Marian Smith for weeks has been practicing walking longer distances with her walker.
For Smith, a downtown Detroit resident with a disability that requires her to use a walker, the temporary closure of the People Mover for upgrades is expected to turn her life upside down. She relies on it to get to restaurants, the Riverfront, to go shopping and buy groceries at City Market on Brush Street.
Starting Sunday, the Detroit People Mover will be closed until Monday, June 27 to replace a rail switch and a special section of track. It is scheduled to reopen on Monday, June 27, at 6:30 a.m.
"I really need the People Mover," Smith said. "I have a wheelchair but I don't want to use it so I'm just going to try to walk around the city."
Often maligned and mocked for its wimpish 2.9-mile stretch of tracks, the Detroit People Mover, which first came to be in 1987, often generates the most ridership when suburbanites or out-of-towners flock downtown for special events like hockey games and the North American International Auto Show.
Surprisingly, beyond special events, there is a small, but loyal fan base comprised of downtown residents and workers who regularly use the People Mover to commute to work, go to lunch in spots like Greektown or the RenCen or get to business meetings a mile or more away.
Fortunately, the closure is only for two weeks. Nonetheless, it's a reminder of just how important the People Mover has become for some.
For people like Smith, it's more than just a mode of transportation. She says she enjoys the People Mover for the company.
"I love it, I've been riding it for years and everybody's friendly and talks to each other," she said.
Downtown resident Sharon Piper, who uses it to commute to work at the Renaissance Center each day, also feels a kinship with other riders.
"It gives me people to talk to because I'll even talk to strangers that I sit next to," she said.
Alternative to Garages
Piper relocated to Detroit from Kansas City and doesn't pay for parking by using the People Mover. "I've actually been hoping to get rid of my car," Piper said. "Sometimes I'll even go out late at night and take the People Mover home."
During the closure, Piper plans to either walk, take an Uber to work or pay garage fees.
Attorney Jeffrey Weberman of Sterling Heights, who has court cases downtown, uses the People Mover to shuttle between the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice and the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, which are about a mile apart.
During the upgrade of the system, he'll have to find another way to get there. For some lawyers in his situation, it may mean parking in one lot, then having to take the car and drive to another one and pay twice for parking.
"I was actually hoping that one day they will build more cars or extend the line," Weberman said. "It's not like it's the New York subway, but people do use it."
'Big City Feel'
Downtown worker Darius Smith, a co-founder of Ambassador Magazine and the "What's Up Detroit?" TV show, also is a big fan of the system.
"I love using the People Mover—it definitely gives me that big city feel," said Smith.
Using a bus may not be practical alternative for everyone.
But the city says that passengers who normally use the People Mover will be able to commute for 50 cents throughout downtown on certain Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) bus lines that travel within the Central Business District, from M-10 (Lodge Expressway), I-75 (Fisher) and I-375.
Customers can call DDOT customer service operators at (313) 933-1300 or toll free at (888) 336-8287. Operators will direct customers to the nearest inbound bus line. The customer service hours are Monday- Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.