MICHIGAN AVENUE LINE

FIRST PROJECT IN A STAGED PLAN

DETROIT CITY SUBWAY

MICHIGAN AVENUE LINE

The 1.8-mile, two-track line runs just below grade along most of its length, except where it crosses over the M-10 Highway at about midpoint. (see detailed drawing: How to Get a Subway Line Across the M-10 Highway Without Moving the Road) The line expands to four tracks near Cadillac Square to provide access for storage and maintenance tracks, which would be converted to a second two-track through-line with two side platforms in the next stage of construction. (See: Cadillac Square and Cadillac Full Build drawings, below)

PROPOSAL SUBMITTED FOR THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY'S CITY:ONE CHALLENGE

TO IMPROVE MOBILITY AROUND AND TO THEIR MICHIGAN CENTRAL STATION PROPERTY

If you're going to put Michigan Central on the map you've got to be able to GET there, and this proposal would have the same effect map-wise for a great many places along its route. That applies particularly to the area west of the M-10 Highway, where the line would spark big increases in commerce and development, with opportunity to regulate for greater inclusion, as well as increased livability and property values. It would also place the new Ford Research property developments at a center of attraction for the entire Detroit Community, and a big tourist draw.


This plan arose about two years ago in my musings about intercity rail development, which I frequently attempt to delineate using the Google Earth platform. Michigan Central is especially well suited for this kind of  development, dating as it does from the golden years of American rail expansion. The extreme brilliance and versatility of the station's design stem from a period when this kind of expertise reached to heights as yet unequaled again in the Western Hemisphere. So we have a valuable gift at our disposal, from the days of stiff-leg derricks and steam shovels, to benefit all the aims which are now so much discussed, with a near-infinite degree of increased ease.


The Michigan Avenue Subway segment is part of a larger proposal consisting of two subway lines converging at and radiating from a central Campus Martius-Cadillac Square station hub. The initial 1.8-mile segment, representing about a fifth of the envisioned buildout, would be extensible from both ends, as needed, and would provide an auspicious start on achieving a safe, fast and comfortable high-volume system of transit mobility in the city. The central-hub-and-spokes configuration would allow quick high-volume transfer capacity, to enable the most convenient transit for the most passengers. A storage and maintenance facility large enough to  serve the initial segment could be achieved by excavating the entire Campus Martius-Cadillac Square underground station concurrent with construction of the initial 1.8-mile line.

Will post and enter here this proposal earlier explored in the first round,  without moving immediately to further the design, specifically that of the  the Campus Martius-Cadillac Square staging: intended to comprise repurposing from the maintenance facility of the first stage, to a central  interchange and transfer point in the full buildout - because the proposal does not meet exactly with the parameters of the City:One Challenge, which  have been laid out in fuller detail now (at least as it affects my ability  to locate them.) I had written somewhere during the Explore phase that I would pursue the design at Campus Martius-Cadillac Square for the next  round.
 

THAT DOESN'T MEAN I'M NOT COMPLETELY CONVINCED THAT THIS PROPOSAL - OF ALL THE RELEVANT CHALLENGE PROPOSALS AROUND - IS ONE THAT SHOULD DEFINITELY BE  BUILT WITHOUT FAIL.


 

      Bruce W. Hain                                                                                                                                                       September 20, 2019  

HOW TO GET A SUBWAY LINE ACROSS THE M-10 HIGHWAY WITHOUT MOVING THE ROAD

 Approximately 1330 feet of the 1.8-mile subway would run above ground, where it crosses the M-10 Highway on two bridges each about 65 feet long. The line would descend into cuts on either side of the highway, which must be protected from errant cars or people falling in. This could be accomplished by thoroughly anchored standard-type highway railing used on bridges, running the entire 1300'of the open track alignment.

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INSIGHTS FROM PREVIOUS TESTING: Due to it's nature as a linear construction project intended for transportation, the proposal is not given to user testing until completion. The design is tested at every point in it's conception and development, and  the defects are gradually weeded out while propositions envisioned with the original spark of conception are proven. None of this though, overrides the necessity of starting out with a well conceived and generally useful  plan.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR TEAM  OR ORGANIZATION: I consider myself to be the foremost US rail transportation planner of my generation - By Default - since, due to the nature of today's railroad industry expansion is minimal, and minimalist. I base this claim on my study of the great 20th Century projects which are possible to measure with surprising accuracy in the Google Earth platform, and other  drawings I have found. With this knowledge can be divined transportation both heroic and unintrusive, that people will actually want to ride.


ROUGH BUDGET: Any pilot project would necessarily include construction of the entire 1.8- mile line being the first stage, and so the funding amount would be much higher than the amount requested. However, there are considerable savings possible in the process of producing a buildable plan over what is customary. These could be applied to achieve such a plan for somewhat less than the maximum allowable request, so that some would be left over for writing the remaining documentation needed to achieve realization.

DESCRIBE HOW YOU WOULD PILOT YOUR IDEA: A buildable plan could be achieved, given some detailed preliminary drawing yet to go, by collaborating with a gifted student at the near-professional stage from Michigan Tech, Penn State or University of Illinois. Only two alternatives (the permitted minimum) would be considered for environmental review. Assuming the design work could be undertaken as part of the student's course of study under auspices of the school, we would be afforded detailed geographical survey information that makes the work easy. There are ways to get that information available with any design platform the student may choose according to his/her expertise, and these can be leased with geographical specificity. Other detailed measurements are possible to get without a survey, and geological information is available on the internet in some detail. There is knowledge of sub-surface structures available in most places without resorting to markouts, and local building experience makes ground conditions well known.


SUSTAINABILITY PLAN: General usefulness is the gauge of success, along with whether it can be  achieved for a reasonable cost. No other mode is capable of providing the usefulness of a subway in the proposed location, owing to it's high-volume capacity and prospects for heavy use of its stations, particularly at and near the end points. Rail service is the single most enabling factor for making Michigan Central a self-supporting success. The Michigan Avenue Line would enable that as it has never been done before.

MICHIGAN CENTRAL SUBWAY STATION WITH 50-FOOT-WIDE CENTER PLATFORM

(Two additional side platforms are possible as needed.) Your participant has read that there was a proposal for a subway station here made in the 1920's, and that an extension running west from it was also considered. It is likely the configuration of the station in that proposal was similar to the one here, to avoid conflicts with the supports of the railroad viaduct. An extension west through Mexicantown is possible.

CADILLAC SQUARE 

The long approach to the storage tracks would enable a grade difference at Cadillac Square, with the storage tracks and shop at a lower level than the Michigan Avenue Line station. A bi-level station would be necessary to allow the Gratiot Avenue line to cross under the Michigan Avenue Line at the full-build stage. Your participant is looking forward to designing the classy-looking passenger interface afforded by the bi-level full-build configuration.

CADILLAC FULL BUILD 

(Under Construction) The Gratiot Avenue line would have the tightest radius in the system shown here as 250'. That's broader than the tightest curve on the People Mover at 150 - and cars of similar length are envisioned, with maximum 10-car trains. The Gratiot line has been carefully aligned to avoid the foundations of the Monroe Blocks Project by at least 25'. The long two-track approach to the Michigan Avenue Line would be retained for putting cars in service from remote storage located past Congress Street.

RESPONSES AND UNSOLICITED COMMENTARY

ON THE DISADVANTAGES OF USING BUSES WITH DEDICATED LANES INSTEAD

It doesn't seem to me the idea of a dedicated-lane bus service would be likely to attract many tony types from Downtown to explore the Bricktown/Michigan Avenue venues in large numbers. And of course any commuter or regional rail service originating at Central would be dependent on smooth connections that only a subway can provide. Dedicated lanes consume right-of-way needed for the traffic that can already be foreseen. As for subway construction, our capabilities of earth moving and construction, surveying and planning - are now so much more quick and effective, less labor intensive, time consuming,  and dangerous - that the "real expense" in terms of investment, commitment and risk to life and limb, is vastly less than in the first part of the 20th Century. So I don't see that as an excuse for shortchanging the public.

 

ON THE FAILURE TO REALIZE THE ORIGINAL SUBWAY PLANS AND WHY IT WOULD BE EASIER THIS TIME

In my explorations I found that after the 1915 proposal things started to evolve, and by 1926 they were proposing something much lager - and without a direct connection to Michigan Central: that's a long walk from Michigan Avenue. Going by the 1926 commission report the initial construction called for 46.6 miles of double-track subway lines at $187,789,000 - all in one blow - which is amazingly ambitious and (not knowing much about it but) probably why nothing ever got built. This followed a city-wide vote a few years earlier in which some huge majority was FOR the subway, with a plan that called for fares covering something like 33% of the costs. (I didn't get into the particulars.) The Subway Commission had somehow been elevated within the legal framework and commanded more authority by that time. This compares sort of starkly with the original Woodward Avenue line, about twice as long as the current Q-Line, at $16,000,000. It's likely the original proposal would have gotten built, and it's puzzling how the commission thought it advisable to propose such a big project. It's better to do it in stages.

 

ON THE MICHIGAN CENTRAL SUBWAY STATION AND REUSE OF THE ERSTWHILE CARRIAGE ENTRANCE 

The subway station tracks (two) at Michigan Central (see the picture "Michigan Central" at the top of the proposal) would be best as close to the surface as possible, to avoid interfering with the foundations of the railroad viaduct, in the event the line is extended under it and on to the west. There was difficulty with the foundations initially, and a very sturdy steel-columned arrangement of a certain extreme depth was finally built. It's owned by CP now and is succumbing gradually to the elements - and I am inclined toward the idea of reversing the customary eminent domain thing of railroads and using it against them.


The idea of adding outside platforms at the Michigan Central subway station should be provided for in the initial plan for construction with the assumption that it will someday be needed to accommodate high capacity use. That way, on getting hit with a few trainloads of commuters arriving at Michigan Central,  passengers in the arriving subway trains could be exited by way of the side platforms and the new arrivals loaded on from the big central one. This might want to be reversed in the evening while using just the central platform the rest of the time.


The shallow construction would involve an underpass for quick access to Michigan Central, and this could be done to pleasing effect with ample width and vertical conveyances located in the erstwhile Carriage Entrance. I have often pictured this very pleasing arrangement - with an attribute possibly not so pleasing to others, of having the stairs and escalator(s) skewed versus the layout of the building and running diagonally - though that's not a necessity. But it would make getting between the subway and Michigan Central very short and direct.


The Carriage Entrance is a fantastic piece of architecture in its own right (See the picture linked here: CARRIAGE ENTRANCE.) and a fancy ground level entrance could be worked into the modifications needed to enclose it. A very carefully designed scheme would need to be developed to do this without compromising the original extreme singularity of the building. As a partially glass-enclosed subway-oriented lobby, beneath the steel-gabled skylit ceiling with lanterns, giving onto the concourse - and a big fancy entrance as well - this part of the station might really hit it's stride.

                 Bruce W. Hain                                                                                                                                               September 26, 2020

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