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That People Mover Sound

Back in high school my friends and I used to goof on the Detroit People Mover, the little unidirectional skytrain in Motown that doesn’t go much of anywhere. It’s a driverless ICTS train powered by a linear induction motor, manufactured in Canada by the now-defunct UTDC.

One of the Mark I ICTS trains’ quirks was the pronounced shifting-gear like whine heard whenever it would resume motion. I found this video on YouTube that captures the sound perfectly (at 0:39) — but it’s not of the Detroit People Mover, it’s of one of the still-operating Mark I ICTS trains from Vancouver’s Skytrain system. This, the DPM and Toronto’s Scarborough RT are the only rail systems in the world still using the Mark I ICTS.

When these trains reach end-of-life, upgrades may be quite costly as the Mark I is no longer made and the Mark II may not be directly compatible with existing track. That’s just another wrench in the works when you consider the People Mover would need to charge approximately $3 per ride in order to break even on its operating costs, yet to this day, rides are still the same 50 cents that Detroit has been charging since 1987 when the trains began operating.

There are plenty of clips of the actual Detroit People Mover on YouTube — almost all of them very poor quality — but my favorite is this VHS footage of a ride around the complete circuit in 1987, shortly after the DPM opened for business. Vintage! (And no, I don’t know what’s going on with that music, either.)