Category: Detroit

Save the depot

The last thing we did in Detroit was visit the Michigan Central Station, once the world’s tallest train station (according to contributors of Wikipedia). It’s an interesting area, with big lawns and boulevards leading up to it. There are many homeless people hanging around under the broad trees. One of them came over to ask that I don’t take her photo.


Photo of me and the “tourist assistant” by Francesco Villa.

A guy riding his bike came over to talk to us. I asked him if he knew how to get into the train station. He did and showed us where the fence could be easily lifted (someone even tied a rope to the fence) and you could slip under. I gave him a dollar for his help (actually, he asked when I said goodbye).

Thankfully the cool station is on the National Register of Historic Places* making demolition much harder. The problem is getting the right idea and developer married to renovate the station and put it back into productive use.

Amtrak served the station until 1988. I find it odd that Amtrak, or any passenger train, came here in the first place – the station feels far from downtown Detroit. Walking is possible, along Michigan Avenue, but there’s no street activity along the way. I presume that when it was constructed in 1913, the Corktown neighborhood was a bit more hoppin’.

We walked from the train station to the Greyhound station at 1001 Howard Street, a 1.2 mile walk. We stopped for lunch at Great Wall Chinese Food. It was cheap and tasty. Another customer there told us he drives 40 minutes for this restaurant. He also said he worked the light show at the VitaminWater stage at the Movement Festival (formerly Detroit Electronic Music Festival) we spent the previous two days dancing at.

Someone has placed letters at the top of the building saying, SAVE THE DEPOT.

Detroit has so much space. What should we do with all of that room?

*The National Register website doesn’t have permalinks (stupid). So search here for reference number “75000969” or name, “Penn Central Station”. I don’t know why the NHRP calls it Penn Central Station.

I went to Detroit

Update: I’ve started uploading my own photos now, starting with some of musicians who performed at Movement.

There were so many “firsts” this Memorial Day weekend for me.

  1. I traveled on a Greyhound bus to Detroit. Coming back, I took Greyhound to Kalamazoo (another first!) and switched to an Indian Trails bus (same itinerary, though).
  2. I visited and stayed in Detroit.
  3. I went to Movement, the Detroit Electronic Music Festival.

You can bet that all of these have urban planning and transportation links, even the festival (you have to manage the influx of 100,000 people somehow!).

Part of visiting and staying in Detroit obviously includes many other firsts like,

  • Riding the Detroit People Mover in a complete circuit while also being temporarily ejected so a team of Department of Homeland Security agents could bring a dog aboard to sniff for explosives. I didn’t know anyone took the DPM seriously enough to do this, but it was also during a large festival, so I guess that’s appropriate.
  • Riding Detroit transit buses. This was weird. Thankfully the Detroit bus routes are in Google Maps so finding a route is dead simple. Finding the bus stop is not as simple, as not every bus stop sign indicates the routes it serves!
  • Visiting three museums! My friend and I checked out the Motown Museum (awesome, a must-see), the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
  • Dancing at the Magic Stick club for an after party with local DJs. Unfortunately no one told us they stop serving Alcohol at 1:30 AM. Or was it 2 AM?
  • Walking 2 miles to see the Michigan Central Train Station, abandoned in 1988. This local guy came around to us while we were walking along the fence and showed us how to get in.

My poor perceptions of Detroit and Greyhound were reversed thanks to this trip. I’ve got a lot of ideas for Greyhound, but only one so far for Detroit. Detroit’s an interesting place and it’s not like it was bombed like Hiroshima as I imagined it was after reading countless news doomsday articles about the city. It’s probably best if you have a car in Detroit if you want to see many things in a short amount of time, or increase your taxi budget – everything is far away from everything else and you probably don’t want to wait 30 minutes for the bus.

I’ll write more about Detroit when I upload my photos.

Photo of Michigan Central train station, abandoned in 1988 when Amtrak quit service here, by Kyle Gradinger.

Photo of the Renaissance Center, world headquarters of Government Motors and a Marriott Hotel, on the Detroit River waterfront, by James Marvin Phelps.