Dream Ride: Hop Aboard a Metro Detroit Fantasy Transit Trip

Call it a thought experiment, a fever dream or an urbanist's flight of fancy.

The result  is what doctoral scholar Jackson Woods calls  "my Detroit Metro fantasy map: a comprehensive rapid transit system for the tri-county area of southeastern Michigan plus Essex County, Ontario." Most of it is below this article with colorful, made-up details.

A wider, deeper map is under this article and a full version is at the Wired magazine link in paragraph eight.

We came upon Woods' project via a recent tweet (h/t Chad Livengood), though it has evolved since May 2012 and was picked up last year by Wired magazine in a feature headlined "13 Fake Public Transit Systems we Wish Existed." Woods, a 2008 University of Michigan graduate now at George Washington University, updated the map last summer and explains at his website why it exists:

I’ve made it for my own enjoyment, as a fun what-if, and as a different way to view the city. I love the fact that a good transit map makes an area instantly accessible and, to some degree, instantly recognizable. 

It’d be a huge improvement to the region if such a thing existed, but I’m not arguing that a system like this is Detroit’s current primary need, that it would be easy or cheap to build, or that it would “save” the city. . . . 

if there’s a deeper meaning to this project, it’s helping people visualize what “real” rapid transit would normally look like in a region of more than 4 million people. . . . Given sustained political support and dedicated funding, the people of Southeast Michigan could choose to make this fantasy – or something like it – a reality.

As it turns out, a 3.3-mile section shown in blue on lower Woodward won't be fantasy when M-1 streetcars link the New Center and Campus Martius late next year.

Capital MetroRail in Austin, Texas, isn't a fantasy.

Woods' six routes with 155 miles of track and 119 stations are listed below. "Campus Martius would clearly be the major hub," he writes, "with New Center and Royal Oak close behind." (A clear, full version of the map is posted by Wired.)

  • Woodward Line (dark blue): Pontiac to Belle Isle.
  • Ambassador Line (yellow): Troy to the VIa Rail station in Windsor
  • Ford Line (light blue): Sterling Heights to Metro Airport
  • Michigan Line (red): Connor Creek (Detroit) to Metro Airport
  • St. Clair Line (dark purple): Ecorse to St. Clair Shores
  • Cadillac Line (green): Mount Clemens to Southgate
  • [Separately] Ontario line (pink): University of Windsor to Windsor International Airport  

The political science grad student, who's not from the Detroit area, cites this nightlife advantage:

One of the best things about good public transit is a late night out on the weekend with no worries about driving. . . .

I always laugh when people start talking about the freedom of driving a car compared to taking mass transit, because for me exactly the opposite tends to be true in a city.

For uber-nerds, the self-taught graphic designer says he used CorelDraw X6 and "Google Maps to plot out the station and line locations." The font is Segoe.    

In Wired magazine's 2014 roundup, Adam Mann writes:

The internet is full of these fantasy transit maps, where professional transit planners and dedicated amateurs alike imagine how public transit in our cities could look. . . .

People like these fantasy maps because they can spark dialogues about what’s lacking in our real-world transit systems.

We're unable to show the full version that runs to Detroit Metro Airport at the bottom left and to Windsor at the bottom right. Paragraph eight has a link to the complete map.
Read more:  Jackson-woods.net

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