By Tyler Falk
Posting in Cities
Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" Super Bowl commercial was impressive. But it's not another car that will make Detroit a thriving city. It's urban density.
There's no use arguing that Chrysler's Super Bowl wasn't a success. At the Super Bowl party I went to, the company's two-minute advertisement demanded everyone's attention, and had us all saying "wow" at the end.
And as Andrew Nusca wrote on the Smart Takes blog yesterday, the ad was a good move for the ailing car manufacturer, and "to criticize the company for an apparently wildly successful advertisement during the most-watched television program of the year is to deny it the ability to pick itself up again."
He's right. Criticizing a commercial that silenced our Super Bowl party (and I'm sure lots of others) for two whole minutes is wrong. On the other hand, criticizing the car's relationship to the city is another story.
The rise of the car has also led to the rise of sprawl, and thus more car-dependent, communities. And not only is car-oriented development not sustainable, it's doesn't create a thriving city.
In his New York Times op-ed yesterday, columnist David Brooks makes an argument for dense cities, citing Edward Glaeser's book Triumph of the City:
Cities magnify people’s strengths, Glaeser argues, because ideas spread more easily in dense environments. If you want to compete in a global marketplace it really helps to be near a downtown.
In a successfully dense city, cars aren't part of the equation. For Chrysler to act almost like a savior to the city -- promoting its glittering car in the night lights after shots of dirty factories and abandoned lots -- is wrong, and provides a false sense of hope.
Rather, he admits that it's density that be important to making his city prosperous:
The key to our coming back is being focused and making sure that we've got the right kind of density in the right parts of the city.
Because as density increases a sense of community emerges, Brooks writes:
When you clump together different sorts of skilled people and force them to rub against one another, they create friction and instability, which leads to tension and creativity, which leads to small business growth. As Glaeser notes, cities that rely on big businesses wither. Those that incubate small ones grow.
Cars stifle that creativity by insulating people from their community, creating a sense of disconnect with the larger community. Honking horns are not the heartbeat of a successful city. Dense, walkable cities give communities life.
And as Krissah Thompson reports in the Washington Post, Detroit knows what happens when you rely on cars and big businesses.
Bing spent a recent evening at a dinner hosted by the Urban Land Institute's Rose Center, which has agreed to spend $100,000 to help revitalize the two-mile Livernois corridor, a stretch once known as the Avenue of Fashion.
"This city was hot," Bing told the urban planners. In those days, the Big Three auto companies and their suppliers had built the nation's largest black middle class.
Now, the avenue has Family Dollar, Auto Zone and the Gates of Heaven funeral home.
A more walkable, dense, city that relies on strong communities through small businesses should be the future Detroit aspires to. And The Urban Land Institute is doing a good job of trying to make that happen.
That's the luxury Detroit needs -- not a Chrysler 200.
Photo: Philippe Leroyer/Flickr
Feb 8, 2011
I have a quibble with the text here: I wonder whether all the people in Manhattan who streamed across the bridges on foot to get home on 9/11 knew that they were supposed to be "trapped" because of the "complete shutdown of all...bridges." Either my memory and a number of photographs published later are wrongkral oyunkanal d oyun
Detroit has many walkable neighborhoods which are dense with services. I moved to Downtown Detroit from San Francisco and am living the same walking, biking lifestyle I did in SF. The biggest difference so far is that people at bars, restaurants and coffee shops take the time to find out who you are and exchange stories. Plus, we have a genuine mix of class and ethnicities here and different folks actually interact with one another. The 'future Detroit' stories bore me, because I know I'm living a better lifestyle in Downtown Detroit than the vast majority of Americans.
Who in the world wants to live in a dense city? I don't, my little space out here in the suburbs is way too small. We need about 1/2 acre minimum. That way you have neighbors, but not so close that you can figuratively reach out a window and shake hands with them. One can set a garden to grow some of one's own food, if you live in an apartment high rise where are you going to do that? The rooftop maybe, but there wouldn't be enough room for everyone. If you have a few $trillion lying around doing nothing then put us all in a commune and put in a commuter rail sytem that connects all businesses and homesites. As it is now, in our city (OKC), the public trnasportation is minimal, comes nowhere near my neighborhood, and doesn't go near where I work. I, for one, don't make enough money to pay for all of this infrastructure, nor should my neighbor if he/she were a multimillionaire. This country is based on the wide open spaces and don't try to take that away. If YOU want to live in a dense city, fine go ahead, but don't ask me to.
Tyler, you don't know what you are talking about. I'm from Detroit and its problems have little to do with the auto companies. I was born in '59 and lived through the worst of Detroit's problem. Its real problem is crime. You want a "walkable city"? Make the streets safe. You want "density"? Make it safe for children to play outside their homes in the evening. Livernois died because of excessive crime, not urbanization. fix that and the rest will fix itself.
Like many urban areas, Detroit needs to shed its self of the politicians and unions that killed it with bad policies. There are many politicians that get reelected because they promote anger against successful people and thrive on keeping people poor and dependent on the government. Unions would rather see their members get huge pay raises and ridiculous benefits until the day a factory is closed and jobs are moved over seas instead of negotiating a fare wage that allows a company to stay in the USA. Has anyone else noticed that union membership peaked at the same time jobs started being shipped overseas? Membership has dropped as companies moved jobs overseas and younger people want nothing to do with unions. That is why card check is such a big deal to the President and the unions that support him. When unions know who voted against them moving into a shop the strong arms tactics can be used again. The good old days of union thug tactics will return. The biggest tip off that unions have gone bad is when they link union dues to income. Every pay raise they negotiate means more dues back to the union. A long strike to get a 10 percent raise adds peanuts to a union members pocket when 10 percent of their income goes to union dues. My father, a 40 + year member of the IBEW against his will because his shop went union, always said it was like paying another income tax to a shadow government. At 10 percent his union dues were almost double the state income tax. Between Federal and state income taxes and union dues, his take home pay was about 45 percent of his gross pay. Throw on unrealistic city property taxes and that type of taxation, as seen in Detroit and many other Democrat dominated cities, will kill a city by driving away jobs and people.
I plan to open a business in Detroit that is very unique and hopefully will draw in a decent size of a middle-upper class crowd. Now is the time to build Detroit again. Property is dirt cheap, the Dept. of Economic Growth is giving away up to $300,000 for businesses and liquor licenses are completely FREE! I think Detroit is on the rise again. I have faith in this city. Always have. I feel changes in the air now with Quicken and BC moving in, apartment rentals increasing. Density is next. Hold on and you'll see. Detroit pride is a feeling only felt by Detroiters--blue-collared workers who live in Metro and Detroit. It's something that cannot be shaken (no matter what the economic situation). Hold on a minute and you will soon see. You'll see.
...of why people keep fleeing them when given the opportunity? Perhaps when they start focusing on that idea, people will willingly give up their cars and move back into them, instead of using them as a means of escape from failed urban policies.
The key to re-building communities will be to give people the means to socially rideshare and rideshare with people they have chosen and can rate. SatisFly does this for airline commuters. Texxi does this for all forms of travel. We are waiting to hear from the AutoMakers.
I saw it during the game and I've watched it again. It's overrated. It's really not that great. I did like "Imported from Detroit", but other than that, it was not really all that great. I think a few influential people labeled it great, got the ball rolling, and then it just snowballed, with no one wanting to get in the way or say "so what".
Tyler, maybe in Indianapolis, people thought the Chrysler Eminem ad was great. I think so, too. But all I heard on the local and Internet media was that it was awful. However, Detroit's problems were cause by many things. Cars that weren't as good as imports. Policies by unions and Democrat governments that punish success, reward idleness and failure, and drove costs up. As a result, Detroit, and many other states dominated by Democrats and unions, are facing severe economic hardships. "The rise of the car has also led to the rise of sprawl, and thus more car-dependent, communities. And not only is car-oriented development not sustainable, it?s doesn?t create a thriving city" This is an ridiculous statement. The US was much more rural before the automobile, and has become more urban every year that automobiles have been here. Furthermore, most Texas cities are extrmemly car-oriented. Texas car-oriented cities are thriving. We have some of the most sprawled out cites, and they'r quite vibrant and successful, even in the 2010 economic climate. But then again, we aren't dominated by efficiency killing union and Democrat policies. Density? Density won't save Detroit, but it will save the guy promoting it. Can a car "fix" Detroit? Sure, if enough people buy the car, and keep buying the car year after year, and the company makes a good profit and builds the cars in Michigan and hires lots of people at good pay.
http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/01/vicious-cycle-stagnant-wages Even the Wall Street Journal admits a fact or two: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704530204576237081117462892.html
then middle class wages need to be paid. See my post to someone else above. There's a great link that tells how many union/Democrat states happen to be subsidizing your "freedom states". And it works both ways: Given how many union workers are whining about low pay right now, why aren't more private sector workers complaining about wages and working conditions? Do people like to be slaves? Do you like being one? (And I don't deny unions have problems as well... right now, there are bigger issues. About the middle class. That affect you. And all the taxes in the world can be 0% - that won't help wages. Including yours.)
Look, unions helped build the union class. If you don't like unions, give up 40 hour/week jobs, vacation pay, sick time, 95% of your current wage, etc. Also, if you want to play politics, you should read this article: http://www.politicaltruths.info/2010/11/16/red-states-mostly-welfare-states-dependent-on-blue-states-but-likely-too-uninformed-to-know-p2-tcot-teaparty/ Um, blue states are subsidizing your red states. And guess which color Texas is? In short, you're welcome. Keep up your posts showing the gratification and appreciation.