Downtown people movers - History and future in U.S. cities

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



In the early 1970s many exciting automated guideway transit technologies and concepts were emerging, and numerous applications were being proposed. One of the initiatives of that era was the U.S. Government Downtown People Mover (DPM) Program in which funding support in the form of grants was provided to demonstrate automated guideway transit as a circulation system in the downtown districts of our cities. These systems were envisioned as important transportation links that would help to reverse urban decay by revitalizing downtowns. Some 38 cities in the United States expressed an interest in the program and submitted grant proposals. Considerable research also was undertaken at that time to develop planning techniques and guidelines for the deployment of urban APMs. Three DPM projects were funded, designed, and built - Miami Metromover (opened in 1986), Detroit People Mover (1987), and the Jacksonville Automated Skyway Express (1989), and all three are still operating today. However these are the only DPM systems that have been built in the United States. This paper will provide a history of the Downtown People Mover (DPM) Program in the United States, information on and current status of the three DPM systems, and lessons from the DPM program and each of the three systems. The paper will also discuss today's alternatives, such as free bus circulator systems, streetcars, vintage trolleys, and livable communities concepts, for the downtown transportation role that was originally envisioned for DPM systems in U.S. cities. © 2011 ASCE.

Publication Title

Automated People Movers and Transit Systems 2011: From People Movers to Fully Automated Urban Mass Transit - Proceedings of the 13th Int. Conference on Automated People Movers and Transit Systems