Discuss Detroit Archives - Beginning January 2006 Fifty years after the Motor City rode the rails! Previous Next
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Kathleen
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Username: Kathleen

Post Number: 1254
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.14.122.57
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 10:32 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thought the Metro Times cover story this week might be of interest to some:

"April 8 will mark the 50th anniversary of Detroit's final streetcar run.

This anniversary occurs at a new juncture for light rail. Of all the accolades that flowed following the staging of Super Bowl XL here, the one shortcoming almost universally recognized was the need for a comprehensive rapid transit system to serve southeast Michigan. Once at the forefront of steel-wheeled transit Detroit at one time could boast of having the largest municipally owned street railway system in the country this region now finds itself virtually alone among America's metropolitan areas, which are pushing ahead with new light rail programs designed to rein in sprawl, move people cleanly and efficiently, and spur economic development. ..."

Full story and pictures at: http://www.metrotimes.com/edit orial/story.asp?id=9040

Related events:

Richard Andrews will present a slide lecture on the history of Detroit's Department of Street Railways at 7:30 p.m., April 5, at the Henry Ford Centennial Library, 16301 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-943-2330.

A one-day special exhibit of DSR history, as well as future transit options, will be on display at stations on the Detroit People Mover, noon-4 p.m., April 8. For more information, call TRU at 313-963-8872.
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River_rat
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Username: River_rat

Post Number: 87
Registered: 02-2006
Posted From: 71.126.176.158
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 12:32 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

What killed the streetcars? Conspiracy theories abound but the simple fact was that we built massive freeway systems that destroyed neighborhoods and encouraged sprawl, gas was cheap at 25 cents a gallon and it afforded personal freedom and privacy in travel. This was where we built cars to enable us to abandon mass transit!!!

Then came the turbulent 60's and public transit in this city, and the city as a whole, developed a public safety deficiency that accelerated the flight from the city. Then came the Japanese auto makers, absurd political leadership, and now $3 a gallon gas is looming once again.

It was a concatenation of events that lead to the decline of the city. ALL the other cities of our size (save San Antonio) have a rail-based transit system. If this doesn't speak as to why Detroit is where it is, what does.

What to do? Get a responsible government, make public safety / law enforcement priority one, then find funding for a rapid transit system.

Probably won't happen. When will we have responsible government?


the river rat
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Douglasm
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Username: Douglasm

Post Number: 511
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 66.189.188.28
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 3:04 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Don't know what killed the streetcar, at this point don't really care....

All I know for certain is that it was a treat for a 6 year old me to take the streetcar from New Center to the Fairgrounds, and a sad day when the whole family stood on Woodward in front of the apartment builting my Grandmother lived in and watched the PCC cars go by for the last time.....
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Fishtoes2000
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Username: Fishtoes2000

Post Number: 89
Registered: 06-2005
Posted From: 69.14.26.135
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 6:08 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

...and millions of taxpayer dollars were dumped into freeway infrastructure. According to an old video I watched, the Detroit streetcars operated strictly on fares. How could they compete?

(Message edited by fishtoes2000 on April 01, 2006)
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Mikeg
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Username: Mikeg

Post Number: 40
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 69.136.155.244
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 6:52 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The Ford and Lodge freeways were built after the last DSR streetcars were taken out of service in 1956. At the time, the only freeways that existed in Detroit were the Davison and Willow Run and neither serviced the CBD or New Center areas. So it cannot be said that the freeways killed the streetcars, any more so than it was a conspiracy by General Motors - both are urban legends.

When the DSR system was formed, it took over several existing private systems which were in direct competition with each other, often over routes that paralleled each other a block apart. Unfortunately, the DSR did not rationalize their route system and for years they operated an over-built system that had trouble managing a profit.

It was Detroiter's love affair with their automobiles that enabled the sprawl that began in the 1920's. Their automotive love affair continued thru the 1930s and 40s, as older buildings were torn down in the CBD to make way for parking lots (since new construction was limited due to the Depression and war-time building material rationing). Transit ridership held steady or dropped in that same period, except during 1942-45.

In the immediate post-war period, commuters and shoppers continued to "vote with their car keys". Rush hour traffic on the radial arterials was horrendous. City traffic engineers experimented with ways to increase peak traffic flow along Grand River between W. Grand Boulevard and Livernois. They found that by replacing the streetcars with curbside bus service and using reversable traffic lanes in the center of the roadway where the streetcars had been, they could increase rush hour traffic flow by 40% and break the gridlock. This was the beginning of the end of streetcars in Detroit, and it was hastened by the mismanagement of the DSR and their inability to control their labor costs.
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Wabashrr1
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Username: Wabashrr1

Post Number: 29
Registered: 03-2006
Posted From: 205.188.116.137
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 7:42 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Ummmm... Unless I'm misunderstanding what you are calling the Ford Freeway (I-94??) it was built long before 1956. The attached link is to a photo portion from a CULMA photo taken in 1949. It shows Oakwood Junction (which is 4 blocks from my house) Where the Wabash RR (NS) and DT&I (CP?) crossed and still do. To the east, I-94. The street in the upper right corner of the photo is Outer Drive.

Oakwood Junction, Allen Park, Michigan

I'm sure labor costs, traffic conditions, and declined ridership had a lot to do with the demise of the Southern Michigan rail transit system (most operated under the Detroit Union Railroad from what I've read). I've also read and heard (more heard than read) that General Motors had an active campaign in the 1950s to replace the street cars with buses. At which they were successful. Funny (or not) thing is, before the demise of the rail system, Detroit was THE place to go shopping. For those of you who haven't browsed them yet, WSU virtual motor city collection. Type in the word shopping in the search engine and enjoy what comes up.

VMC Collection
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Bob
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Username: Bob

Post Number: 891
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 64.12.116.204
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 7:49 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't GM in the bus business. They stood to make lots of money from the demise of streetcars.
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Jiminnm
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Username: Jiminnm

Post Number: 376
Registered: 02-2005
Posted From: 68.35.85.184
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 8:17 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Wabash, that was not I-94. I think what you have shown is the Willow Run Expressway, which ran from Dearborn to near the Willow Run plant. It may have eventually become part of I-94, but I don't think it extended into Detroit. The Interstate highway system wasn't created until the mid-1950s. I recall going down into the ditch that would become I-94 in the mid-1950s near Gratiot and Harper.

As for the end of the street car in Detroit, I have read in several sources that GM either gave Detroit its first fleet of buses or sold them at a very low price. I have read conflicting info on whether GM purchased the street car fleet from the city or facilitated their sale to Mexico City. While GM may not have killed the street car, they likely hastened its demise.
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Wabashrr1
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Username: Wabashrr1

Post Number: 30
Registered: 03-2006
Posted From: 205.188.116.137
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 8:24 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

No, you aren't wrong.. Here's an interesting little article on the subject..

http://www.thethirdrail.net/99 05/agt3.htm

I didn't read the whole thing through and I'm sure there's more info out there but it gives a little insight into bus vs streetcar transportation and how one replaced the other.
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Wabashrr1
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Username: Wabashrr1

Post Number: 31
Registered: 03-2006
Posted From: 205.188.116.137
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 8:30 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Jiminnm, That may very well be. Phone dial up internet access limits my interest in tracing the freeway all the way into Detroit on those photos (13+ meg). The road shown however is certainly Now part of I-94. Between the junction and the expressway, is where the Uniroyal tire now stands.

If you have the internet speed and want to check it out (get the 600dpi ones)..

WSU CULMA collection

(Message edited by wabashrr1 on April 01, 2006)
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Livernoisyard
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Username: Livernoisyard

Post Number: 384
Registered: 10-2004
Posted From: 69.242.223.42
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 8:41 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Using the 1949 CULMA aerials, you can easily see where the Ford Expressway to the war plants started - at Wyoming Street at the Detroit-Dearborn boundary. After WWII, there was already land acquisition and demolition east of Wyoming under way for this freeway just north of Michigan Avenue.

BTW, the streetcar barn was at Wyoming and Michigan. The curve of the southern track from Michigan into Wyoming was visible last year. The track from the northern part of Michigan Avenue should be visible when it too is torn up, in case anybody wants to see it.
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Douglasm
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Username: Douglasm

Post Number: 514
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 66.189.188.28
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 8:44 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The Detroit Industrial Expressway was built in 1942. By 1945 it had been extended to run from Southfield Hwy in Allen Park to Huron River Drive in Romulus. By 1954, the Edsel Ford Freeway stitched the DIE together with the Lodge, and by 1959 had been completed to Harper Woods. I can't find a date for the original John C. Lodge Expressway, but it was built in the early '50's from Downtown Detroit to the beginning of the Northwestern Highway.

source: www.michiganhighways.org
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Drm
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Username: Drm

Post Number: 914
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.220.69.40
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 8:51 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)


quote:

So it cannot be said that the freeways killed the streetcars, any more so than it was a conspiracy by General Motors - both are urban legends.


We've been over this dozens of times over the years on this forum. There is one guy who claims that the GM connection is an "urban legend" and he has repeated and republished his claim many times, and then been quoted and requoted endlessly by anti-transit types. It's to the point that his version of events has become an "urban legend" itself.
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Ventura67
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Username: Ventura67

Post Number: 12
Registered: 12-2003
Posted From: 69.245.93.12
Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2006 - 11:52 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I see the ghosts of Detroit's trolley system popping out of streets all around the city. It's hard to imagine what the system must have been like to use but it must have been a great experience.

Does anyone think or know that when you see the pavement buckling and cracking in the shapes of imbedded rail lines that those rails are still in there and could possibly be uncovered and restored?

Below are some examples from around the MCS:





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Wabashrr1
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Username: Wabashrr1

Post Number: 33
Registered: 03-2006
Posted From: 152.163.100.8
Posted on Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 12:08 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I remember seeing tracks in front of Cobo Hall. Don't know if they are still there or not. Been awhile since I've been down there. I doubt they could be restored without being completely replaced. Too many years of Michigan Winters.

Woodward 1930s widening

Here's one of my favorite photos of rails being installed in Woodward Ave.. From WSU/VMC.
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Livernoisyard
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Username: Livernoisyard

Post Number: 386
Registered: 10-2004
Posted From: 69.242.223.42
Posted on Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 12:35 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Go across Vernor from Holy Redeemer on Jct.
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Tomoh
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Username: Tomoh

Post Number: 127
Registered: 11-2004
Posted From: 68.40.205.183
Posted on Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 6:51 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Livernoisyard, I actually took a picture of that when I saw it.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/5 6707390%40N00/62898861/
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Huggybear
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Username: Huggybear

Post Number: 189
Registered: 08-2005
Posted From: 70.237.160.239
Posted on Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 10:39 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I think the streetcar system got replaced because the streetcars were just an embyronic version of what later ran on the same routes - buses. Take a look at what these vehicles looked like at the end - just like 1960s-era buses. San Francisco's electric Muni buses are the missing link between the DSR and DDOT.

And I don't think the streetcars were the universally positive thing people seem to think now. I don't think I can recall any city in the U.S. that retained a system like that. Most of the successful, *systematic* light rail systems (like Chicago, New York and DC) run somewhere other than in a roadbed (above, below or aside).

The DSR streetcars ran on roads like cars and buses - only they couldn't change routes easily, were capable of interfering with other road traffic, and were dependent on a maintenance-intensive electric power grid. If you think we have problems with streetlights, imagine... actually, just go to San Francisco and ride the electric buses for a while. Wait until the bus turns a corner, loses power, and then the driver has to get out with a pole(!) to reattach the pantograph to the power line. That's if the bus is working in the first place. But electric buses serve a purpose there - electric motors generate more torque than other types - which is helpful in hilly environment.

But in a flatland, you don't need a ton of torque. Diesel engines in buses are tanks by comparison - and when they malfunction, they can be towed off the route and substituted immediately. And the propulsion system is identical to what is used in garbage trucks and other heavy city vehicles - so it may even cut down on maintenance crews.

If you were Detroit in the 1950s, you probably didn't need any pressure from anybody to change from a fixed-route quasi-bus to a bus.

And the DSR heped create a very sprawled city before either cars or buses came into vogue. It was too efficient during a critical phase of Detroit's development, and it resulted in a low population density from the beginning.

I don't think that streetcars have any spiritual connection to light rail that we are all discussing today. They were just another form of bus. That's why I don't think it's exactly a tragedy that the original DSR was torn out. We need to rethink light rail - and make it better.

(Message edited by Huggybear on April 02, 2006)

(Message edited by Huggybear on April 02, 2006)

(Message edited by Huggybear on April 02, 2006)
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Mikeg
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Username: Mikeg

Post Number: 41
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 69.136.155.244
Posted on Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 2:51 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I am not trying to pass off any mis-information, nor am I anti-transit. My point is that Detroit's past transit failures can't be simply or accurately blamed on external factors like GM or new freeway construction. If we are to once again have a successful light rail system, we need to recognize that the underlying root causes of the first system's failure are still with us.

Yes, GM was involved in acquiring transit systems, most of which were private, not public, entities. GM was not charged with forcing them to sell or give away their systems - they were charged with conflict of interest and monopolistic practices, which was indicative of their size and of the times. I have seen absolutely no evidence that GM used, or was accused of using, unfair practices in their dealings with the DSR, which BTW was one of the few publicly owned transit systems in the USA. Blame GM all you want for what they may (or may not) have done in the past, they are no longer a threat to anyone.

Likewise, blaming the new freeway construction of the 1950s is to ignore the fact that the "horse was already out of the barn". There is ample evidence that it was our parents' and grandparents' love affair with the private automobile, and the subsequent accomodations made for it by businesses and local government during the period of 1930-1950, that sealed the fate of Detroit's streetcars. Additionally, one must also lay some blame at the feet of DSR management for not being able to keep their labor costs in line.

Regardless of when portions of the Ford and Lodge expressways were begun and finally completed (they were still tunneling the Lodge under the old Fort St. Union Depot in 1958), the chronology of events cannot support a cause-effect relationship between expressway building and the demise of streetcars in Detroit.

Only the Davison Expressway (a less than 2 mile stretch of Davison Ave.) and the Willow Run Expressway (aka Detroit Industrial Expressway, 16 miles long with less than 1 mile inside the Detroit city limits) were in use during the period when Detroit's major streetcar routes began to be converted to either electric trolley buses or diesel buses.

Here are the dates when streetcar service ended on selected routes
(more here):

Hamilton 4/28/47
Grand River 5/5/47
Crosstown 10/26/47
West Jefferson 7/18/48
Fort Street 6/23/49
Linwood 6/19/51
Mt. Elliot 6/19/51
Oakland 6/19/51
Clairmount 7/29/51
Mack 11/11/51
Chene 4/6/52
East Jefferson 2/7/54
Michigan 9/7/55
Gratiot 3/25/56
Woodward 4/8/56

On 6/29/56, President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which created the Interstate system as we know it today. Limited-access highways already under construction that met Federal standards (like the Ford and Lodge) would also become part of the Interstate System.
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Apbest
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Username: Apbest

Post Number: 1
Registered: 03-2006
Posted From: 68.40.65.66
Posted on Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 4:35 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I think it's pretty ridiculous the favoritism state congressional Republicans are showing towards Grand Rapids mass transit in contrast to their hostility for metro Detroit light rail...according to the MetroTimes article linked from the article in the original link. http://www.metrotimes.com/edit orial/story.asp?id=9045

at least some progress is better than no progress.
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Danindc
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Username: Danindc

Post Number: 1384
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 67.100.158.10
Posted on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 12:06 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Huggybear--neither New York, nor Chicago, nor DC have light rail (at least not in the past 40 years).

Diesel engine propelled vehicles will always require more maintenance than their electrically-powered counterparts, simply because they have many more moving parts.

and then there's this:


quote:

So it cannot be said that the freeways killed the streetcars, any more so than it was a conspiracy by General Motors - both are urban legends.




Actually, GM was convicted in federal court of conspiracy to dismantle streetcar systems nationwide. They were fined $5000.
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Mikeg
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Username: Mikeg

Post Number: 42
Registered: 12-2005
Posted From: 69.136.155.244
Posted on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 7:11 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

and then there's this:

quote:

Actually, GM was convicted in federal court of conspiracy to dismantle streetcar systems nationwide. They were fined $5000.




My original comment on April 1st was clearly written with respect to Detroit and its streetcar system. The 1949 conviction which Danindc noted involved streetcar systems which GM had bought in 45 cities and subsequently converted to buses. Detroit was not one of those cities, despite his attempted implication.

As a major manufacturer of buses, there is no doubt in my mind that GM would have been actively encouraging the DSR to convert their streetcar system and doing some wheeling and dealing with them. However, that is legal and it was not the kind of activity for which they received the Federal conviction. Neither GM or its holding company, National City Lines, ever acquired the DSR. The actual decisions to convert the Detroit streetcar system were made by the DSR.

If someone has any evidence that GM was ever charged, much less convicted, of conspiracy or unfair dealings with the DSR to replace Detroit's streetcars, I'd like to see it, because I can't find it.
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Detroitnerd
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Username: Detroitnerd

Post Number: 576
Registered: 07-2004
Posted From: 209.69.221.253
Posted on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 7:34 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Convicted of the conspiracty charges in circuit court; acquitted before Supreme Court. Circuit court is still federal court, though, so technically, they were convicted in a federal court, although it incorrectly implies that the charges held. The $5,000 fine was for forcing NCL subsidiaries to buy equipment from the defendants, which happened to supply oil, gas, rubber, and buses.

Now, how one can say that GM didn't force lines to convert from electric powered trolleys to gasoline-powered buses when the charge that *held* was for forcing NCL subsidiaries to buy from defendants providing tires, oil, gas and buses, is beyond me. That is why, to many, the NCL decision was the Supreme Court saying, "You didn't do it; don't do it again."
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Burnsie
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Username: Burnsie

Post Number: 397
Registered: 11-2003
Posted From: 35.12.21.124
Posted on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 3:17 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Mikeg--

Major portions of the Lodge and Ford expressways were completed and in use before 1956. This has been well documented by many sources.

Interestingly, land acquisition for the Lodge began as early as May 1946. See http://www.mdot.state.mi.us/ro wfiles/Wayne/Sheet171-2.pdf
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Huggybear
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Username: Huggybear

Post Number: 190
Registered: 08-2005
Posted From: 68.79.95.74
Posted on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 8:05 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)


quote:

Huggybear--neither New York, nor Chicago, nor DC have light rail (at least not in the past 40 years


???

I was talking about the subway, the El and the Metro. What other definition of light rail were you thinking of? The Transportation Research Board definition of light rail (which is the same definition used verbatim by many organizations) is:

"A metropolitan electric railway system characterized by its ability to operate single cars or short trains along exclusive rights-of-way at ground level, on aerial structures, in subways or, occasionally, in streets, and to board and discharge passengers at track or car-floor level."

So to claim there has been no "light rail" in New York, DC or Chicago is a pretty big stretch. And the Detroit streetcar system was not "light rail" since it clearly fails the right-of-way test.

But the point was that these systems - none of which is a full-sized locomotive - do not compete on roads with road traffic like the Detroit system did.

And the discussion about reliability was in the context of a system with overhead wires versus diesel - in 1955, not today. If the DSR was around today, all of the copper wires would have been stolen.
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Focusonthed
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Username: Focusonthed

Post Number: 101
Registered: 02-2006
Posted From: 24.192.25.47
Posted on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 8:10 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

The systems you mentioned aren't light rail, they are "heavy rail"

It's a nitpicking distinction, but it's true.
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Kathleen
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Username: Kathleen

Post Number: 1259
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 69.14.122.57
Posted on Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - 12:35 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Reminder of these upcoming events:

Richard Andrews will present a slide lecture on the History of Detroit's Department of Street Railways at 7:30 p.m., April 5, at the Henry Ford Centennial Library, 16301 Michigan Ave., Dearborn; 313-943-2330.

A one-day special exhibit of DSR history, as well as future transit options, will be on display at stations on the Detroit People Mover, noon-4 p.m., April 8. For more information, call TRU at 313-963-8872.
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Ray1936
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Username: Ray1936

Post Number: 437
Registered: 01-2005
Posted From: 207.200.116.139
Posted on Wednesday, April 05, 2006 - 11:39 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I'm going from memory on this one, and I'm 2,000 miles away, so can't confirm myself.

But if someone could go to Grand River just west of W. Warren, you'll see a railroad viaduct over Grand River. Walk under the viaduct and look up. Near the center, you'll see two parallel "ghost" lines a foot wide perpendicular to the trestle. Those are where timbers had been that the street car power lines were attached to. I used to notice them all the time when I worked downtown and drove GR. I'll bet they're still visible.
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Kathleen
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Username: Kathleen

Post Number: 1262
Registered: 10-2003
Posted From: 140.244.107.151
Posted on Thursday, April 06, 2006 - 1:00 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Enjoyable program by Richard Andrews last evening!!

Also as part of the 50th anniversary of the last streetcar in Detroit (April 8, 1956), there is a new Arcadia book on the subject: Detroit's Street Railways by Kenneth Schramm.

Full details at: http://www.arcadiapublishing.c om/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Scre en=PROD&Store_Code=arcadia&Pro duct_Code=0738540277&Product_C ount=&Category_Code=

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