With one of the most modern midfield terminals (McNamara Terminal) in the nation, Detroit Metropolitan Airport has much to be proud of. This magnificent structure impresses nearly everyone who uses it. Among its seriously cool features is the elevated internal ExpressTram service that run most of the length (3,700 feet) of this massive, mile–long facility. In fact, McNamara Terminal is the second longest airport terminal in the world.
While rail is obviously utilized within Detroit Metro, the overall facility is anything but rail transit friendly at the present time. Passengers arriving and departing are limited to using their own vehicles, shuttles, cabs, and buses. Granted this is the Motor City, but trains have motors too! Fortunately, there is a silver lining, as a Norfolk Southern Railroad line abuts the northern boundary of the airport aside I-94. This rail line corridor is perfectly suited for bringing rail transit from downtown Detroit right into the heart of the airport and serve both the North and McNamara Terminals.
About three miles north of the airport terminals is another Norfolk Southern line that connects Chicago with Detroit and is also used for AMTRAK’s Wolverine service. A new off-site airport station along this line would include a bus rapid transit or light rail connection from the station to the airport along Merriman Road, according to the 2007 alternatives analysis.
A few years back I was at Detroit Metro Airport as two of my sons were departing on a scout trip. While there, an upset and somewhat disheveled women walked into the terminal from outside. As she passed us, she stated out loud, “what kind of city doesn’t have train service to its airport?” Very good question. Hopefully, in the VERY near future all of us in Southeast Michigan will be able to enjoy such a world-class rail transit system in one of the formats identified above.