Karrie Jacobs


April 7, 2011

Detroit, Part III

Views from the front window of the Detroit People Mover: the RenCen (top), Cobo Center (middle) and a streetscape with the Rosa Parks Transit Center (aka bus station) in the distance.

Has Wim Wenders ever made a movie in Detroit?  I don’t think so.  But I started to see the city as a Wenders movie while riding the People Mover, a 2.9 mile theme park ride in search of a theme (and a park) that runs around downtown Detroit in a clockwise loop.  A product of the 1970s, the elevated train was supposed to be a feeder for a larger mass transit system.  Except that there isn’t one.

I have been on sillier mass transit systems, like the Las Vegas Monorail.  (It costs $5.00 for 3.9 miles, while Detroit’s PM is only 50 cents. Bargain.) I’ve been on less substantial ones; the Seattle Monorail is only a mile long.  I’ve even been on ones that seem more infuriatingly pointless; New York City’s AirTrain comes to mind.   But I’ve never been on one  more poignant. There was something about seeing the city come at me framed by the front window of the largely empty two-car train that was like watching The American Friend or Alice in the Cities.  All that was missing was the subtitles.  (And the actors.)

P.S. The city did get federal money last year to begin building a light rail system up Woodward Avenue, from downtown to a proposed commuter rail link in a part of town known as the New Center. Which would hook up to the People Mover and give it something to do besides going around in circles.