Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Motown's once proud station stands alone

Once the tallest train station in the world, Michigan Central Station now stands vandalized and isolated in a littered field west of downtown Detroit.

Below is an outstanding segment about Detroit's once grand and thriving train station.


As beautiful as this colossal structure was, it was a victim not only of the automobile's growing popularity in Detroit of all places, but of poor location. The station was built 2 miles west miles of downtown, which turned out to be a death sentence years later, as it's neighborhood grew increasingly desolate and impoverished. The reason for the placement this far from downtown was a hope that the station would be an anchor for prosperity to follow. When the suburbs boomed and downtown's bright spots shrank closer together, Michigan Central Station was left out in the dark.

It is a shame to further neglect a historically significant and once beautiful landmark, although Michigan Central and Buffalo's Central Terminal, the later of which is being included in the HSR discussion, beg the question is it more important that a major city's primary train station is a preserved landmark or a practically located transit hub? Nothing would make me happier than to see the emergence of High Speed Rail catalyze the restoration of these once great stations and spark new development between their front doors and the downtowns they are separated from. However, the Midwest needs high speed trains delivering passengers to the city center where commerce and growth stem from, not on the outskirts where a failed anchor for prosperity quietly lies in ruin. If historic stations cannot be included in practical high speed rail planning, we must regrettably, for the sake of progress, move on without them.

The Infrastructurist did a great piece on demolished stations. Michigan Central is included in it.

High Speed Rail safely and efficiently carrying passengers to and from the larger-than-life stations enjoyed by older generations -- my fingers are crossed!

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3 Comments:

Blogger Andy Moore said...

Even if the HSR connects to a different (new) station in Detroit--what would be the benefit of demolishing the old station? If it is truly beautiful, shouldn't we preserve it and find a new use for it?

2:33 PM  
Blogger neroden@gmail said...

In Buffalo, one of the arguments for reusing Buffalo Central Terminal is that there simply is no good location for a high-speed rail station which is truly downtown (thanks to the waterfront, mostly). Wherever it gets put it will need to be connected to downtown by other transportation (ideally a surface extension of the Buffalo subway, which is at surface level downtown).

Therefore we might as well put the rail station in a really nice building some distance from downtown.

I don't know if similar arguments are true for Detroit, or if there is a good downtown station location (ideally with rail tunnel access, for when the US and Canada stop being stupid about border crossing....)

11:37 AM  
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4:02 AM  

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