Detroit Streetcar - Funded

3 to 8-mile new line running northwest from Downtown Detroit along Woodward Avenue via Midtown, with connection to Detroit-Ann Arbor CR

Funds have come from public and private sources

Relevant articles on the Transport Politic: Detroit Considers a Streetcar, 18 November 2008; Detroit Regional Transit Plan Approved, 9 December 2008; Bringing Rapid Transit to Detroit, 16 March 2009; Congress Approves M1 Involvement in Detroit Light Rail, 21 December 2009.

click photos to enlarge
Detroit Metropolitan Airport is the region's major international airport. The McNamara Terminal's Express-Tram is used to transport passengers from one end of the terminal to the other.




Mission Statement Surveys & Opinions Contact Us
















The Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) is the public transit operator serving suburban portions of Metro Detroit which networks with the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) serving the city of Detroit and the enclaves of Hamtramck and Highland Park. SMART and DDOT operate under a cooperative service and fare agreement. SMART maintains its administrative headquarters in the Buhl Building in downtown Detroit, while DDOT's major operations center is located at 1301 E. Warren Ave. in Detroit. As of 2008, SMART has the third highest ridership of Michigan's transit systems, surpassed by Capital Area Transportation Authority and Detroit Department of Transportation. Many of SMART's routes enter the City of Detroit and serve the Downtown and Midtown cores. Elsewhere in Detroit city limits, SMART policy does not permit passengers to be dropped off on outbound routes, or board on inbound routes. This is intended to avoid service duplication with Detroit Department of Transportation, which supplements the city of Detroit with its own bus service.

The Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation is the suburban bus system providing services outside the city, although SMART buses come in and out of the city on their routes. Visitors to the city can distinguish the two types of buses by their colors: DDOT buses have green and yellow stripes; SMART

Greyhound Lines provides nation-wide service to the city of Detroit and the metropolitan area. Greyhound station is on Howard Street near Michigan Avenue.

Detroit People Mover: The Detroit People Mover is an 2.9-mile (4.7 km) elevated light rail route which operates a loop encircling the central business district of downtown Detroit. The People Mover is run by the Detroit Transportation Corporation of the City of Detroit.

Intercity: RailIntercity rail services using the Wolverine line are available from Detroit (Amtrak station) offering service to Chicago, Illinois, Pontiac and intermediate stations. Infra----structure work is in progress to improve journey times on this line.

Woodward Light Rail: The Woodward Avenue Light Rail is a proposed light rail line that would run along Woodward Avenue from downtown to the 8 Mile Road serving Wayne State University, Detroit's New Center and Detroit (Amtrak station). From the railway station it would connect to Ann Arbor using the SEMCOG Commuter Rail and to Chicago using the Chicago–Pontiac–Detroit high speed rail project.

The cost of the light rail system is estimated as $372 million with a plan to begin operation by 2013.

A private group of Detroit area investors has provided matching funds to government dollars to developing a $125 million, 3.4-mile (5.5 km) line through central Detroit (similar to the Tacoma Link) called the M-1 Rail Line. The proposed line received $25 million in funding from the United States Department of Transportation in February 2010. Groundbreaking is scheduled to begin at the end of 2010. City, State, and Federal officials are developing a plan to for a nine mile (14 km) extension to continue M-1 Rail Line to 8 Mile Rd. along Woodward Avenue. The DDOT proposal estimates daily ridership at 22,000 by 2015.

SEMCOG Commuter Rail: SEMCOG Commuter Rail is a proposed regional rail link between the cities of Ann Arbor and Detroit which is currently 'on hold' Previously an October 2010 completion had been suggested. The stops includes new or existing stations in Ann Arbor, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Ypsilanti, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, and Detroit's New Center area. The route would extend 38.5 miles (62.0 km) from Ann Arbor to Detroit, along the same route used by Amtrak's Wolverine. The planned system has secured $100 million in federal grants.

Bicycling in Detroit:

Cyclists riding along Woodward Avenue.Like many American cities, Detroit embraced bicycling during the "golden age" of the 1890s. However, as the automotive era began, the interests of bicycle shop owners, manufacturers, racers, and enthusiasts turned to the automobile.

Now, Detroiters are rediscovering the bicycle, helped in part by significant infrastructure investments as well as bicycle-friendly and extensive road infrastructure.

The People Mover enters Bricktown station.
Detroit Amtrak Wolverine train.


Cyclists riding along Woodward Avenue.
The Motor City must get its priorities straight to move ahead with a new transit system

April 13, 2010 update
After receiving millions of dollars in commitments from private foundations and a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Detroit’s planned M-1 Streetcar is virtually assured of completion as planned in 2013. The $125 million project will be the first major transit investment in this vast city since the opening of the one-way downtown People Mover loop in 1987. Construction is planned to commence by the end of this year.

But that 3.4-mile line, running in lanes shared with automobiles along Woodward Avenue between downtown’s Campus Martius and the New Center at Grand Avenue, will make just a blip in what is a huge, sprawling region housing more than four million inhabitants. As a result, Wayne County (whose seat is Detroit) and its neighbors Macomb and Oakland Counties have recently advanced a plan for expanding transit access throughout, focusing on an extension of the Woodward rail project and series of bus rapid transit lines. With suburban interests holding major sway in the process, the extended bus lines appear likely to be built before the inner-city rail project.

The previously prioritized effort to build a commuter rail line between Detroit and Ann Arbor is apparently on the far back burner, put off in favor of high-speed rail, for which Michigan has recently received funds.

Politicians and businesspeople from Macomb and Oakland Counties, representing a large section of the region’s population, have been quick to point out the limitations in the Woodward Streetcar line: at a total cost of $425 million, it will cover only nine route miles, all within the city of Detroit. For about twice that cost, advocates of a “Golden Triangle” bus system argue that they could build a 67-mile network of lane-separated lines along Woodward Avenue, Gratiot Avenue, and M-59, connecting downtown Detroit with Pontiac and Clinton.

In theory, this program of investments would encourage increasing transit ridership in the region, a first step before making much larger investments in rail.

And it is true that far more people will be within commuting distance of the three-line bus system than would be close to even the longer light rail line; Detroit’s residential density is relatively evenly distributed throughout the city, not concentrated in the core (parts of which the mayor has recently announced plans to transform into farmland). Meanwhile, the fact that downtown remains a significant jobs center means that getting commuters in from across the region is an important step. Finally, buses may actually provide faster service than rail because at least as currently envisioned, the streetcars will be held up in traffic because they’ll be sharing their lanes with cars.

Simultaneously, the fact that a large number of low-wage jobs are located in the suburbs even as low-income people live in the city indicates that improving such connections is essential to promote greater equality of mobility. If local buses were designed to interface efficiently with the bus rapid transit lines, many of the commuting problems currently faced by the residents of the city’s least favorable neighborhoods would be assuaged.

Buses are unlikely to produce the build-up Detroit desperately needs, but current plans for the Woodward Streetcar line are not adequate to spur the type of intense developmental activity for which the city is currently pushing because of widely spaced station stops and a lack of independent rights-of-way. This implies that many of the aesthetic and perceptual advantages of rail-based transit will be lost when implemented in the Detroit context and suggests that at least from a transportation perspective, improvements in bus service would be a more effective use of funds.

On the other hand, the proposed Golden Triangle makes no effort whatsoever to concentrate transit offerings within a reasonable radius of the urban center. The extremely high amount of vacant land in Detroit means that investments in new public services need to be concentrated, not spread further out. If the city commits to encouraging people to live directly adjacent to the Woodward line (or even forces them to do so by means of cutting off electricity or water to certain under-populated neighborhoods), it could not only ensure that the transit line is well used, but also that the city is economizing by densifying its public service provision around a specific corridor.

There are, in other words, advantages of both approaches — the bus rapid transit plan acts more appropriately as a direct improvement over the status quo, while the streetcar opens up potential avenues for a denser type of city — but Detroit and its region only have the funds to pay for one, at least in the short term. With high unemployment and continued population loss, the city must make a choice. Once it does so, however, it must make sure that it backs its decision with appropriate measures to guarantee the future success of the transit network