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People Mover

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1987, Parsons Brinkerhoff. Circling downtown Detroit from the Riverfront to Grand Circus Park

Operated by the Detroit Transportation Corporation of the City of Detroit, the 2.9-mile-long automated driverless people mover system on a single track makes a one-way loop around downtown with stops at its thirteen stations.

In 1966 the federal government created the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) to develop new types of mass transit systems. No takers stepped forward, so in 1975 UMTA established the Downtown People Mover Program, sponsoring a nationwide competition for federal planning and construction costs. Having been selected, Detroit and Miami built their systems using existing grants. Planning took years, in part, to attempt to protect and to minimize alterations to historic buildings along the route. Except for the demand for local transportation during the Super Bowl in 1996, ridership has been light. In 2006 less than 10 percent of the seats were filled.

Art is displayed in each station. The cast-bronze Siberian Ram (1966) by Michigan sculptor Marshall M. Fredericks stands before a wall of green Pewabic tile in the Renaissance Center Station (Tower 200, Level 2). An installation of historic Pewabic Pottery tile commissioned by Stroh Brewery Company in 1935 for a never-built brewery and donated to the Art in the Stations project in 1985 is laid in the wall of the Cadillac Center Station by Diane Kulisek In Honour of Mary Chase Stratton.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert


What's Nearby


Kathryn Bishop Eckert, "People Mover", [Detroit, Michigan], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Michigan

Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, 59-59.

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