Detroit Mass Transit Hypotheses

Hypothesis 1: Low population density inhibits development of public transportation solutions.

Detroit covers a large area compared to other cities and population decreases over the last 50 years have decreased population density. This makes the development of cost-effective public transit solutions difficult and decreases demand for them.

Hypothesis 2: Metro Detroit’s existing hub and spoke public transit architecture is obsolete.

Large scale movement of people in the Detroit metropolitan area Detroit’s used to be mostly about moving people from suburbs downtown to Detroit to work and returning them home after work each day. The architecture of the metropolitan public transport solutions reflected this. Getting downtown was easy; getting from one suburb to another not so much. Going from Pontiac to Mt. Clemens would involve a trip down Woodward Avenue to downtown Detroit followed by a trip up Gratiot to Mt. Clemens; at least twice a far as the crow flies. Although we still have this public transit architecture, commuter traffic is now is primarily from one suburb to another rather than from the suburbs to the city center.

The new Woodward Light Rail Project is perplexing in this context. It is a ~$500M project along the Woodward Avenue spoke and is entirely within the City of Detroit. The Woodward Avenue spoke’s natural length from Detroit to Pontiac is 31.1 miles yet the light rail project is planned for only 9.3 miles – from downtown to the Detroit city limit at 8 Mile Road – all within the city. In the Detroit area more than 77% of area jobs are outside of a ten mile radius from the city’s center.