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Beyond the Motor City highlights infrastructure issues

May 20, 2010 Media, Transportation 2 Comments

Infrastructure is not the sexiest topic, unless you are really into infrastructure as I am.

ABOVE: decaying Grand Ave overpass over Forest Park Parkway
ABOVE: decaying Grand Ave overpass over Forest Park Parkway

On Monday I attended the free screening of Blueprint America: Beyond the Motor City.

ABOVE: Beyond the Motor City Director Aaron Woolf at the Tivoli
ABOVE: Beyond the Motor City Director Aaron Woolf at the Tivoli

Director Aaron Woolf joined a group of us beforehand for dinner.  The dinner was organized by Courtney Sloger from Metro & NextStopSTL.org where she wrote a nice summary of the film and the post-film panel discussion, here is an excerpt:

“The film shows rich pictures and details of Detroit’s downtown area during its heyday in the 1920s – vibrant skyscrapers, retail and industries surrounded by neighboring burroughs [sic] and connected by bustling corridors with streetcars, automobiles and pedestrians. The rise of the American automotive industry ushered in a boom for the Motor City, and many of the city’s residents and industry moved to the suburban areas with the explosion of highway infrastructure and affordability of the automobile. Now the depopulated city (which had lost over half of its residents by turn of the century, but maintained its land acreage) is having problems affording services when people and places are so spread out. Providing services like public transit, fire, police, streets works, sewers, etc. have become almost prohibitively expensive, and residents lament the loss of community that happens when people do not live and interact with one another on a daily basis. The images of Detroit are stark, and the frustration of its citizens and leaders are palatable. As the movie points out, there are very significant costs, both economically and socially, of sprawl.”

Woolf pointed out in the discussion his films are not about assigning blame but offer hope and direction to solve problems.  You can stream the entire film at the link above.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. Todd says:

    I watched the movie, and I thought it was a little too uncritical of the claims made by the Spanish rail boosters. Spain has a massive pubic debt problem right now (i.e., it's one of the Euro-zone PIIGS that has the financial markets worried so greatly right now), and much of the debt was incurred by the big infrastructure projects the film so lauded. Of the G-20 countries, Spain has been the slowest to pull out of the current recession, and unemployment is twice what it is in the US right now. So this makes me question whether having fast trains between the major cities is such an economic panacea.

    I also question how easily Spain's approach to transit could be imported into the United States and Detroit. Nationally, Spain is much smaller than the US, and it is nearly three times more densely populated. On the city level, Madrid is over twice as dense as Detroit.

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