Photo courtesy of DDOT

Detroit's Rosa Parks Transit Center is Getting a Facelift

The Rosa Parks Transit Center—yep, that wild-looking downtown Detroit building with the futuristic white canopy—is in the process of getting an overhaul. The city of Detroit has allocated $850,000 this year and next to fix up the facility.

Located at Michigan Avenue and Cass Avenue in downtown Detroit, it serves as Detroit's central bus hub. The 257,000-square foot center, which sits on a 2.4-acre site, was completed in 2009 for a price tag of $22.5 million.

Since that time, however, it's sunk into a somewhat dilapidated state. During a recent trip to the facility, Mode Shift observed a broken ticket machine, heavily-worn floors and ramshackle bathroom stalls covered in grafitti. Message boards displaying innaccurate bus route info have also been a source of grumbles for travelers.

During our visit, riders offered mixed reviews about the present shape of the transit center.

Elizabeth Gist, who's been riding with the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) for several months, described the station as "nice" and was happy to hear about the upgrade.

On the other hand, long-time rider Jerome Gainer, 53, told Mode Shift, the station "definitely" needed to be improved.

"The facility should be kept up," he said. "It's not kept up. Outside--look around--you can see debris on the ground."

According to agency's director, Dan Dirks, the facility has been deteriorating quicker than expected because it's operating beyond its original capacity. Earlier this year, he told WDIV-TV that the center was built to service 5,000 visitors a day, but is now averaging 8,000 people daily.

Back in January, DDOT announced it planned to spend $625,000 this year and $225,000 in 2017 to fix up the facility. Last year it added snow guards on the roof and security cameras to the interior and exterior of the building.

"We are renovating the transit center to counteract normal wear and tear resulting from six and a half years of intensive daily use, and to ensure a safe and pleasant user experience for all our customers," DDOT's maintenance division told Mode Shift in an email. "We continuously invest in all our facilities as needs arise and as funds become available."

The current overhaul includes upgrades of the center's floors, bathrooms and lighting.

With respect to the restrooms, the agency intends to replace bathroom partitions and sinks. That project is currently in its procurement phase. DDOT has already finished the lion's share of its lighting overhaul. As of April, It's replaced 70 percent of the exterior lightbulbs at Rosa Parks and is now working on the remaining 30 percent.

As for the floors, they're scheduled for a facelift later this year.

"The existing concrete floor inside the building will be scarified and resurfaced, as the existing surface treatment is worn away in many areas of the building," DDOT told us in a statement. "Specifications for the resurfacing project are being developed, and we plan to award the project and begin work in the second quarter."

Plans are also underway to fix the exterior concrete and to upgrage the transit center's generator and electrical system.

And what about the out-of-order ticket dispenser and problems with the message boards? According to DDOT spokesperson SuVon Treese, they're being addressed.

"The ticket machine at the transit center does not give out correct change," he says. "We are currently working to get the manufacturer out to resolve the issue."

In regards to the message boards at times displaying innacurate info, Treese tells us the issues are tied to DDOT's Automatic Vehicle Location system, which is now in the process of being updated.
Joseph Krause is a regular DDOT rider who's voiced concerns about the Rosa Parks facility to Mode Shift in the past.

"It sounds like they're making the right repairs," Krause told us, when asked about the upgrade. That said, he feels there's still more work to be done.

Specifically, he'd like the city to find a replacement for the upstairs restaurant, Louisiana Creole Gumbo, which recently closed, as well as a vendor for a retail convenience shop that was announced when the center opened. Krause would also love to see more active utilization of the building's escalator, which he's never observed being used.

"I'm happy that the unacceptable maintenance issues are being addressed," he said. "The next thing to do is bring the facility up to use in a way consistent with its original design."

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