Detroit People Mover

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Detroit People Mover
Detroit People Mover Logo.svg
Detroit People Mover approaching Millender Center.jpg
OwnerDetroit Transportation Corporation
LocaleDowntown Detroit
Transit typePeople mover
Number of stations13
Annual ridership268,900 (2020)[1]
Headquarters515 Griswold Street, Suite 400, Detroit, Michigan
Began operationJuly 31, 1987
Operator(s)Detroit Transportation Corporation
Rolling stockUTDC ICTS Mark I
Number of vehicles12
System length2.94 mi (4.73 km)
No. of tracks1
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
ElectrificationThird rail, linear induction motor
Top speed56 mph (90 km/h)[2]
System map

QLINE Logo.svg Grand Circus Park
Cadillac Center
Times Square
Michigan Avenue
Renaissance Center
Millender Center
Huntington Place
West Riverfront
Financial District

The Detroit People Mover (DPM) is a 2.94-mile (4.73 km) elevated automated people mover system in Detroit, Michigan, United States.[2] The system operates in a one-way loop on a single track encircling downtown Detroit, using Intermediate Capacity Transit System linear induction motor technology developed by the Urban Transportation Development Corporation.

The People Mover is owned and operated by the Detroit Transportation Corporation, an agency of the Detroit city government.

The People Mover is supplemented by the QLine streetcar, which connects the system with Midtown, New Center, and the Detroit Amtrak station. The system also connects to DDOT and SMART bus routes as part of a comprehensive network of transportation in metropolitan Detroit.[3]



The Detroit People Mover has its origins in 1966, with the creation of the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) to develop new types of transit. In 1975, following the failure to produce any large-scale results and increased pressure to show results, UMTA created the Downtown People Mover Program (DPM) and sponsored a nationwide competition that offered federal funds to cover much of the cost of planning and construction of such a system. UMTA reviewed thirty-five full proposals. From these, they selected proposals from Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, and St. Paul. In addition, UMTA decided they would approve proposals from Baltimore, Detroit, and Miami to develop People Mover systems if they could do so with existing grant commitments. Of the seven cities with UMTA approval for their People Mover proposals, only Detroit and Miami persevered to build and operate systems.[4]

The Ford Motor Company was involved in one of the designs of the People Mover and had hired AlScott Service Company to design and build a room size working model of the system. This model was used for Ford's proposals in their attempt to build the system.[citation needed]

The People Mover was intended to be the downtown distributor for a proposed city and metro-wide light rail transit system for Detroit in the early 1980s; however, funding was scaled back.[5] President Gerald Ford had promised $600 million in federal funds. Plans included a subway line along Woodward Avenue that would turn into a street level train at McNichols and eventually go all the way to Pontiac, with additional rail lines running along Gratiot and a commuter line between Detroit and Port Huron. Inability of local leaders to come to an agreement led to the $600 million commitment being withdrawn by the Reagan administration, though plans for the People Mover still moved forward.[6] At the time of planning, the system was projected to have a ridership of 67,700 daily.[7]

During construction, the system was initially owned by the Southeastern Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA).[8] It was acquired by the Detroit Transportation Corporation (DTC) on October 4, 1985. The DTC was incorporated in 1985 as a Michigan Public Body Corporate for the purpose of acquiring, owning, constructing, furnishing, equipping, completing, operating, improving, enlarging, and/or disposing of the Central Automated Transit Systems (CATS). The DTC was created by the City of Detroit, Michigan pursuant to Act 7 of Public Acts of 1967 and is a component unit of the City of Detroit and accounts its activity as per proprietary funds.[9]


The Downtown People Mover (DPM) officially opened to the public on July 31, 1987. In the first year, an average of 11,000 riders used the People Mover each day; the one-day record was 54,648.[10] Originally, the People Mover System was operated and maintained by UTDC on a month-to-month basis. The DTC took over operations and maintenance on November 18, 1988.[citation needed]

Service disruptions from construction[edit]

In October 1998, the implosion of the J. L. Hudson Department Store damaged part of the nearby track and forced the system to shut down. The system ran limited service until the track was completely repaired in late 1999.[11]

In 2000, the David Whitney Building closed,[12] cutting off access to the Grand Circus Park station. The station later reopened, though it lacked elevator access until the station was renovated with the building's reopening in 2015.

During construction of Compuware World Headquarters, the Cadillac Center station was temporarily closed as part of the parking structure was built around it. The station remained largely untouched and unmodified, although the entrance was slightly expanded, and a walkway to the garage was added.

In 2002, the original Renaissance Center station was closed and demolished. This was part of a multi-year renovation of the Renaissance Center, in which concrete berms in front of the complex were removed to make it more inviting to the rest of downtown. The system ran limited service due to the gap in the track during construction, leading to a drop in ridership, before the new station and track opened on September 3, 2004.[13][14][15] The original station's tile artwork was destroyed in the demolition, though its creator, George Woodman, designed a replacement work for the new station.[16]

The Grand Circus Park station closed for renovations on August 16, 2014, as part of renovation work in the David Whitney Building.[17] A new station lobby was added with a direct entrance to the building, and an elevator was added to provide step-free access. Trains continued to operate in a one-way loop, bypassing Grand Circus Park, for most of the station's closure, though the line was briefly split into two segments (with transfers at Millender Center) while part of the track was closed. The Grand Circus Park station officially reopened on June 13, 2015.[18] A connecting QLine station was added shortly thereafter, opening with the system in May 2017.

2008 poster informing riders of the change in direction

Changes in direction[edit]

The system originally ran counter-clockwise. It changed directions to run clockwise in August 2008, following a short closure to replace sections of the track. This change in direction was intended to reduce the time needed to connect between more popular destinations. The switch to clockwise also reduced the time required to complete the loop, as the route, run clockwise, has one short, relatively steep uphill climb, and then coasts downhill for most of the route, allowing trains to use gravity to accelerate.[19]

In late December 2019, the People Mover tested counter-clockwise operation. The system began running counter-clockwise on weekends in February 2020, and then switched back to counter-clockwise full-time on March 1st.[20]

COVID-19 shutdown and reopening[edit]

The People Mover shut down on March 30, 2020, due to reduced ridership amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a planned 2021 reopening was postponed,[21] the system resumed limited service on May 20, 2022, running six days a week, stopping at six of the 13 stations (Michigan Avenue, Huntington Place, West Riverfront, Millender Center, Greektown, Grand Circus Park). Broadway and Financial District reopened thirteen days later on June 2,[22] followed by Renaissance Center and Fort/Cass on September 14.[23] The other three stations remain temporarily closed as of September 2022.

To attract riders, fares were initially waived from reopening day through August,[24] and later extended through October 2022.[25]


The People Mover is currently free to ride, with fares waived through October 2022.[25] The regular fare is $0.75 per trip, with discounts available for seniors.[26] Children 5 and under ride free.[27] Fares can be paid using quarters at the turnstiles, or with tokens dispensed by machines in the stations. Monthly and annual passes are available, and can be purchased at the SMART ticket office in the lobby of the Buhl Building. SMART and DDOT passes are also accepted.

The fare was originally $0.50, until it was raised to the current rate in November 2011.[28]

Cost-effectiveness and use[edit]

The People Mover costs $12 million annually in city and state subsidies to run,[29] and the system has drawn criticism for its cost-effectiveness.[30] In every year between 1997 and 2006, the cost per passenger mile exceeded $3, and was $4.26 in 2009,[31] compared with Detroit bus routes that operate at $0.82[31] (for comparison, the New York City Subway operates at $0.30 per passenger mile). The Mackinac Center for Public Policy also charges that the system does not benefit locals, pointing out that fewer than 30% of the riders are Detroit residents and that Saturday ridership (likely out-of-towners) dwarfs that of weekday usage.[29] Edward Glaeser in his 2011 book Triumph of the City, referring to high cost of maintenance, calls the Mover "perhaps the most absurd public transit project in the country".[32]

Expansion proposals[edit]

There have been proposals to extend the People Mover northward to the New Center and neighborhoods not within walking distance of the city's downtown. A proposal was put forward by Marsden Burger, former manager of the People Mover, to double the length of the route by extending the People Mover along Woodward Avenue to West Grand Boulevard and into the New Center area.[33] New stops would have included the Amtrak station, Wayne State University and the cultural center, the Detroit Medical Center, and the Henry Ford Hospital. The plan was proposed at a tentative cost of $150–200 million, and would have been paid for by a combination of public and private financing.[citation needed] Much of the proposed route to New Center would eventually be followed by the QLine streetcar, which opened in 2017.

Rolling stock[edit]

Detroit People Mover cars in original livery, 2003

The People Mover's fleet consists of twelve automated Intermediate Capacity Transit System cars, built by the Urban Transportation Development Corporation in Kingston, Ontario. They operate in two-car trains. Their original livery was white with yellow and green stripes, though all trains have been wrapped with advertisements since the mid-2000s.

Operations and maintenance[edit]

DTC offices, Buhl Building

The People Mover's operations center, garage, and maintenance facilities are located at the Times Square station.[34] Cars enter the garage via a siding, which branches off from the main line to a second platform at Times Square. This siding allows the system to be used in a two-way bypass manner when part of the circular track is closed. Maintenance equipment is lifted up to track level by crane, but not stored with the DPM cars.

The Detroit Transportation Corporation is headquartered on the fourth floor of the Buhl Building in the city's Financial District, across the street from the Financial District station.


The system was designed to move up to 15 million riders a year. In 2008 it served approximately 2 million riders. This meant the system averaged about 7,500 people per day, about 2.5 percent of its daily peak capacity of 288,000.[35][36] In 2006, the Mover filled less than 10 percent of its seats.[29]

Among the busiest periods was the five days around the 2006 Super Bowl XL, when 215,910 patrons used the service.[citation needed] In addition to major downtown concerts and sporting events, other high ridership times include the week of the annual North American International Auto Show in January and the Youmacon anime convention at the end of October, ever since the convention expanded in 2012 to use Huntington Place in addition to the Renaissance Center. The system had 92,384 riders during the 2014 extended con weekend.[37]

Year Calendar year ridership
(Jan 1 – Dec 31)
Fiscal year ridership
(Jul 1 – Jun 30)
2001 2,369,915 2,104,832
2002 1,837,807 2,186,526
2003 1,017,243 1,267,927
2004 953,753 922,644
2005 1,792,924 1,339,646
2006 2,368,361 2,307,909
2007 2,320,433 2,307,774
2008 2,059,714 2,315,395
2009 2,161,436 1,941,501
2010 2,216,800 2,181,440
2011 2,285,358 2,408,131
2012 2,085,487 2,046,444
2013 2,207,333 2,118,301
2014 2,357,520 2,140,066
2015 2,413,414 2,442,031
2016 2,165,352 2,286,383
2017 2,095,415 2,212,662
2018 1,915,173 1,952,505
2019 1,605,283
Source: [38]


1990 derailment[edit]

In 1990, a train derailed at Cadillac Center after a manhole cover fell onto the track.[39]

2015 derailment[edit]

On January 22, 2015 at approximately 10:10 PM, one of the cars jumped a rail, hitting the platform at Times Square. No injuries were reported, and the system was shut down for 17 hours for an investigation. According to a DTC press release, a bracket beneath the train dislodged and caught underneath the rear car, causing the train to disengage from the track. A door was dislodged upon impact.[40]

2016 accident[edit]

On May 15, 2016, 53-year-old Michael Whyte fell onto the track between the cars of a stopped train at Times Square. The train then departed automatically as normal, dragging Whyte along the track to his death. Following this incident, bollards were added to the system's platforms, preventing passengers from falling into the space between the cars.[39] Whyte's family filed a lawsuit, alleging negligence on the part of the DTC.[41] Whyte's death is, to date, the only fatal accident in the People Mover's history.[39]


The network has 13 stations. As the system runs in a one-way loop with a single track, each station only has one side platform, except for Times Square, which has a siding leading to the system's garage and an island platform.[34]

Station Location
Broadway Broadway Street and John R Street
Grand Circus Park Park Street & Woodward Avenue (David Whitney Building)
Times Square Grand River Avenue & Times Square
Michigan Avenue Michigan Avenue & Cass Avenue
Fort/Cass Fort Street & Cass Avenue
Huntington Place Cass Street & Congress Street (inside Huntington Place)
West Riverfront 3rd Street & Jefferson Avenue
Financial District Larned Street & Shelby Street (150 West Jefferson)
Millender Center Randolph & Jefferson Avenue (inside Milender Center)
Renaissance Center Renaissance Center
Bricktown Beaubien Street & East Fort Street
Greektown Beaubien Street between Monroe & East Lafayette Street (Greektown Historic District)
Cadillac Center Gratiot Avenue & Library Street

Public art[edit]

Originally, the 13 stations were not planned to have any distinctive features. However, in 1984, after construction had recently begun, Irene Walt assembled a volunteer committee to persuade the project agency to include artwork in each station. Called the Downtown Detroit People Mover Art Commission (later known as Art in the Stations),[42] they raised $2 million to finance the project. As a result, there are 18 new original pieces of art spread throughout the stations, plus a piece from 1903 that had previously been in storage, on permanent loan from the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The commission's efforts and art installation were documented in a 30-minute film, Art in the Stations, by Sue Marx and Pamela Conn, who had recently won an Academy Award for the short documentary Young at Heart. Art in the Stations premiered at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1989.

In 2004, a coffee table book by Walt, also titled Art in the Stations, was published, with photographs by Balthazar Korab and information on all the station artwork and the artists who created them.

Art was completed with the system opening in 1987 unless otherwise noted:

  • Grand Circus Park
  • Times Square
    • In Honor of W. Hawkins Ferry (Artist: Tom Phardel / Pewabic Pottery – glazed tile)
    • Untitled (1993) (Artist: Anat Shiftan / Pewabic Pottery – tile mural)
  • Michigan Avenue
    • Voyage (Artist: Allie McGhee – tile mural)
    • On the Move (Artist: Kirk Newman – cast bronze shape on tile)
  • Fort/Cass
    • Untitled (Artist: Farley Tobin – tile mural)
    • Progression II (1993) (Artist: Sandra jo Osip – bronze sculpture)
  • Huntington Place
    • Calvacade of Cars (1988) (Artist: Larry Ebel/Linda Cianciolo Scarlett – mural)
  • West Riverfront
  • Financial District
    • 'D' for Detroit (Artist: Joyce Kozloff – hand painted ceramic mural)
  • Millender Center
  • Renaissance Center
    • Dreamers and Voyagers Come to Detroit (1987–2002) (Artist: George Woodman – ceramic tile mural, destroyed with station demolition)
    • Siberian Ram (1993) (Artist: Marshall Fredericks – cast bronze sculpture)
    • Path Games (2004) (Artist: George Woodman – ceramic tile mural)
  • Bricktown
    • Beaubien Passage (Artist: Glen Michaels – bas relief on porcelain panels)
  • Greektown
    • Neon for the Greektown Station (Artist: Stephen Antonakos – free form neon light display)
  • Cadillac Center
  • Broadway

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Transit Ridership Report Fourth Quarter 2021" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association. March 10, 2022. Retrieved June 7, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "The Detroit People Mover – Overview". Archived from the original on July 30, 2013. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  3. ^ "Ann Arbor to Detroit Regional Rail Project". Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.
  4. ^ "The Downtown People Mover Program". Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  5. ^ Phillipp Oswalt. "Shrinking Cities" (PDF). p. 93. Retrieved September 7, 2009.
  6. ^ Felton, Ryan (March 11, 2014). "How Detroit ended up with the worst public transit". Detroit Metro Times. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  7. ^ "Analysis of the Proposed Las Vegas LLC Monorail" (PDF). Wendell Cox Consultancy. June 6, 2000. p. 14. Retrieved September 20, 2007 – via The Public Purpose.
  8. ^ Barron, James (November 23, 1984). "Flaws Slowing People Mover Project". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  9. ^ "Summary of Significant Account Policies" (PDF). Detroit Transportation Corporation. p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 25, 2011 – via State of Michigan.
  10. ^ "Detroit downtown peoplemover, advanced automated urban transit". University of Washington. June 29, 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  11. ^ First-Arai, Leanna (2010). "Failed Linkages" (PDF). Agora Journal of Urban Planning and Design (4): 65–68 – via University of Michigan.
  12. ^ Austin, Dan. "David Whitney Building". Historic Detroit. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  13. ^ "New entry plaza will be the end of Renaissance Center renovation". Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council. April 2, 2004. Retrieved July 4, 2022.
  14. ^ O'Leary, Chris (July 14, 2009). "Detroit's People Mover: seizing the opportunity to correct a mistake". On Transport. Retrieved July 4, 2022.
  15. ^ Bodipo-Memba, Alejandro (August 26, 2004). "People Mover Service Returning". Detroit Free Press. p. 19.
  16. ^ "Public Collections and Commissions by George Woodman". Woodman Family Foundation. Retrieved July 4, 2022.
  17. ^ "Detroit People Mover Renovating Grand Circus Park Station!". Transportation Riders United. August 16, 2014.
  18. ^ "People Mover's Grand Circus Park Station Reopens". CBS Detroit. June 13, 2015. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  19. ^ "Detroit People Mover Reopens and Makes Changes". Detroit Transportation Corporation. August 15, 2008. Archived from the original on February 14, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  20. ^ Abdel-Baqui, Omar (February 1, 2020). "Detroit People Mover to run counter-clockwise for first time in 12 years". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  21. ^ Booth, DeJanay (September 2, 2021). "Reopening of Detroit People Mover postponed until further notice, officials say". WDIV. Retrieved May 21, 2022.
  22. ^ "Service Update June 2: Restart Information". Detroit People Mover. June 2, 2022. Retrieved June 18, 2022.
  23. ^ "Sept. 14 Special Notice - Partial Loop Service 7A-5P". Detroit People Mover. September 14, 2022.
  24. ^ Rahal, Sarah (May 19, 2020). "Detroit People Mover resumes service with free rides for 90 days". The Detroit News. Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  25. ^ a b @detpeoplemover (August 11, 2022). "So, we've added more time - Free For You Thru October '22. Enjoy!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  26. ^ "Detroit People Mover Proposed Fare Structure" (PDF). Detroit Transportation Corporation. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 18, 2016. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  27. ^ "Operating Schedule | DPM". Retrieved July 17, 2019.
  28. ^ Oosting, Jonathan (September 1, 2011). "Moving on up: Board OKs approves new 75-cent fare for Detroit People Mover". MLive. Retrieved July 4, 2022.
  29. ^ a b c Henion, Andy (December 23, 2006). "Detroit People Mover Grows Up". The Detroit News – via SkyscraperPage.
  30. ^ Braun, Ken (December 11, 2007). "The Detroit People Mover Still Serves as "a Rich Folks' Roller Coaster"". Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Archived from the original on December 3, 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  31. ^ a b Gantert, Tim (February 27, 2011). "Pricey pensions for Detroit's roller-coaster for rich people". Spero News. Archived from the original on July 19, 2012. Retrieved July 26, 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  32. ^ Glaeser, Edward (2011), Triumph of the City: How Our Best Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, New York: Penguin Press, ISBN 978-1-59420-277-3
  33. ^ "DetroitPeopleMover2". Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  34. ^ a b Cox, Jeremiah (October 28, 2011). "Times Square (Detroit People Mover)". The SubwayNut. Archived from the original on July 22, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  35. ^ "Ridership" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  36. ^ Luczak, Marybeth (1998). "Is there people-mover in your future?". Railway AgeIn fiscal year 1999–2000 the city was spending $3 for every $0.50 rider fare, according to The Detroit News.
  37. ^ Alexander, Ericka (October 13, 2015). "DPM is the Place to Be for Youmacon 2015 – Find out why!"". DTC Marketing. Archived from the original on October 26, 2015. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  38. ^ "About Ridership". Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  39. ^ a b c Allen, Robert; Baldas, Tresa (May 16, 2016). "People Mover's first fatality is Detroit man, 53". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  40. ^ Allen, Robert; Lawrence, Eric (January 24, 2015). "People Mover Resumes Service". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 25, 2015.
  41. ^ Langton, Charlie (August 10, 2016). "Family of man killed by People Mover file suit". FOX 2 Detroit. Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  42. ^ "Detroit public-art advocate Irene Walt dies at age 91". Crain's Detroit Business. August 4, 2015. Archived from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved July 16, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)

External links[edit]