|EDSEL B. FORD (I-94) EXPRESSWAY BUS STOPS
|In September, 1943, a committee appointed by then Detroit Mayor Edward J. Jeffries, Jr. released its expressway plan
for Detroit. It was hoped that this seven-man Street Improvement Committee could offer solutions to alleviate the city's
troubling traffic congestion problem, as Detroit prepared to enter the post-WW-II years.
Proposals by the Wayne County Road Commission, the City Plan Commission, and others were also submitted.
Finally, in February of 1945, a detailed study developed for the Detroit Transportation Board was released. The
document was titled, "Detroit Expressway and Transit System," and included proposals to build a complex expressway
network and a bus and rail rapid transit system across the city of Detroit.
THE DETROIT EXPRESSWAY AND TRANSIT PLAN:
The report advocated the building of a network of expressways that would radiate outward from the downtown area, as
well as a major "Crosstown" superhighway that would travel east-west along the Harper-McGraw corridor.
In addition to a major expressway network, the committee also released its findings on mass transit. The study
proposed utilizing multiple-unit PCC streetcars operating as high-speed trains within the central mall portion of the
entire Crosstown Expressway, and along certain portions of the Grand River Expressway. The plan called for
maintaining streetcar operation on Woodward Avenue, but converting the existing streetcars lines on Fort, Gratiot,
Jefferson and Michigan over to electric trolley-buses. Upon reaching the downtown central business district, all
streetcars and trolley-buses would then dip below ground and operate via a subway. A number of underground
stations were also planned for the downtown subway route, terminating at a new underground plaza, which would be
built underneath Cadillac Square. In addition, larger-size express buses were proposed for routes along Grand River
and Gratiot, that would travel along the proposed Crosstown, Grand River and Hastings Expressways.
However, as with most rapid transit proposals planned for Detroit, this 1945 Detroit Expressway and Transit System
plan also met considerable opposition. But this time the opposition would come from an unlikely source — the city's
own transportation department. In November of 1946, the city-owned Department of Street Railways (DSR) released
its own study on Detroit's transportation future. Since the DSR had been advocating since the mid-1930s the
elimination of its rail service, it basically opposed any plan to expand streetcars, or the continuance of any type of rail
operation, whether via a subway or along the median strip of an expressway.
Instead, the DSR pushed for an alternative expressway plan that only included a network of high-speed bus routes
operating along the city's expressway network. These buses would then exit via exclusive bus ramps to four
downtown underground terminals. The DSR plan also called for the construction of several bus interchange stations
to be built along the expressways themselves — an idea opposed by the engineers who prepared the Detroit
Transportation Board report. The DSR report considered the high-speed bus plan "a superior type of rapid transit"
and more economically feasible.
So what did Detroiters receive instead??
Well, because of the influence of the DSR and others, the proposed high-speed rail lines operating along wide central
malls within the center median of the expressways were never built. However, neither were the special bus ramps or
downtown underground bus terminals. What resulted were a number of so-called "bus interchange" or bus boarding
stations that were incorporated along the Edsel B. Ford (Crosstown) Expressway. What may be a surprise to many is
that the forgotten remnants of some of these former freeway bus stops, or "rapid transit" boarding stations, are still in
SPECIAL EXPRESSWAY "STREET-LEVEL" BUS LOADING STATIONS:
In the Sunday, January 2, 1955, edition of The Detroit News, DSR general manager Leo J. Nowicki was quoted as
"...with the opening of new stretches of the Ford and Lodge expressways and the completion of the Ford-Lodge
interchange, DSR buses will be able to move with a speed and ease unmatched by subways or other rapid transit
systems now in existence elsewhere."
Shortly afterward, the DSR launched its new Plymouth Express bus service on Monday, January 31, 1955. The
Plymouth Express would become the first DSR bus route to operate along "two" Detroit expressways, and the first to
utilize the new Ford-Lodge Interchange — portions of which first opened on January 18, 1955. A Detroit Free Press
article regarding the new service stated....
"...From [the Ford Expressway] patrons are whisked downtown in a record 13 minutes, including two stops for
passengers at Livernois and Grand River where special loading stations are incorporated in the Ford
Many may be surprised to learn that the remnants of one of these "special loading stations" can still be found today
along the Edsel Ford (I-94) Freeway, nearly sixty years later.
The express route of the Plymouth Express (which was transferred to the Joy Road Express later that same year)
would make two stops along its expressway route via ramps and lanes leading to street-level boarding stations like
the ones pictured above (see web-page). Coaches would exit the expressway via the exit ramp, follow a special lane
to board passengers, and then merge back onto the expressway. Although the eastbound boarding station and lanes
(highlighted on web-page) were eventually removed, and the ramps reconstructed into a more conventional ramp
configuration, the curving westbound Livernois entrance and exit ramp design remains virtually unchanged today.
Only in recent years has the special bus-only turn-around lane been removed.
Similar boarding stations were located along the Ford Expressway–Grand River exits. Eastbound coaches would exit
at the Grand River (Maybury Grand) exit, while westbound coaches would exit at the Grand River (Linwood) exit.
Although I've been unable to uncover additional information on this particular boarding station, aerial photos seem to
suggest that express coaches also re-entered the expressway via special bus only lanes. When the Dexter and
Grand River Express routes were routed along the Ford and Lodge Expressways for a short period beginning in 1955,
these boarding stations were used by both routes to enter and exit the Ford. However, this entire area was later
completely redesigned with the addition of the Jeffries (I-96) and Ford (I-94) interchange, which was built during the
[SEE WEB-PAGE FOR VIDEO CLIP]
SPECIAL "EXPRESSWAY-LEVEL" BUS LOADING STATIONS:
[SEE WEB-PAGE FOR PHOTO & MAPS]
Perhaps the most bizarre bus stop of them all existed along the Woodward Avenue overpass to the Edsel B. Ford
Expressway. That's where four stairways, costing a total of $29,500, were built from Woodward down to the
In an attempt to accommodate the DSR's vision of providing Detroiters "rapid transit" service through the use of
express buses operating along the city's expressways, the stairs were to be used by DSR passengers moving to and
from bus loading stations at the expressway level. The plan was that a new east-west express route would be started
along the Ford Expressway.
Special bus lanes were incorporated into the expressway to access the bus loading stations that were located at the
foot of the stairways. Express buses would enter the waiting area via the special bus lanes, board passengers
waiting at the station, and then re-enter the expressway.
Apparently, the city's plans looked great on paper, but they were never carried out. The stairways would remain
unused for nearly five years. With the access blocked off at the Woodward street level, the stairs became a reminder
of what could have been.
In a December 20, 1959, Detroit News article titled, "Stairway to Nowhere," the DSR's Superintendent of
Transportation Operations, James E. Bostick, was quoted as saying, "...The plan proved to be impractical. Surveys
revealed there was not sufficient passenger volume to justify the new line, and it never was started."
Consequently, wrecking crews had to be called to correct the five year old mistake. City officials stated that it was
going to cost money to remove the stairs. The stairways were slated to be removed in the spring of 1960.
In addition to removing the stairways, workers would also widen and lengthen the westbound John R expressway
entrance ramp, which passes below Woodward at that same point before merging into the westbound lanes of the
Ford. City officials reported back then that the total cost of the reconstruction work, most of which involved the ramp
alterations, would be $63,500. Those alterations which were made to the westbound ramp in 1960 is what remains
there today. However, aside from the removal of the stairways, no further alterations were made to the eastbound bus
lane, which remains — neglected, ragged and worn — to this day.
So what did Detroiters receive after all those post-WWII promises? Of course a number of the freeways were built,
but as far as mass transit goes, Detroiters received a couple of unused stairs, winding exit ramps, and a few deserted
bus lanes. OH WOW!!!
FOR RELATED TOPIC SEE: HISTORY OF EXPRESSWAY BUS SERVICE IN DETROIT
Information contained in the above article were compiled from various sources, including the Detroit News article titled "Stairway to
Nowhere" (December 20, 1955); miscellaneous Detroit Free Press news articles; Detroit's DSR, Part 3 by Jack E. Schramm
(May-June 1993 MCA); and the Detroit Transportation Board's 1945 Detroit Expressway and Transit System Report (posted at
DetroitYES! Archives). Express bus route information courtesy of "DSR BUS ROUTES, 1945-1975" (May-June 1993 edition of Motor
Coach Age magazine, pgs.30-40).
© 2007 – www.DetroitTransitHistory.info (TXV 10-07-14)
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|When the Edsel Ford (I-94) Expressway was being constructed during the early 1950s, plans called for constructing
four stairways to be built from the Woodward overpass leading to the expressway below. These stairways were part of
a rapid transit plan where passengers boarded DSR coaches from expressway level bus boarding stations.
Unfortunately, the end result became a "Stairway to Nowhere!" (MDOT photo)
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