Rosa Parks Transit Center to get facelift

This article originally appeared in Mode Shift

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 and Cass Avenues in downtown Detroit, the Transit Center serves as Detroit's central bus hub. The 257,000-square foot facility, 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—problems include broken ticket machines, heavily-worn floors and ramshackle bathroom stalls covered in grafitti. Message boards displaying inaccurate bus route info have also been a source of grumbles for travelers.

Riders offer mixed reviews about the present shape of the transit center.

Elizabeth Gist, who's been riding Detroit public transit 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, believes the station "definitely" needs upgrades.

"The facility should be kept up," he said. "It's not kept up. 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 that the center was built to service 5,000 visitors a day, but is now averaging 8,000.

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," wrote the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) maintenance division by 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 light bulbs 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," wrote DDOT. "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 upgrade 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."

Treese adds that the message boards 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 in the past. "It sounds like they're making the right repairs," says Krause. 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.

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

Read more articles by David Sands.

David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.