1 The M-1
The last streetcar rolled through Detroit in 1956. Since then, at least six ambitious proposals have tried unsuccessfully to restore a transportation system to meet the needs of a sprawling city. Over the past decade, one of the nation’s biggest ever public-private partnerships has moved the $145 million proposal for a new streetcar system from the negotiating table to the streets, with support from a diverse set of 24 stakeholders ranging from Michigan government entities to national and local foundations to JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The M-1 has broken a familiar cycle for Detroiters who had grown accustomed to waiting for action. “Everybody kind of watched and said, ‘Look, they’re ripping the road up,” said Paul Childs, chief operating officer for M-1 Rail. “It was a realization for everybody.”
Along the 3.3 miles of the M-1 Rail—the first step of what the city hopes to expand into a broader transportation system—new buildings have sprung up alongside still-vacant ones. Others are still under construction. In these midtown and downtown neighborhoods, occupancy rates have reached an unheard-of 98 percent. “Streetcars are a bit of an oxymoron—streetcars enliven the sidewalks,” Child said. “When you find street cars, you’ll find people walking. When you find people walking, you’ll find businesses. When you find businesses, you’ll find residential areas. … It’s like that old adage, if you build it they will come.”