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I went to Detroit

Update: I’ve started uploading my own photos now, starting with some of musicians who performed at Movement.

There were so many “firsts” this Memorial Day weekend for me.

  1. I traveled on a Greyhound bus to Detroit. Coming back, I took Greyhound to Kalamazoo (another first!) and switched to an Indian Trails bus (same itinerary, though).
  2. I visited and stayed in Detroit.
  3. I went to Movement, the Detroit Electronic Music Festival.

You can bet that all of these have urban planning and transportation links, even the festival (you have to manage the influx of 100,000 people somehow!).

Part of visiting and staying in Detroit obviously includes many other firsts like,

  • Riding the Detroit People Mover in a complete circuit while also being temporarily ejected so a team of Department of Homeland Security agents could bring a dog aboard to sniff for explosives. I didn’t know anyone took the DPM seriously enough to do this, but it was also during a large festival, so I guess that’s appropriate.
  • Riding Detroit transit buses. This was weird. Thankfully the Detroit bus routes are in Google Maps so finding a route is dead simple. Finding the bus stop is not as simple, as not every bus stop sign indicates the routes it serves!
  • Visiting three museums! My friend and I checked out the Motown Museum (awesome, a must-see), the Detroit Institute of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
  • Dancing at the Magic Stick club for an after party with local DJs. Unfortunately no one told us they stop serving Alcohol at 1:30 AM. Or was it 2 AM?
  • Walking 2 miles to see the Michigan Central Train Station, abandoned in 1988. This local guy came around to us while we were walking along the fence and showed us how to get in.

My poor perceptions of Detroit and Greyhound were reversed thanks to this trip. I’ve got a lot of ideas for Greyhound, but only one so far for Detroit. Detroit’s an interesting place and it’s not like it was bombed like Hiroshima as I imagined it was after reading countless news doomsday articles about the city. It’s probably best if you have a car in Detroit if you want to see many things in a short amount of time, or increase your taxi budget – everything is far away from everything else and you probably don’t want to wait 30 minutes for the bus.

I’ll write more about Detroit when I upload my photos.

Photo of Michigan Central train station, abandoned in 1988 when Amtrak quit service here, by Kyle Gradinger.

Photo of the Renaissance Center, world headquarters of Government Motors and a Marriott Hotel, on the Detroit River waterfront, by James Marvin Phelps.

Heard of the Great American Streetcar Conspiracy?

General Motors and Standard Oil bought up the country’s streetcar systems, replaced the routes with buses, and thus began America’s automobile love affair and distaste for mass transit.

Streetcars are being now being rebuilt all across America, including in Portland, Oregon.

Heard that before?

Before you perpetuate it further, read this essay for some perspective on the story. Apparently, it’s a problem only liberals suffer from.

Even today it resonates with liberals – The Atlantic casually mentions it as the reason America abandoned mass transit, The Nation wrote a whole article about it a few years ago, Fast Food Nation discusses it, and in the last week I’ve seen two references to the theory in the planning blogosphere.

Now, this essay still isn’t the “end all, be all” chronology of transportation evolution history in the United States.

The new(ish) streetcar in Portland, Oregon.

Do you know of a book or article where the writer summarily presents concrete evidence? The essay does cite four academic sources, so it’s the best explanation of the so-called conspiracy I’ve ever read.

I’m bringing this up thanks to Edward Russell, who posted it, and my sister, who mentioned it to me after a friend told her about the story.

© 2014 Steven Can Plan

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