The City of Detroit is about to enter its third streetcar era. The first saw the development of a huge, traditional system starting in the late 19th century and extending until final abandonment in 1956.
Some 20 years later the second era started on a very small scale when the first new heritage trolley line in the country was established using small ex-Lisbon streetcars. After some years operation became sporadic and the line was dismantled in 2003 when no funds could be found for major maintenance. Click here for more on this operation.
Now after years of discussion about bringing rail transit back to the city (Detroit is the largest American city without urban rail.) in the form of modern streetcars, officials from private organizations, the city, the state, and the Federal government are implementing a 3.3 mile-streetcar project, called M-1 Rail, along Woodward Avenue. The street was one of the busiest streetcar arteries of the first generation system.
Facts about the M-1 Plan
From Crain's Detroit Business site:
• The $137 million, 3.3-mile street-level line on Woodward Avenue will stretch between Larned Street downtown to Chandler Street north of Grand Boulevard in New Center.
• The goal is to spur economic development along the route, reduce traffic downtown, ease pedestrian circulation during events, and ultimately connect to a possible line streching to the city limits and into the Detroit suburbs.
• The line will run in mixed traffic using the lane next to the parking lane, but in the center lane at both the north and south ends.
• Plans call for the line to be in operation by the fourth quarter of 2015.
• Estimated annual passenger counts are 3 million people.
• M1 plans to create a $10 million fund to cover operation and maintenance of the system 10 years up to 2025, when it plans to donate the line and operating responsibility to the newly established regional transit authority.
• Co-chairman of M1 Rail is are Penske Corp. founder Roger Penske and Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert.
• The Kresge Foundation has pledged $35.1 million to the project, part of which already has been spent, and it gave an additional $3 million as a "backstop" grant. Additional funding commitments of $3 million have come from Wayne State University, Quicken Loans, the Ilitch companies, Penske Corp., Compuware Corp., Chevrolet, Chrysler Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, Wayne County government, the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The Hudson Webber Foundation has pledged $1 million.
• The Detroit Downtown Development Authority has allocated $9 million for the project. A further $16 million comes from federal New Market Tax Credits, which have to be renewed annually. The project will also draw a $22 million commercial loan.
• More about the project can be found at m-1rail.com.
The following news notes provide further coverage of Detroit's third generation streetcar plans: