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Ivory Tower

Traditional eltrain systems

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I'm not talking monorails,trams,streetcars/trollies or lightrail.

I'm talking about trains that run ATOP of the track with with actual rails.

Though some people might laugh or argue, Detroits "People mover" is really just an eltrain but built in a modern era.

The cars are more or less traditional looking, it has traditional train mechanics and runs on dual rails.

The only real difference is that it is automated.

And sure, it only covers a 3 mile loop through downtown, but that serves downtown better than no system at all and at least Detroit is one of few citys to actually have some sort of rail.

If not for the illhandling of the project by the city, The city would have had lines spreading out to nearby suburban hubs, and the downtown loop would have served as the main hub.

They were already in progress on building one station on Gratiot...when the city decided against connecting outside of downtown.

So that station, or what little was already built was disassembled.

And, IT IS NOT A MONORAIL, a monorail overlaps a thin rail like the

Orlanda/Disney or Seattle system.

And, just because trollies might have some elevated tracks on parts of their routes, DOES NOT make them an eltrain as in the traditional system that dose not have overhead STREETCAR cables.

I just figured I would give a little insight on what The "People mover" really is, and a little background on why it has just a downtown loop.

I suppose Detroit is the only city that noone realizes has an eltrain system.

Except for this guy I ran into once downtown, which btw was visiting from Chicago. his Friend pointed out the "Peoplemover".

He said...Peoplemover ??? Hell, that aint nothing but a damn eltrain.

So, The DPM is a joke, but how many other citys actually have a real eltrain ?

Let's see some hands.

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What I am really getting at is...certain citys knock the DPM, when indeed they don't have even what little bit of an el system Detroit has.

And these are boom citys and Detroit managed to at least build a downtown system during hard times and population loss.

Shall I name some ?

And correct me if I'm wrong on any.


2.San Antonio




Citys I believe to have some sort of rail transit but no actuall el trains.

6.Seattle(monorail left over from worlds fair)

7.Dallas(people movers, but a very small one in a distant corp. park)

8.San Diego

9.St. Louis



Other citys in general









20.New Orleans



23.Orlando(Disney monorail)

24.Long Beach

25.San Hose


Citys that do have els OR at least subways

1.New York

2.Newark ?

3.Jersy City?









12.AND...Detroit(one of only two midwestern citys)

Yes, outside of Chicago, Detroit is the only city to have some sort of an el system in that region.

Plus Detroit is in the top one 3rd of U.S. citys that do.

While a handful of other cities have a lightrail line(which is great)they still don't have anything like the DPM.

And Detroit still has(for what it's worth)a downtown trollie line and one of the largest fleet of city buses.

So let's give Detroit props for what it does have and not about what it lacks.

Because in reality, what little Detroit has is still something 2/3rds of the U.S. citys don't have.

Though often I see people from some of those citys popping off about Detroits "train to nowhere"

At least that "train to nowhere" not only follows the tradition of classic urban transit, but can get a 3 mile distance through Downtown in 15 munutes which includes waiting at a station, for 50 cents no less.

It is also patrolled by police and monitered by cameras.

How do these other folks travel in their downtowns ?

To clarify, I'm not trying to down these other citys, but trying to educate a little about Detroit.

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Miami's Metrorail (heavy rail) is almost all compeletly elevated. We also have a People mover system that covers Downtown and Brickell, which is completely elevated.

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Pittsburgh has a subway and a Lightrail system, (you only put us down for lightrail).

Miami I believe is a MONO-rail (Mono=One, one track that the structure of the train actually straddles similar to Walt Disney World.)

I believe what you are talking about with Els is a TRAIN TRACK that is actually Elevated above the streetscape. Not a Mono-Rail or a Cable driven or Light rail (electric driven) train. But correct me if I'm wrong.

Interesting post, I am surprised that Jacksonville, FL has a Elevated Train?!? Where is that and when (roughly was it built). Thanks

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Sorry PGH, you're wrong.

Miami's Metrorail is heavy rail on tracks.



I found these descriptions and the guy has some real nice pictures of the system too.

for example:


Cities with people movers according to the site:


Miami - 5.4 miles

Jacksonvile -2.5 miles

Detroit - 2.9 miles

Morgantown - 3.6 miles

Irving - 1.5 miles

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Guest donaltopablo

Well the only thing that I'll add is even though cities like Dallas don't have a heavy rail or el system, Dallas' transit network of light rail and commuter rail is far more extensive than Detriot's. I definitely agree that the fact that Detriot has something is better than many cities, even more so since it's in a state of decline. However, for a city and metro it's size, it's mass transit is rather lacking.

All bashing aside (I'm definitely not trying to), Detriot is behind for a city of it's size, but definitely give it credit that some up and coming cities (Phoenix for example) may wind up hitting detriots size with only buses.

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Yeah, Miami has a legit eltrain system.

It isn't a monorail.

Yes, Pittsburgh has a "sub" level system in places. but it is a cable system, correct me if I'm wrong.

What happened to Detroit was...General Motors pushed the city to contract them to make buses.

So the streetcar system was dismantled in 1958.

Which by the way was the 2nd largest urban rail transit system of anykind in the U.S. at the time.

So it's not that Detroit never had anything, it's just that big business and bad decisions stifled the transit system.

If it could ever tie into the DPM, Detroit would set a standard of urban rail transit.

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Interesting post, I am surprised that Jacksonville, FL has a Elevated Train?!? Where is that and when (roughly was it built). Thanks
route map


old trains


new trains


Jacksonville's small skyway express system was orginally built in the 1989 and expanded across the river, to the southbank 1999. It basically is a quick way to get around downtown and was supposed to be a part of a larger rail transit system that was never built. There are plans to extend it in the future as the areas around downtown continue to densify.

I have heard that Detroit actually dug the tunnels for a subway system, but it was never built.

Yes, Detroit citizens did vote to have a subway built during the 1920's. However, the Great Depression killed those plans and they've never come back.

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I have heard that Detroit actually dug the tunnels for a subway system, but it was never built.

On W. Jefferson in Delray, close to Riverrouge, there is what appears to be an entrence to what would have been a subway station.

I should have taken a picture of it.

But I don't think any tunnels ever got dug.

They changed their mind and put in a streetcar system instead.

Now Cincinnati actually had some tunnel and stations built before their plans fell through.

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I have been to UM several times, hmmm they always looked like Monorails, I know there is a ground level "train" for commuters that runs between Miami and Lauderdale, I checked those websites I guess they are rails like a train, but the pictures are deceiving, also monsoon, you said "even by [my] definition" of monorails, I thought monorail was that there was just one rail (usually a cement type of guideway) either ON the peoplemover or that the peoplemover stradles.

This is getting a bit confusing, when I think of the El in Chicago and the old ones in the Barre section of NYC they were basically Trains that were on train tracks elevated above the city streets, Miami's looks like an inverted Monorail, maybe its just that I'm used to seeing an El train or a NYC transit train resting above the tracks and that Miami's have that modern look. Also on the pics of Jacksonville's I see guideways like that of the Disney monorail, not really "track", in a weird sort of way I am getting more confused with all this then anything else, the els, the monorails, the new experimental maglevs, as long as they move people they are cool in my book.

Pittsburgh has the subway and then when it goes to the Southside it changes into a Lightrail system, but they do call it a "subway" downtown and the "main" station of the system Steel Plaza is a subway station, it all runs on the same power though, which brings out another question, is a "subway" not a "subway" if it runs on light rail power, I have always wondered about that, isn't the NYC and Boston subways, run on the same electrical power as light rail. What are the major differences other then the location of the peoplemover in relation to the horizon (subway, el, light rail etc.)?

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The only difference between the old eltrain systems and "peoplemovers" is the track is concrete(with reenforced steel) rather than the exposed steel tracks of the old system.

That has nothing to do with the actual system on how the trains run.

Again, "peoplemovers"(which is just a laymen term) are just MODERN versions of basic eltrain systems.

And the only peoplemover system with one rail is the Detroit peoplemover(correct me if I'm wrong), and that's because it runs in a loop.

Besides, they are actually talking about the dual steel rails that the trains wheels run on like a conventianal train does.

NOT, wether a system has dual tracks running in opposite directions.

And what Pittsburgh has is cable powered streetcars that run through motes.

Not the traditional subway system you would find in other citys.

And lightrail is the cable driven systems, so all LRT's are...is streetcars.

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Ivorytower thanks for the link that clears some of this up.

As far as Pittsburgh's system it is light-rail in the south suburbs and southside, but downtown is all "Subterranan way" or subway. There is construction going on to extend the "subway" part of the system to the northside and the stadiums via Pennsylvania's ONLY underwater transit tunnell (take that Philly lol). In a few years there will be anywhere from 4 to 5 subway only stations, the system is one and the same and 80% of it is ground level lightrail (in the burbs) but I always thought that despite how it was powered if a transit system was underground--as it is in downtown Pittsburgh--it was a "subway".

From the Port Authority website:

The T also winds through Downtown Pittsburgh via a subway with three underground stations (Steel Plaza, Wood Street and Gateway stations). . . The subway provides rail service to major destination points and business centers within Downtown Pittsburgh.



Anyways back to the discussion of el trains. I have heard of Morgantown WV's El Train, but I know some in that town refer to it as a "monorail" maybe mistakenly, from what I have seen it is still the world's best el train?!

Monday, September 18, 2000

Jonathan D. Silver, PITTSBURGH Post-Gazette

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Any new visitor to this hilly, riverside city should enjoy a 50-cent ride on the Personal Rapid Transit system, Appalachia's answer to Disneyland's monorail.

Run by West Virginia University, the PRT is a collection of 73 tiny pods that would be right at home on some old sci-fi movie set. Each cozily seats eight and slides along a nine-mile loop of track, obeying no human operators but taking its orders from a computer.

The automated system ferries 2.2 million riders a year at 30 mph between downtown and parts of the university. Although the PRT was built in the 1970s, it still describes itself in a brochure as "the most modern transit system in the world" and has no counterpart anywhere in the country.

Like much in Morgantown, the rail system is both old-fashioned and newfangled, past and future, intimate and innovative.

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Though one part of the article claims the dpm to be "lightrail"(cable driven cars)even that is wrong.

The definitions of various types of rail tend to get blurry, that is because it is hard to succinctly categorize all the various modes into 2 or 3 easy categories.

The definition of a monorail is probably the most clear cut, and the Detroit People Mover is not a Monorail.

General 'light rail' and 'heavy rail' relate to weight of the trainsets, light and heavy, and the rails needed to support that weight. I assume by 'cable driven cars' you are referring to the overhead wires that provide power to many light rail systems (not to systems pulled by cables such as San Francisco's cable cars). This is not a valid definition of 'light rail.'

There are heavy rail systems, such as Boston's blue line, that run on overhead cables for power (Boston's blue line actually uses third rail in the subway portion, and overhead power outside). There are also trains that would be classified as light rail that use a third rail (I think Vancouver's SkyTrain might run on a third rail, not sure though). There are also deisel powered light rail cars (I believe Ottawa uses, or is building a line that uses, deisel light rail cars).

A subway is generally recognized as any train that runs underground and has underground stations, New York's subway system being the type of trains that leap to mind for most Americans. New York's trains are heavy rail, but Boston's Green Line, SFs Muni, Pittsburgh's T, and other light rail systems that run underground and have underground stations are subways.

Detroit's People Mover, if trying to categorize as Heavy, Light, or Monorail would fall into the light rail category. Though many people would look to put it into a subcategory of People Movers, with Jacksonville's system and some airport systems, as it varies greatly from the traditional look and operation of most light rail systems.

I've been trying to come up with a response to this thread that doesn't come off as too rude. The fact is that though Detroit has an elevated system of transport that runs on tracks, it cannot be compared to transit systems like NYC, Chicago, Philadelphia and others that have true El's. In fact I don't think it can even be fairly compared to Jacksonville's People Mover. You say that the DPM can move people 3 miles in 15 minutes, that's not a 3 mile straight line though, it is a loop. You ask how other cities move people about their downtowns. In an area comparable to what the DPM covers in any other downtown, people would walk. It really is a train to nowhere. The money for the DPM would have been better spent on radial transit bringing people into the downtown from outer neighbourhoods. A city should have no need for a loop system to move people around such a small area of it's core. This is how Jacksonville's system differs. Jacksonville's may not be a perfect system, but it moves people into the core of the city from the edge, and allows people to move over lateral distances as opposed to a loop.

But Chicago has a loop! Yes, it does, but Chicago's loop brings people into the city and then loops them around to drop them where they need to be downtown. If Chicago only had the Loop and not the radial lines that feed into it, then Chicago's loop would also be a train to nowhere. I'm sure people do use Chicago's loop to make short hops around the loop, but the city would operate fine if people were forced to walk.

The fact is that cities that are just getting going with small starter light rail lines such as Denver, Minneapolis, St. Louis... already have better rail systems than Detroit. Hopefully we'll see some movement on proposals in Detroit, such as light rail to the airport and Detroit will start to have a good rail system, but right now, Detroit is seriously lacking for transit.

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monsoon LOL, yeah it kinda takes me aback when they say that about the Morgantown peoplemover. Anyways, thanks for the additional feedback monsoon, the post is about El Trains--all of them. But true true Cotuit, outside of maybe Chicago, NYC, Philly, (Boston, maybe?), D.C., LA, SF Bay Area, maybe Seattle, Miami and Toronto, the other transit systems just are small in comparison. They are transit systems but its kinda like watching little league and watching the Braves play the Yankees. Even Pittsburgh which has one of the nicer light-rails/subway systems in the nation and an extensive busway (like a mini-interstate highway ONLY for bus transit), not to mention a pair of cable cars (incline trains) it isn't a BIG system. Pittsburgh has nothing in mass transit when compared to the multi-layered, cross macrosystems of Washington, Philly or NYC, I feel save a dozen or so metroareas, most cities are without extensive and well built mass transit.

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I couldn't see those Pittsburgh photos when I posted before. Those are nice subway stops. How many underground stops does Pittsburgh have, and are all the Liight Rail stops high platform like that (i.e. you don't have to climb stairs to board the train), 'cos that is nice?

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Now the thread is getting too complex :lol:

Cotuit, I have already given props to those citys with good transit systems.

I have already stated that it wasn't trying to dog other citys but just trying to clear up the difference between monorail and "peoplemover"

Besides, if I wanted to get off the subject and talk about transit systems in general, I could talk about Detroit having a large city and suburban bus system.

Though it has flaws, but I'm sure other systems have them too.

The fact IS, Detroits "peoplemover" IS basically an eltrain, but just more modern and albeit smaller.

And the fact that Detroit has some kind of downtown eltrain system, though just a downtown loop.

And I've try to give some [consideration] to the background of Detroits mishandling of transit as to why only the loop was built.

Also the fact that Detroit managed to get this built while in dire straites as compared to what some boomtowns have OR haven't done.

And the fact that some of these towns still tend to bash.

These are all facts/not fiction.

All I was saying is...give Detroit props for what it has and not always bash for the amount it has or dose not have.

And what it does have is a fast,clean,safe system that connects Downtowns hotels,offices and arenas.

Maybe you are right about "lightrail" actually being literately the weight of the cars.

But typicaly the term "lightrail" is used to describe cars powered by overhead cables.

Like streetcars.

I had already stated what you said about what people traditionally think as subways, which is basic "heavyrail" whithout overhead cables.

And don't worry about being rude, Detroit is used to it.

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Heres another link that explains that Detroits "Peoplemover" is just an eltrain with modern amenities.

The most obvious one is what helps it to be automated(no driver)

But still the same, an eltrain that just has modern featues.

I'm pretty sure NYC's & Chicagos eltrains would be quite similar to the DPM if built 80 years later, though the DPM's cars aren't too different in basic design

It's like comparing an older model car to a new one is all.

Scroll down, and you should find the paragraph.


monsoon, I've mentioned Atlanta already.

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