04/10/2013 03:33 pm ET Updated Apr 11, 2013

M-1 Rail: People Mover 2.0? Detroit's Woodward Avenue Streetcar Project Raises Serious Concerns

This post first appeared at Mode Shift: Move Together, the online hub for placemaking and connectivity in Metro Detroit.

DETROIT—There is a general mixture of anticipation and skepticism surrounding the ongoing developments of the Woodward Avenue Streetcar Project. The long awaited first steps forward in a more accessible, better connected regional transit system is certainly cause for public elation. But with the recent updates to the design plans for the M-1 project, the devil is in the details.

Last month, MDOT released a Supplemental Environmental Assessment. The report outlines changes that were made from the initial environmental study done for the 2011 version as the Woodward Light Rail Transit project. This report update was necessary because the crux of the development plan has changed drastically from the WLRT version to the Streetcar plan.

We’ve all heard that the scope of the project has shortened dramatically, bringing the end-of-run from 8 Mile all the way back to E. Grand Boulevard. But that’s not all. The center-running Light Rail system has been replaced by a side-running Streetcar system.

Jon Loree, M-1 Project Manager with MDOT, says the Streetcar plan was always the plan for the M-1, dating back to the formation of the planning process in 2007.

The Shortening of the Line: What Does it Mean?

Besides not being able to take the WLRT to the State Fairgrounds to do your Meijer’s shopping, the shortening of the Streetcar system alters the scope of the project from a long-range transit option to a circulator.

Circulators are forms of transit that operate on a predictable fixed route and schedule, and run between a city’s main attractions and most popular neighborhoods. Thus, this type of transit is primarily for visitors or local users and does not meaningfully add to the development of a more comprehensive day-to-day regional transit system.

Read the rest of this post at Mode Shift: Move Together and join the discussion on the future of Metro Detroit's transit.

Flickr photo of the People Mover by Pikturewerk.