Michigan Central Station

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Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby rlatta » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:52 pm

I hate to resurrect and old topic but I think that this may generate some ideas for how to revitalize Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave in Downtown Detroit. I have a few starters that may even spur some economic development for a city that's not exactly up to it's potential right now:

-Is it possible to relocate the current Amtrak station to MI Central Station? I see on Google Maps that with the only route going through Detroit is the Wolverine (three trains/day). The only way to incorporate MI Central Station into the mix is to include a reverse move out of the station and back onto the main line because the station is on a dead end branch. If high speed plans (I don't know what they are, if any) ever become realities, would this reverse move have to be eliminated with the construction of an extension through to the mainline? This would definitely take a few minutes off of the schedule. Also, the station is closer to downtown than the current Amtrak facility.

-The to-be M1 light rail line (map here: http://cmsimg.detnews.com/apps/pbcsi.dl ... 401&Ref=AR) can be complemented with a similar light rail line or streetcar line on Michigan Ave. This line could extend to MI Central Station and allow for passengers arriving by train or bus to reach downtown quickly and easily. Similarly, the construction of bike trails parallel to Michigan Ave can allow a sustainable transit scene for a less auto-dependent Detroit.

Back to MI Central Station, I think it's a pity that such a beautiful architectural icon should sit to empty and windowless. It's been the poster child of urban decay in Detroit for too long. I think that at least a portion of it should be used for it's original purpose: transit. A transit facility within the city will help to create economic activity allows for a more desirable Detroit for newcomers from the outer suburbs and those from other cities. Also, it's location near active rail could make it more cost effective for transit projects. I know that other potential uses have included: a casino, a tourist attraction, a hotel, and government facilities.

I don't think that the station should be used for a government facility of any sort as this does not spur any economic development except for the limited number of jobs created by preparing it for use that does not promote business.

I'm really up for a way to restore Detroit to it's former glory as a center for prosperity even after the collapse of the auto industry and the departure of manufacturing jobs.

Any other ideas? I'm open.
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby brettj22 » Tue Dec 07, 2010 8:22 am

I am not from Detroit , but I've spent a lot of time reading about the station and looking for news of someone restoring it, seeing how so many station buildings have been torn down and replaced with monstrocities (Madison Square Garden?). I do not have any links on it but I recall a major reason Amtrak pulled out in 1988 was having to air condition the massive building. If there was another tennant, such as Detroit Police HQ which was apparently a possibiliy at one time, then this cost burden could be mitigated, and I don't think anyone would be too picky about who moved in if it meant the building was restored.

Judging from photos I've seen, and it's recent appearance on Detroit 187, it looks like the tab to restore that building will be nearly unsurmountable unless a large amount of government funding can be secured. If you haven't found it already, there is a You Tube video apparently made in the final days when MCS as an operating train station. It's a little sad to see how much the beautiful building has been destroyed...
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby Station Aficionado » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:44 am

rlatta wrote:Is it possible to relocate the current Amtrak station to MI Central Station? I see on Google Maps that with the only route going through Detroit is the Wolverine (three trains/day). The only way to incorporate MI Central Station into the mix is to include a reverse move out of the station and back onto the main line because the station is on a dead end branch. If high speed plans (I don't know what they are, if any) ever become realities, would this reverse move have to be eliminated with the construction of an extension through to the mainline? This would definitely take a few minutes off of the schedule. Also, the station is closer to downtown than the current Amtrak facility.

Actually, it's not on a dead-end branch line; it's on the line that goes through the tunnel to Windsor, Ont. Since the Wolverines go to Pontiac, stopping at MCS is not practical even if the station were still in usable condition.


rlatta wrote:Back to MI Central Station, I think it's a pity that such a beautiful architectural icon should sit to empty and windowless. It's been the poster child of urban decay in Detroit for too long. I think that at least a portion of it should be used for it's original purpose: transit. A transit facility within the city will help to create economic activity allows for a more desirable Detroit for newcomers from the outer suburbs and those from other cities. Also, it's location near active rail could make it more cost effective for transit projects. I know that other potential uses have included: a casino, a tourist attraction, a hotel, and government facilities.

I don't think that the station should be used for a government facility of any sort as this does not spur any economic development except for the limited number of jobs created by preparing it for use that does not promote business.

But don't government employees eat lunch, or go to the dry cleaners, or buy things? Or do you think that they pay with special "government employee cash" that merchants won't accept?. And it seem that there's a bit of a contradiction in saying that MCS should be used a transit facility while also saying that it should not be used as "a government facility of any sort"

Snideness aside, MCS's fate is quite sad. There are videos on YouTube showing the inside of the station while still in use in the mid to late '80's. Even after years of limited maintenance, the grandeur of some of the public areas was still evident. In the years since Amtrak moved out, it has become as much of--or maybe more of--a wreck than Buffalo Central Terminal. And it was a white elephant when built. It was located too far from the heart of downtown and it was too big. I believe the very top floors were never occupied, and may not even have been finished. Lastly, it was built just in time for the great decline in passenger rail traffic.
Metro: Once an effective transit system in the Washington, DC area; now no longer extant.
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby Suburban Station » Tue Dec 07, 2010 9:55 am

Station Aficionado wrote:Actually, it's not on a dead-end branch line; it's on the line that goes through the tunnel to Windsor, Ont. Since the Wolverines go to Pontiac, stopping at MCS is not practical even if the station were still in usable condition.

interesting, and this makes sense, since a route to windsor would be a better end for an intercity train than pontiac, which would seem to exist solely because of the maintenance facilities. that's more of a commuter run. a stop in windsor means a direct transfer to VIA no? it sounds like the answer is HSR to windsor (which it should be anyway) with connecting service to toronto.
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby Station Aficionado » Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:25 am

Suburban Station wrote:
Station Aficionado wrote:Actually, it's not on a dead-end branch line; it's on the line that goes through the tunnel to Windsor, Ont. Since the Wolverines go to Pontiac, stopping at MCS is not practical even if the station were still in usable condition.

interesting, and this makes sense, since a route to windsor would be a better end for an intercity train than pontiac, which would seem to exist solely because of the maintenance facilities. that's more of a commuter run. a stop in windsor means a direct transfer to VIA no? it sounds like the answer is HSR to windsor (which it should be anyway) with connecting service to toronto.

In fact, once upon a time, CP ran trains from MCS to Toronto, and NYC ran across southern Ontario to Buffalo. I agree that through service to Toronto would make more sense than ending in Pontiac. Unfortunately, given the current nonsense that occurs with any border crossing, that's a very long way off.
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby sipes23 » Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:53 am

Ok, you've dragged me out of lurking.

This idea is impractical at best, given the current situation.

Yes, the Michigan Central is closer to downtown. Yes, it a beautiful building. Yes, it is a more appropriate and dignifying public space. Yes, someone should be held criminally liable for its ruin (and all of downtown Detroit for that matter).

However... It would cost loads to rehab. And not to bring it to a sparkling condition, just useable. Wikipedia, that font of accurate information, estimates between $80 and $300 million. Once that's done, there's still no connection to downtown Detroit. The current Amtrak station has the advantage, if it can be called that, of being near the proposed Woodford Ave. light rail, which will go downtown.

Of course unrelated questions come to mind: Why does the Wolverine go to Pontiac, instead of that being a commuter rail destination? (Yeah, I saw about the maintenance facilities.) Once the Ann Arbor to Detroit commuter rail starts, if it ever does, where will it go in Detroit?
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby george matthews » Tue Dec 07, 2010 11:53 am

The real problem is that Detroit as a whole is ruinous with the most interesting new industry being agriculture (as seen in Britain on some interesting documentaries). It needs some new industries to revive the whole city. Lille in France was revived by building TGV Nord to Paris and London, after it lost its heavy industry. Only if the city shows signs of reviving would it be worth thinking about a new station. I suppose the immigration situation would make it difficult to send a train to Windsor? That ought to have an hourly train.
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby Suburban Station » Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:40 pm

george matthews wrote:The real problem is that Detroit as a whole is ruinous with the most interesting new industry being agriculture (as seen in Britain on some interesting documentaries). It needs some new industries to revive the whole city. Lille in France was revived by building TGV Nord to Paris and London, after it lost its heavy industry. Only if the city shows signs of reviving would it be worth thinking about a new station. I suppose the immigration situation would make it difficult to send a train to Windsor? That ought to have an hourly train.

I'd think that if the train terminates in windsor they could have an off train immigration process (thus not tying up the crews). I do think a high speed chicago-toronto via detroit should be the ultimate goal, and if the reuse of this station is on that line, then so be it, but the station shouldn't itself determine the route (though it sounds like it's on the right route from a transportation perspective). maybe the commuter rail from ann arbor could take over the pontiac stub.
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby Noel Weaver » Tue Dec 07, 2010 3:42 pm

I think Pontiac is a pretty decent location for the terminus of the Chicago - Detroit services, There are some reasonably decent suburbs between Detroit and Pontiac that can take advantage of that service as it is presently operated. Going to Windsor opens up more of the problems that Amtrak does not need with border crossings etc and I don't think Amtrak would want to service the trains in Canada either. For those travelers whom want to travel through and I am sure that there are some who do, a dedicated bus is a better idea and absent that there is always a taxi.
Detroit is probably one of the worst cities in the US for decline. Partly because of the decline of the big three auto makers and also the decline of the rust belt cities in general. It is not likely to recover at leas to its past status and indeed is probably going to be lucky if it doesn't get worse in time to come.
You can't restore every railroad station of the past just because it was a nice facility in the past. The best fate for this one is probably the wrecking ball and replace it with something much more useful in today's times. Yes I rode in and out of there a good number of times in years past but its era is past. The last time I stayed overnight in Detroit, I was warned by a hotel desk clerk not to venture out at night, the streets were downright dangerous and this was back in the late 70's.
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby rlatta » Tue Dec 07, 2010 4:09 pm

Station Aficionado wrote:
rlatta wrote:
rlatta wrote:Back to MI Central Station, I think it's a pity that such a beautiful architectural icon should sit to empty and windowless. It's been the poster child of urban decay in Detroit for too long. I think that at least a portion of it should be used for it's original purpose: transit. A transit facility within the city will help to create economic activity allows for a more desirable Detroit for newcomers from the outer suburbs and those from other cities. Also, it's location near active rail could make it more cost effective for transit projects. I know that other potential uses have included: a casino, a tourist attraction, a hotel, and government facilities.

I don't think that the station should be used for a government facility of any sort as this does not spur any economic development except for the limited number of jobs created by preparing it for use that does not promote business.

But don't government employees eat lunch, or go to the dry cleaners, or buy things? Or do you think that they pay with special "government employee cash" that merchants won't accept?. And it seem that there's a bit of a contradiction in saying that MCS should be used a transit facility while also saying that it should not be used as "a government facility of any sort"

Snideness aside, MCS's fate is quite sad. There are videos on YouTube showing the inside of the station while still in use in the mid to late '80's. Even after years of limited maintenance, the grandeur of some of the public areas was still evident. In the years since Amtrak moved out, it has become as much of--or maybe more of--a wreck than Buffalo Central Terminal. And it was a white elephant when built. It was located too far from the heart of downtown and it was too big. I believe the very top floors were never occupied, and may not even have been finished. Lastly, it was built just in time for the great decline in passenger rail traffic.


You make a good point that government workers, too, are humans (hard to believe, right?) and that they also like to buy things. But, now that I think about it, should there only be government workers using this area? Probably the only others using this area would be criminals let out on bail or those who need to pay their parking tickets. I think the whole goal would be to bring more people to this area of Detroit, rather than just government workers. And yes, I suppose that a transit facility would be considered as government, but at least it would bring in people from the private sector, people who don't just work there, but also might want to shop or eat or be entertained.
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby goodnightjohnwayne » Tue Dec 07, 2010 5:14 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:The best fate for this one is probably the wrecking ball and replace it with something much more useful in today's times.


Michigan Central Station does a use as a shooting venue for various film and television productions, especially in the Science Fiction genre. Demolition costs would seem to be prohibitive. In any case, there's nothing to replace it with, since real estate in that vicinity is practically worthless. As a filming venue, it at least offers a very minor, perhaps insignificant, economic benefit.

[i]<redacted>[/i}

http://www.freep.com/article/20101121/COL10/11210614/1322/Michigan-Central-Station-should-follow-Italys-lead
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby george matthews » Tue Dec 07, 2010 7:25 pm

nothing to be done

The voice of the negative thinker.
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby ExCon90 » Tue Dec 07, 2010 8:00 pm

As one who has been out of touch with Detroit for some time, I have two questions:
1. I believe one of the problems with using Buffalo Central Terminal for office development was that the whole building was wired at 25 Hz--you can't do much with a computer on 25 Hz current. By any chance is Michigan Central Station so equipped?
2. What are the prospects for a light-rail line on Woodward to actually materialize? (And how does a light-rail line on Woodward get you out Michigan?) I've heard that Renaissance Center is practically insulated from downtown by a (figurative) moat in the form of a parking garage--what other activity is there downtown nowadays?
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Dec 07, 2010 11:37 pm

While I share Mr. goodnightjohnwayne's thoughts about Michigan Central Station being in the wrong location for rail service, I would like it to be rebuilt and reused - if Detroit ever follows suit outside of the downtown core, that is.

As for Detroit's stations, I think Amtrak missed an opportunity in 1971. Instead of using Michigan Central, Amtrak should have located at Brush Street Station (the site of the Renaissance Center) or possibly Union Depot (at Fort and Third), then snaked a rail line along the waterfront from the Michigan Central to the Grand Trunk Western. By locating along the waterfront, passenger trains could access Detroit from Pontiac and points northwest (through Milwaukee Junction), from all points west (through Bay City Junction), and from Canada (either by backing in from the MCS yard, or by looping through Bay City Junction, Milwaukee Junction and the GTW Dequindre Cut).

Maps of Michigan;s changing railroad environment (scroll by decades): http://www.michiganrailroads.com/RRHX/E ... u1970s.htm
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Re: Michigan Central Station and Michigan Ave Ideas

Postby Tadman » Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:23 am

Despite the expected one-line argumentative platitude from someone who has little experience in the subject matter (notice a pattern?) the truth is apparent: business and resident alike have voted with their feet and left Detroit. It's so bad that other than a very small core downtown there is not much left other than decay and urban agriculture. The station that was once home to 40-60 trains per day now sees no trains per day. Were Detroit to decide they had $80-300m to restore the station, it's still a bad idea. A station designed to support 40-60 trains per day is not designed for 6 trains/day. The infrastructure is too great. 6 trains/day hardly necessitates one track and a shelter, let along 8-10 stub tracks, a grandiose headhouse, and skyscraper. Look at Kansas City: 4 trains/day (1 terminating, 1 originating) gets two tracks, and an office at a station re-purposed for other use in a vibrant area of town. Compare that the 6 trains, no originating or terminating, in a post-apocalyptic downtown.
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