Last week, we posted about the People Mover and our readers had a lot to say about it. Not only is the Detroit Transit Corporation looking at potential improvements, but Mayor Mike Duggan mentioned possible expansion ideas last week. Could this three mile elevated loop around downtown gain more riders as is or expand out to other parts of the city?

In addition to the comments, we received emails about the People Mover. First up is Francis Cuthbert, a composer, musician, and urbanism fan, who sent in a transit fantasy map. Francis says,

"My dream network entails a DPM with four spur lines connecting to the immediate neighborhoods, an extended Q-line with four additional light rails on the spoke avenues to the city limit, and a local activation on the Grand Trunk line, sharing with Amtrak from Dearborn to Hamtramck. At one point I did the math that this local system would service around 100k Detroiters while adding residential value to a lot of near-downtown land."

Additional connections and an extended Qline in Detroit. Francis Cuthbert

But how can we get more people on the People Mover now? The following is from reader Mark Tremel, who sent in some expanded ideas to a comment he posted which could increase ridership.

Proposal to Increase Detroit People Mover Usage and Riders

Proposal One: People Mover Detroit Downtown Tour. Sell PM "tour tickets" that come with a hand held tour narration. People could sit in the people mover with their rented headsets (rented by whomever is managing the PM now or in the future) and listen to what each of the significant sites are outside the PM windows going by. Museums have used this concept for years although now many museums are now providing guided audio tours using smartphone technology. I got this idea because I was on the PM with my wife and mother-in-law once and I found myself extemporaneously naming the various buildings we were passing on the ride.

Proposal Two: The People Mover 5K.  Define a 5K route under the tracks of the PM. We joke about how it is *only* a 3 mile loop and the popular 5K running race is also about 3 miles. This idea is to hold a 5K that goes through the streets of downtown Detroit just under the PM tracks (I have already worked out one such course.) As part of the experience, we encourage spectators to ride the PM during the race. Cheer your favorite runner on from the cozy confines of the PM. Have aid stations at select PM stations. Present age group awards as a free PM passes instead of medals or trophies. Themed races are very popular and this could introduce a new cohort of PM riders to the PM. 

Proposal Three: People Mover Pub Crawl.  A way to introduce downtown watering holes to the public through the clever use of the PM as a way to get to the bars, pubs and restaurants on the Pub Crawl. Added bonus:  no driving to the bars on the crawl! Program would sell tickets that would combine the PM ride for the evening with a parking garage (preferably or at worst any parking facility) and drink tickets or discounts at various locations close to PM stations. Pub crawlers would be provided a PM pass, parking options, a book of tickets and a map of the “pubs in play.”  Upgrade option: include a night’s stay at a hotel that is also on or near the PM loop. Note:  Pub Crawls are more popular in Britain than in America, however, check out this article. Also notice Detroit is not on this list.

Proposal Four:  People Mover Parking Partnership - General.  Introduce the option of parking anywhere near a PM station and taking the PM to your destination. It could be for sports, the theater, casinos, shopping, dining, or more. Clearly many businesses will suggest their own parking options, but this program would encourage a more independent model where the customer parks where they want and it is just as convenient or even moreso. For example, many parking options exist very near to the PM Bricktown Station, but not as many entertainment or dining options. Someone familiar with Bricktown could park there and use the convenience of the Bricktown PM Station to go to Huntington Place for a conference, or to the Grand Circus Park  PM Station to go to the Fillmore Theater, or the Financial District PM Station to see the Guardian Building. This program could target only parking garages if there were a dual purpose to discourage surface lots, but it would also be distributing parking and traffic to more locations downtown. When an event is happening at Ford Field (Lions, Concert, etc.) the parking in that area is pricier, traffic is more congested and choices are limited. However, near the Renaissance Center it would be more convenient.

The nexus of this idea is that many downtown visitors do not know how or where to park. Is this lot open?  How much is it? Is that price per hour or flat rate? Some lots or garages have clear signage, but many do not. In addition, almost every option has a different way of accepting payment. For downtown visitors, providing a simpler option with clear directions would be an improvement. I was just recently downtown meeting friends at a bar.  It was bitter cold. Most people did not know where to park so that they had the shortest walk in the icy temps. Had the bar provided information on parking options it would have helped many people that night. The PM could take advantage of this gap in service and offer the PM+Parking option. Clear directions on where to park and how to get where you are going for a known in advance price.

Proposal Five:  People Mover Parking Partnership - Special Events. This is similar to proposal four, but it is targeted specifically at special events like the Auto Show, sporting events, big name concerts (think Taylor Swift), or other downtown disruptions where a specific set of parking options further away from the event but still within PM distance would be brought into play. Package parking with PM pass and event tickets. This is in many ways very similar to the shuttle service that restaurants and bars sometimes offer for shows and special events. Upgrade option:  include a night’s stay at a hotel that is also on or near the PM loop.

What these proposals do beyond just increased PM usage:

  • Better Parking Usage. Possible shift toward parking structures over surface lots, if these programs worked exclusively with structures. For those who find surface lots annoying, their biggest advantage is that they are easier to see from the street and often have people waving people into their lots. Most people cannot tell if a structure is even open while driving by. 

  • Traffic Distribution. Wider distribution of cars, people and parking across the downtown footprint. Concentrating all the cars and foot traffic at the venue increases congestion.

  • Uniqueness. How many major cities have an elevated monorail transit system?  Make taking the PM while you are in Detroit a “thing to do.”

  • Demystification. Fear breeds caution. "How do I get on the PM? How much does it cost?  Where does it go? When do I get off? Is it safe? Maybe I better just forget it."  The more people who try the PM, the more people will be encouraged to try it.  Getting a person to take that first step would help them to take the next step.

  • Economics. Getting people downtown and finding new places and ways to get to those places should help those businesses to acquire and maintain those customers.

  • Image. Instead of saying what the PM cannot do (e.g. regional transit) let us focus on what it CAN do and find value in THAT.  

  • Brainstorming. Another important reason for suggesting these proposals is because in so doing, they could generate other, potentially better proposals.  Brainstorming is about one idea or comment leading to another.

Thank you for the ideas, Francis and Mark! Feel free to add more in the comments below and if you have bigger ideas, reach out at