Detroit People Mover replacing entire fleet with railcars from Toronto

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jun 10, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Out with the old and in with the new, the Detroit People Mover is closing in on a deal to replace the 12-car fleet that travels above the streets of downtown.

While the cars will be new to Detroit, they’re not exactly new. They’re being bought used from Toronto but are still a big upgrade that the Detroit Transportation Corporation says will save them millions of dollars.

The People Mover first began moving people around Detroit in 1987. Today, it's still moving people like Dana Turner.

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Dana Turner

“I'd say the last month, probably every day," Turner said of how often she rides. "I ride to and from work.”

Born and raised in Detroit, Turner now lives just outside downtown and has seen it transform.

“I've seen it in its down moments. I've seen it when the Hudson Building was down and a big hole in the ground,” Turner said.

But of all the changes to the city, an upgrade to her daily commute would be much appreciated.

“It is a little shaky," Turner said of the ride. "It does need an upgrade.”

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That upgrade is coming soon, with the Detroit Transportation Corporation finalizing a deal for a full replacement of the people mover cars.

“It's a great opportunity," said Robert Cramer, the corporation's general manager. "Kind of fell in our laps.”

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Robert Cramer, general manager of the Detroit Transportation Corporation, talks with 7 News Detroit reporter Brett Kast.

Cramer says they were approached by officials in Toronto, who retired a similar system to build a subway system, offering to sell their cars to Detroit.

The system closed earlier than anticipated after a train derailed, but Cramer clarified that was due to issues with the track and not with the railcars themselves. They will be inspected, modified and tested before being used in Detroit.

“They've had quite a bit of work done to the vehicles that actually we were going to have to have done to our vehicles," Cramer said. "New floors, new seats. Generally, it will look updated inside.”

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While the cars are the same age as the current People Mover cars, Cramer says the updates Toronto did will add five to 10 years to the life of the cars. The price to buy and modify them for Detroit is a fraction of what it would cost to upgrade the people mover’s current fleet. Cramer estimates it could save them anywhere between $29 million $41 million.

“By using these vehicles, we're able to take advantage of the fact that they've invested several million dollars per vehicle to do that mid-life overhaul,” Cramer said.

Thanks in part to free fares all year long, Cramer says the People Mover has seen an increase in ridership of 150% compared to last year. They're hoping to bring people back and keep them exploring downtown from above.

“I used to ride it all the time when I was younger but now that I'm an adult, this is really my first time riding it again,” Toni Sharpe from Southfield said. "I'm excited that the city is upgraded and excited to see the new things about to happen.”

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Toni Sharpe

“I'm really excited about all the moments and epic things that are happening around the city," Turner said. "I'm pleased they’re doing an upgrade on the People Mover.”

It’s going to take some time to get the new cars inspected, purchased and modified, but Cramer expects that to all happen in about 18 months.

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