Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Seen by many as an urban-planning boondoggle, there's a cultured side to the city's humble light rail system.
The Detroit People Mover may be best known for its limited reach in the sprawled-out city it serves. But for 5,300 daily riders, it's also a place to see some really great art.
In use since 1987, all 13 stations on the 2.9-mile system have their own personalities, thanks to the unique artwork that exists at each one. Initiated by local public-art advocate Irene Walt in 1984, the Downtown Detroit People Mover Art Commission, also known as "Art in the Stations," made sure each DPM station was more than just turnstiles and concrete walls. To promote the new transit system shortly after its debut, the commission presented its work in a video (a 90-second teaser is below):
The pieces at each station reference everything from frantic commuters to the finance industry to (of course) cars. For a museum-worthy experience, you can get a guided tour of all the art through the DPM itself—as long as you make a reservation and bring at least nine friends with you. For a more convenient tour, Curbed Detroit has its own ode to the DPM's art collection on their site today, sharing a striking photo essay by local photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard as well as a station-by-station explainer.
A new 3.3-mile light rail system is planned that will connect to the People Mover by late 2016. Ideally, that'll give the nearly 30-year-old system not only a much-needed boost in ridership, but perhaps a new wave of appreciation for its underrated art collection.
H/T Curbed Detroit