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Iconic Transit-Center Design Provides Eclectic Blend of Aesthetics and Functionality

Aug. 3, 2009

The Rosa Parks Transit Center, a new multimodal facility in downtown Detroit, is a $22.5 million project that was designed by Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) on behalf of the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT).

Located at Michigan and Cass Avenues, the Rosa Parks Transit Center is a 25,000-square-foot indoor facility with over 2 acres of exterior transit access. It enables customers to make connections to 21 DDOT bus routes, the SMART suburban bus system, Transit Windsor for international connections, and taxi access in a single downtown transportation hub. It also provides pedestrian connectivity to the Detroit People Mover stations at Michigan and Times Square, and was planned to eventually connect to the city’s future light rail transit system. The center offers travelers such services as on-site security, restrooms, information booth, cashier’s office, café, retail, and automatic ticket vending.

The Detroit Free Press called the transit center a “an airy gem ... a thoroughly modern facility with the look and feel of an airport terminal.” The design inspiration for the building's sharply angled roof line juxtaposed with its adjacent softly curved canopy is based on an airplane wing in the clouds, according to the center’s architect, Tushar Advani of PB.

The new station is highlighted by seven cloud-like fabric canopies.  PB evaluated numerous canopy systems before recommending a tensile structure for the design, and also researched fabric canopies at Stapleton Intl. Airport and Detroit’s Chene Park before planning the system. 

“Our aim was to create an iconic facility that provides a comfortable, respectful, and safe environment for transit users,” Advani says. Made of a tough, flexible, glass-coated fiber, the canopies offer form and function, providing the openness of a park-like setting combined with the strength to hold up to Michigan’s ever-changing (and sometimes intense) weather conditions. The canopies are designed to funnel rainwater to unoccupied garden areas, providing  nourishment for plants and a pleasant environment for transit customers.

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