap the gates of the more-than-century old David Whitney Building while you trudge over to Bangkok Express for some dinner. After, you may possibly meander over to the Garden Bowl for a drink and bowling. Or go to McDonald's.
8. Warren Ave.
Now we're getting into Wayne State University territory. If you're here on a Sunday, or live nearby, there's a decent brunch at the restaurant located on the beautiful Maccabees Building main floor. This will be convenient for residents in the neighborhood. They, or perhaps students after class on a Friday, can hop on the train headed toward downtown, hang out for a few hours, and then head back by 10 p.m. when service reportedly will stop for the night. That is more than likely the case because M1 Rail officials wanted to make sure residents were tucked in at a decent hour for a good night's sleep or to make sure students were home in time to study for the next exam, or just some unfathomable reason that would completely justify why service would stop at 10 p.m.
9. Ferry St.
I wasn't quite sure which stop to highlight this under, as this landmark fall almost halfway between Ferry and Warren, but this could be considered the stop that services the Detroit Institute of Arts. And, in case you didn't know, because metro Detroit is full of radical socialists that voted in favor of a millage tax in an election last August to raise $23 million per year: the DIA is now open to residents of Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties for free. The Detroit Public Library is nearby. Good Girls Go To Paris Crepes offers a cheap, filling meal. Head one block west onto Cass Avenue and you're in the heart of Wayne State's campus.
10. Amsterdam St. (in the future)
More transit lines feeding into other transit lines! Live at the recently renovated and reopened Broderick Tower and have plans to visit Aunt Sue in Chicago? Jump on the Grand Circus Park car headed northbound, get off at the Amtrak station, pay for your $30-$60-whatever price-your-ticket-is-worth and enjoy the ride. Amtrak ridership is up lately, especially in Michigan, in case you didn't know.
12. Grand Blvd.
The guts of the New Center district. Eh, actually, don't use that catchphrase. Regardless of whatever you want to call it, at the last stop of the line there's the Fisher Building, a small shopping district. Police officers who happen to be stationed at the Central District downtown work at this intersection.
Like I said, I'd like to revisit this later on and focus on the original route that would have traveled up to 8 Mile Road. In the interim, it'd be cool to hear comments on what anyone thinks about the line or expectations — good or bad — with it.
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(Images courtesy of Google Maps and Wikimedia Commons)