Speaking of mass transit

Downtown Detroit has an elevated “peoplemover”. The system isn’t very well thought out. The trains only go in one direction, so, if you park a couple blocks from, but in the wrong direction, from your destination, you have to ride the thing almost all the way around the loop.

The system is getting quite old. The fare collection system is obsolete, and very expensive to maintain. So, TPTB, have decided to make riding free, rather than spend millions installing a new fare collection system (clearly, the Detroit PTBs are Commies, otherwise, they would raise fairs to collect the money for the new fare collection system)


Nah. Increased fares would decrease ridership, and decreased ridership would then necessitate higher fares. And so the doom loop goes…


Decreased ridership would be used as evidence: “see, no-one wants mass transit”, so mass transit systems are shut down, and the money released by not subsidizing them is used to cover another tax cut for the “JCs”.

If we didn’t cover “setting operations up to fail”, in b-school, we should have.



With the b-schools not failing the incompetent students, it was guaranteed much of what they (the pseudo-JCs) did would be a failure.

It’s worth noting that when the PeopleMover was first established in the late 80’s, the population of Detroit proper was over a million people. Today, the population’s fallen by more than a third - down to some 640K. It’s no surprise if ridership falls, because the population of the city proper has fallen significantly. The system has to adjust to that.

That’s one of the arguments against fixed rail mass transit, BTW, as opposed to rubber-tire transit. It’s immobile, and nearly all of the capital stock is fixed. So it can’t respond to population or other economic shifts. You can’t move it, and since most of the infrastructure is in long-life things like rails and stations (as opposed to a bus, which turns over every decade or so) it’s very hard to downsize it.


The Peoplemover only runs in downtown. Twentyfive years ago, there were still many abandoned buildings in downtown. Those buildings have now either been renovated, like the Book Cadillac, or torn down and replaced, like the old Hudson’s building. New baseball and football stadiums have been built in downtown, though they are a couple blocks from the Peoplemover. More recently a new basketball/hockey arena was built on Woodward, just north of downtown. Three new casinos have been built, though only the Greektown is convenient to the Peoplemover. The media has been reporting, for a few years now, that downtown is now “full”, so development is moving up Woodward. The new Q-Line streetcar runs from downtown up Woodward, past the hockey arena, and on north to Wayne State University. The Q-Line connects with the Peoplemover at Grand Circus Park.

I suspect the drop in ridership of the Peoplemover has more to do with the general drop in use of mass transit post-plague. People shied away from being crammed in a bus full of strangers and found other ways of getting around that seemed safer. They have not yet migrated back to their old transportation choices.

Downtown Detroit, now, is about as nice as you will find in an old, big, city. Still a couple rough edges, but actually, pretty nice.

This is the newest vid I could find on youtube of a ride on the Peoplemover, shot 5 months ago. Things I recognize are the new high-rise, being built where the Hudson’s department store was torn down, after sitting, abandoned, for years, and a new apartment block, where another long abandoned office building was torn down.

For good measure, a ride on the Q-Line street car, from downtown to Grand Blvd. The Q-Line opened in 2017.

Probably not - at least, not per wiki data on ridership. Back in the late 1980’s, the system was moving more than 3 million rides per year. Prior to the pandemic, that had fallen to about 2.2 million (give or take). That’s even with the revitalization of Downtown, which may have reduced the number of vacant buildings but doesn’t seem to have altered the trajectory of population loss. Of course, ridership has collapsed even further in the post-Covid environment - it’s now only around 0.7 million, and that’s after doubling from last year.

The free fare year is probably a smart measure to try to get people habituated to using the PeopleMover again. But if it doesn’t work, and people just aren’t using the Mover very much, it probably doesn’t make sense to make a major infrastructure investment into the fare collection system. In a world of Uber and Lyft for short-distance door-to-door transportation, systems like the Mover just may not be worthwhile.

I think that article reported, the local news did report, that ridership currently is about 42% of what it was pre-plague.

Of course, it might help if it went to the sports stadiums and the other casinos that were built after the mover. They were all built with their own parking, but the news keeps reporting on people being scammed in other parking lots.

Could be. The Q-Line was free for several months when it opened in 2017. The line was shut during the plague. When it reopened, riding was again free, to induce people to return to using it. Since then several people with very deep pockets have stepped up to help subsidize the line and keep it free to ride, for a considerable, tho undefined, time into the future.

Detroit isn’t the only nest of Commies in the country. When I visited Seattle in 94, downtown bus service was free, tho I had to pay when I left the downtown area to get to Boeing Field.

Of course, the Q-Line does have a problem with people parking on the tracks. Something the Peoplemover, or a monorail, would not have a problem with.

Sure. Again, one of the arguments against fixed-rail mass transit is that it isn’t easily adaptable. If a new major destination opens up, it’s pretty simple to incorporate it into a rubber-tire transit network; but its much, much harder to add it into a fixed-rail system.

There’s long been a “free fare” movement in transit circles. Especially in the U.S., where are our farebox recovery rates (the percent of operating costs that’s covered by passenger fares) are so low to begin with. There’s various justifications for it, from environmental benefits to equity concerns. It’s gained steam after the pandemic wrecked ridership in so many systems.

This is true. Buses are always easy to deploy, and reroute, and cheaper. They also add to street congestion, vs a subway or elevated train. Imagine NYC, if there were no subways, and all those people were in buses or cars on the streets instead. I purely hate driving in downtown Detroit. Being an old city, that was laid out by a man with a wheel obsession, the streets are narrow, and intersect at weird angles.

The Seattle monorail still only runs from the fairgrounds, southward, to one stop in downtown, same as 60 years ago. The sports stadiums are south of downtown. Several years ago, there was a plan to extend the monorail to the stadiums. Voters approved a tax to help pay for it. Costs escalated at such a rate the plan was dropped.