The below stories from the Detroit News
on October 24, 2003 and the Detroit Free Press
on October 31, 2003, describe the apparent end of the Detroit heritage
rail cars that have run on tracks along Washington since 1975, like this one
seen in 1976, will be replaced with motorized trolleys as part of a $20
million road project that will include Woodward and Broadway.
October 24, 2003: Historic trolleys are history
The historic downtown trolley cars that cost passengers 50 cents to ride
but the city about $100 per rider will be mothballed next month as
Washington Boulevard and two other streets are rebuilt.
The $20 million road project that will include Woodward and Broadway is
to be completed in time for the 2006 Super Bowl at Ford Field.
The eight, century-old rail cars that have run on tracks along Washington
since 1975 will be replaced with so-called "rubber trolleys", or modern
buses that mimic the look and feel of a historic street car. The city will
expand the routes of its 14 rubber trolleys, bought in 2000. Downtown
business owners support the change.
About 3,000 passengers ride the rail trolleys each year, but track and
rail car problems have plagued the system. The rubber trolleys offer more
dependable service because they aren't affected by snow and ice and greater
flexibility for special events.
But preservationists say the city's decision is shortsighted because the
historic cars are irreplaceable, though they admit the quarter-mile track
that stretches along Washington from Grand Circus Park to Hart Plaza is in
"I'm not happy the rail cars are going, but I would hope the city would
look to move the system to the east riverfront," said Alexander Pollock, a
preservationist and senior associate architect for Detroit. "Cities such as
Seattle, San Diego, Tampa and New Orleans have vintage rail cars operating
on their waterfronts."
Last year, the city began a $500-million, four-year plan to improve the
east riverfront from Hart Plaza to Belle Isle that will include a riverfront
walk, parks and marina.
George W. Jackson Jr., president and chief executive of Detroit Economic
Growth Corp., a quasi-public development agency in Detroit, said it is too
costly to relocate the rail service as part of the Washington Boulevard
Pollock said the rail trolley system has an annual budget of around
"We do not want to lose the historic trolleys, so we will look at every
possibility to continue their service somewhere else," Jackson said.
You can reach R.J. King at (313) 222-2504 or rjking @detnews.com.
October 31, 2003: NEAR THE END OF THE
RIDERLESS LINE: Detroit plans to sell its 9 trolleys
BY JOHN GALLAGHER
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
The City of Detroit plans to sell its nine vintage trolley cars, but some
preservationists are strongly opposed.
Often characterized as quaint but riderless, the nine trolleys, built
between 1895 and 1925, were acquired in 1974. They ran between Grand Circus
Park and Cobo Center along Washington Boulevard and then east to the
They were a reminder of the hundreds of streetcars that used to ply
Detroit's byways until the system was shut down in the 1950s. The city's
original cars were sold to Mexico City. The nine trolleys the city now owns
were purchased in Europe in the '70s in an effort to liven up downtown.
About 800 people a day once rode the nine trolleys, but after the People
Mover opened in 1987 ridership on the trolleys dropped to no more than 200 a
None of the cars is in service now. They are in storage in and around
Detroit and at a repair facility in Seattle.
In a letter dated Oct. 15, Marisol Simon, deputy director of the Detroit
Department of Transportation, told the head of a Seattle-based repair
service that the city intended to sell the trolleys.
"It is now our decision to sell these treasures to entities that would
enjoy their splendor and also to recoup some of the public's money," Simon
But the sentimental value of the cars, as well as the replacement cost
should Detroit ever buy new ones, has some local leaders urging that the
city keep them.
"I definitely think we should retain them," said Rainy Hamilton, a
Detroit architect who is among planners working on the effort to redevelop
the city's east riverfront. Hamilton suggested the trolleys could run along
the riverfront or on a line that could be built on Belle Isle.
"I would not want to see us part with these. At least store them until we
can find a better use. We can't keep giving away our history," he said.
John Stroh, head of the Detroit-based Stroh Companies, said that
some kind of public transit line on the east riverfront could be important
as the area redevelops and parking becomes scarce.
"Clearly it would be desirable to have some transportation links between
downtown and Belle Isle," he said.
But even if the city keeps the trolleys, most of the tracks they run on
and the overhead wires that power them will soon be gone, at least along
Washington Boulevard. The city plans to start remaking a portion of
Washington next month as a boulevard with a landscaped median, removing the
tracks and a car barn that housed the trolleys.
Contact JOHN GALLAGHER at 313-222-5173 or