Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Detroit Light Rail - Woodward Avenue

I've been following the progress of a proposed streetcar line in the heart of Detroit for about a year now. Detroit is pretty much a text book example of how 1950's urban planning, white flight, and complete faith in the automotive industry lead to the complete devastation of the core city. Right now 27% of all land parcels in the City of Detroit are vacant and the core city's population continues to shrink. It's not all doom and gloom in Detroit though. While there is certainly some interesting proposals and projects with urban farming in the city, they are also looking to light rail to bring life back.

In 2006, planning started for a 9.3 mile starter streetcar line that will form the backbone of a new regional rail transit system. The 3.4 mile first phase is scheduled to start construction this year.

Proposed Transit Network
They have also posted a video of what Woodward Avenue will look like with light rail.

People and business in Detroit have looked at how light rail has trigger investment in other communities and are looking to get on board. Ironically, like most North America cities, Detroit had an extensive streetcar system that was ripped out for the auto including on Woodward Avenue.
Even more importantly, it will also play a key role in revitalizing Detroit. As Mayor Bing pointed out in his State of the City address, it is a centerpiece of plans to attract 15,000 new residents to the Midtown area.

Businessmen like Dan Gilbert, Roger Penske, and Chris Illitch are so confident in this rail project’s ability to boost downtown Detroit that they are donating their own money to help build it.

Rail transit is no longer just for the New Yorks and Chicagos of the world. Cities like St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Minneapolis, Denver, Charlotte, Houston, Salt Lake City and Phoenix all have successfully integrated light rail into their city streets. Ridership is well above expectations, with the light rail attracting not only low income workers who need affordable transportation, but also professionals seeking an escape from long time-wasting commutes. And like Dallas, these cities are reaping enormous economic benefits from it.
- Michigan Live

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