Lengel: Despite the Skeptics, I'm Excited About Detroit's M-1 Rail
August 20th, 2014, 10:32 AM
When I lived in Washington D.C., I often cherished the experience of riding the subway, reading a newspaper, shutting my eyes for a moment during my eight-minute ride to the Farragut North subway stop downtown. By car, I knew the commute during rush hour would have easily been 35 minutes of nerve-racking, stop-and-go traffic. I never stopped appreciating the subway. I never took it for granted.
And I often thought to myself, "Wouldn't it be great if Detroit had a transit system."
Well, I won't delude myself into thinking the M-1 Rail on Woodward Avenue in Detroit is anything close to the Metro subway system in D.C. or The T in Boston or the legendary subway in New York.
Yes, the M-1 is a measly 3.3 miles long, only a smidgen longer than the often-mocked People Mover. And yes , some see this as a very faint or lame attempt at public transportation, and say there's no real plans to expand beyond the 3.3 miles, only wishful thinking.
Still, I'm excited. Seeing the construction equipment on Woodward working on the M-1, listening to the rumble of heavy construction equipment.
I think it's great. It'll give Detroit a little more of a big-city feel.
But more importantly, it's a start. Metro Detroit needs a real transit system. Sure, it could take a decade or two to develop a real transit system that serves as more than just a little shuttle. But had we started this a few decades ago, we would have had something by now.
I've given up the bus system in Metro Detroit. There's few bus-stop shelters to protect people from the elements. The buses don't run frequently enough, and the system is inferior to other cities around country. For some reason, the Metro Detroit area has little appetite for turning the bus system into a first-rate one.
That being said, even if the M-1 Rail, which is slated to become operational in late 2016, isn't the answer, it's a very important start of a new mindset for a new generation. If something better pops up, great.
Whatever the case, don't estimate the contagiousness of good public transportation.
Nothing beats reading the paper and taking a quick snooze while heading to your destination.