The “tiny, tiny train” in a gigantic city: An outsider’s ode to Detroit’s People Mover
Think of it as an artistic “fan letter” to Detroit’s People Mover.
Artist Nick Tobier’s new book is Looping Detroit: A People Mover Travelogue. It’s a collection of essays, photographs and poems inspired by the People Mover and the views it offers of Detroit’s geography and culture.
Tobier, who's a University of Michigan professor originally from New York City, brings an outsider's perspective to something that sparks some passionate discussion whenever it's brought up among Detroiters – the People Mover.
"So I was fascinated that here's this gigantic city [Detroit], a city that's physically larger than Manhattan, certainly, where I grew up, but it's got this tiny, tiny train. There was something sort of anti-heroic about it."
"With the People Mover, if you stand in one spot you can see both ends of it," Tobier said. "Each stop is about 150 yards from the next one. So I was fascinated that here's this gigantic city, a city that's physically larger than Manhattan, certainly, where I grew up, but it's got this tiny, tiny train. There was something sort of anti-heroic about it."
It often takes someone with fresh eyes to see and appreciate something the locals tend to take for granted, or, in the case of the People Mover, something that gets ridiculed or overlooked.
For the project, Tobier enlisted artists, writers and photographers to join him and explore each stop of the People Mover. Here's what he told them to do:
"I'd like you to pick a stop of the People Mover and get on it and off it and explore that stop as you would an explorer," Tobier said. "And the only restrictions are that it can't be anything you might find, say, in a Fodor's Guide to Detroit. So I'm not looking for something that would be a nice tourist attraction. See what's there and it doesn't even have to be there anymore. There's some that are sort of rooted in memory of places that were."
Listen to the full interview above to hear more about the project, what people are missing when they mock the People Mover and Tobier's view of the future of public transportation in Detroit.