Friday, May 06, 2005

The hazards of new fortune

A front-page story in the Detroit News today addressed the growing ridership of mass transit in Detroit.

While only 2 percent of Metro Detroiters commute by bus, officials say a variety of factors, including newer buses with easier access for wheelchair users and bicyclists, is boosting the numbers.

They also acknowledge the system is attracting more people like Alger.

"Surely gas prices are a part of it," Dirks said.>>

This, along with the recent hemorrhaging of cash by Ford and GM (along with their bond issues being downgraded to junk status) are all related, more or less demonstrating what pessimistic prognosticators of varying stripes have claimed for some time: the era of cheap oil and the lifestyle it enabled is over. As I said during one of my lengthy and pedantic comments during Fishman's suburbia course, we will begin to see a new model of "haves" and "have-nots" based upon which cities have most aggressively prepared for the end of sprawl. That some of Detroit's suburbs have begun this process is a hopeful sign--though, as I discussed yesterday, Detroit's got a longer road back than most.

Anyone who has bought an SUV in the last 5 years is going to start feeling it, if they haven't already, and the utterly myopic auto companies that thought it was a wise business model to cater to the most indulgent and capricious whims of the last two generations (25 to 50 year-olds) are reaping what they sow.

The question for Michigan and SE Michigan in particular is, are we ready for a post-Big 3 future? The answer, for the most part, is "no."


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