Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rosa Parks Transit Center: Detroit’s big bus stop

If you’ve seen it from a few blocks away, perhaps looking up Cass, you might think a half-dozen huge sailboats have dropped anchor in the middle of downtown Detroit.

Nope. It’s the recently opened Rosa Parks Transit Center, the hub of all Detroit Department of Transportation buses, and in talking to a few of the folks who live within its sprawling (but on the verge of possibly being trimmed) routes, it’s a pretty nice addition to the city. Architecturally, particularly in Detroit, it’s an oddity.

The building’s main entrance faces Cass, and opens into what feels like a small airport. There’s nothing odd about this part of the building; it’s a sharp, if not extravagant, building, and does a nice job of helping clean up that section of Cass. After you get your bus route info and pay your fare, you exit out the other side of the building and wind up beneath those huge, white canopies that stand out from blocks away. In all, the RPTC spreads out over nearly 2.5 acres.

Here’s the thing about the RPTC. It’s not a tourist service, at least not at this point. It’s not even a suburbanite service, unless you live within a few miles of the city. But if I didn’t know better, I’d think someone in the city is using a little foresight, planning for the day when there will be more demand to get Detroiters from home in the neighborhoods to work downtown. You know, the job for which people in most cities rely on a subway system.