James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

In Transit: How to Navigate Detroit

In Transit: How to Navigate Detroit

They don’t call it the Motor City for nothing. These streets were made for driving, and cars are the most efficient and fastest way to navigate Detroit’s 140 square miles. But there are a few other options

Welcome to Detroit Metropolitan Airport
Chances are if you’re flying into Detroit, you’ll land at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, about 20 miles from downtown Detroit. While waiting for your flight, there are some decent food and drink options, especially if you’re arriving or departing from the McNamara Terminal, which is a major hub for Delta. Celebrity chefs such as TV personality Cat Cora and local culinary star Luciano DelSignore are represented, and Plum Market is a best bet for when you want better snacks than pretzels on the plane. The options in the North Terminal aren’t as exciting, but if you are craving a Coney dog (a hot dog topped with chili, mustard, and onions), National Coney Island can fulfill that desire.

To get to your final destination, if you’re not getting picked up or renting a car, rideshare waiting areas (with heat lamps during colder weather) are available in the parking garage on the upper level. You can also take the bus. In early 2018, Metro Detroit’s regional transit system, SMART, started offering a new express system, called FAST (Frequent. Affordable. Safe. Transit.) including a trip to and from the airport. It’s $2 one-way and the bus has Wi-Fi, which will make the one-hour ride time fly.

Getting Around by Public Transportation
Detroit, and Metro Detroit in general, has not had much in the way of a robust public transportation system. But there are glimmers of hope. There’s SMART’s FAST service, which connects the suburbs to downtown. In addition to rides to and from the airport, the system offers nonstop high-frequency service along three of Detroit’s busiest thoroughfares, including Gratiot, Woodward, and Michigan.

In Detroit proper, there’s the DDOT bus system, the only way to get around by bus in the city, especially if you’re among the 26 percent of Detroiters who don’t have a car. The on-time performance is around 60-70 percent. If you aren’t on a time crunch, DDOT buses will be one of the cheapest ways to get around.

As for rail, Detroit’s only options are the QLine streetcar and the People Mover light rail system — the streetcar travels for three miles up and down Woodward Avenue from downtown to New Center, and the light rail goes in a circle around downtown. These are great—if you aren’t leaving the downtown core. But, like we said, Detroit is 140 square miles, and you’re not gonna get there using either one. And if you’re coming to Detroit, you want to see what makes Detroit great: the Motown Museum, Belle Isle, and Eastern Market.

Let someone else do the driving
Taxis are a bit sketchy here. They’re impossible to spot on the street and can be expensive, so when Lyft and Uber arrived, it made being motorless in the motor city less painful. Thanks to technology, it’s become a little easier to get a cab such as through Checker, the oldest and largest livery company in Michigan with 300 state-licensed vehicles serving more than 12,000 passengers daily in metro Detroit.

Detroit Bike City
While public transportation is still a work in progress (probably forever at this rate), cycling has become a popular way to get around and to explore Detroit, especially since there are more than 200 miles of bike lanes in the city. If you have no wheels, the bike share program MoGo, which has 43 stations across the city, offers rental bikes for $8 a day. And if you’re here on a Monday during the summer, ride with hundreds of other bikers in Slow Roll, a leisurely ride through different neighborhoods throughout the city.

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