Thursday, March 03, 2005

Detroit Don't Get No Respect... Even From Michiganders!

Continuing what I started yesterday... one of the problems Detroit has is that its suburbs are cut off from the city. If you look at the great cities of North America, they all have good public transport into downtown from the suburbs and vice versa. Chicago, New York, Toronto... the list goes on and on. Detroit doesn't have a rail system... or a subway... or even efficient, logical bus service from the suburbs to downtown. As a result, downtown struggles to build and market itself because it needs suburban money, but the suburbanites don't have any way to get there except by car, which they then drive aroudn in circles looking for a place to park. This isn't a death knell in itself, but the city sure doesn't make itself inviting.
Everyone is familiar with the movie "8 Mile", and in that film the significance of that street is explained... it is a physical dividing line, a barrier, a divided highway difficult to cross except by automobile. I live in Ferndale, a suburb just north of Detroit, about half a mile north of 8 Mile. As I head down Woodward Avenue, the old highway that runs from the northern suburbs all the way down to the riverfront, I encounter a monstrosity at 8 Mile- a huge, ugly bridge that goes over it, impassible except at great peril to pedestrians, effectively cutting the city off. On the Detroit side of 8 Mile, just east of Woodward, lies the State Fairgrounds, home to the Michigan State Fair, which everyone in Ferndale, despite the fact that they can see it right across the street, has to drive to... because otherwise, they take their lives in their hands. Examples like the Woodward Dream Cruise are also telling- every year, folks with classic cars bring them to Woodward Avenue and cruise up and down the road for three days. Last year the event drew over 30,000 classic cars and one million people... yet the course ran from Pontiac in the north to... 8 Mile in the south. In other words, an event celebrating the best products of the Motor City does not actually enter the Motor City. Not that there's much to see on Woodward south of 8 Mile until you get to the New Center area, anyway...
The division is as mental as it is physical. I went to the pharmacy today to pick up the photos from yesterday's field trip. The photo clerk told me she loved my photos, with all of the interesting buildings, places, etc. She then asked me "Where is that? New York?" My jaw hit the floor. The place we were standing was literally only about ten miles from where all of the photos were taken! "No... Detroit." I said. She looked shocked. The unspoken words were, of course, something like "Really? I had no idea Detroit had all that cool stuff in it."
Wow. While a tourist boom would be nice, it would be equally effective if folks around here knew about the coolness that is right under their noses.


Anonymous said...

You actually watched 8 Mile!?!?!

Hatrax said...

Nope. Saw a five-minute clip of it, read extensive info about it, and know what it's about. I mentioned it because the film brought to national attention what Detroiters have known for a long time- 8 Mile isn't just a road, it's a border.