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Slick Vik

Did lack of rail transit accelerate detroit's decline?

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So I  read the blog post linked. The phrase which  comes to mind is 'grasping at straws'. To even suggest that the utter socioligical failure and financial ruin of Detroit  can be attributed to lack of rail is mind boggling, when the only data point (and calling it a data point is using the term wildly loosely) is did x cities in bankruptcy have rail or not.

None of those other cities had the same confluence of decades- long failure and decay as Detroit. No wonder rail fanatics get such a bad rap. This guy clearly lives in an alternate reality. So now that we have realized the slow decline and ultimate failure of the auto industry, white flight, a re-born, smaller auto industry without the attendant good jobs, a huge  uneducated, unemployable underclass which happens to be the majority of city residents, resulting lack of investment, no jobs, decades of corruption and cronyism....and this blogger is still hoping for a streetcar.  To take Detroiters where, exactly? To jobs? 

 

No, this is emphatically not an 'interesting perspective.' It's crazy talk. I'm not anti-rail by any stretch, but jeez. This dreck is not helping anyone's cause.

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Uh...I believe the fall of the Third Reich disproves this asinine theory.

 

<_<

 

 

hitler-seeing-mussolini-off-from-the-tra

Edited by RedScare
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Historians agree that Atlantis tanked because of a lack of mass transit.

Rumor is that Troy would have done the same if it weren't for that Trojan horse thingy.

That article is one big logical fallacy.

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Yet another failed Keynesian talking point that suggests the reason Detroit owes $20 billion is because they did not spend another $3 billion.

post-11142-0-86812900-1374415072_thumb.j

Edited by TGM
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Uh...I believe the fall of the Third Reich disproves this asinine theory.

 

But Red, in the picture you have posted it's the guy on the train, not Hitler, that truly disproves Slick's conjecture. After all he was noted most for losing battles to Ethiopians and "making the trains run on time."

 

As a result, he and his mistress were shot, unceremoniously hung by their heels from meathooks, and displayed on a Milan street.

 

If summary execution and public degradation are the best one can expect from running an efficient rail system, it's no wonder John Culberson has done his level best to kill the University Line.

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I've thought about this more and believe that we haven't colonized the moon yet because their no rail transit on the moon yet.

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But Red, in the picture you have posted it's the guy on the train, not Hitler, that truly disproves Slick's conjecture. After all he was noted most for losing battles to Ethiopians and "making the trains run on time."

As a result, he and his mistress were shot, unceremoniously hung by their heels from meathooks, and displayed on a Milan street.

That was part of the GM conspiracy. They overthrew Hitler because he was pro-transit. That's why they ramped up so heavily to support the war effort.

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Pretty silly piece. 

 

Would a rail line have helped revitalized areas immediately surrounding it over a period of a few decades?  Perhaps.  But yeah, pretty silly to suggest the demise of a whole city because they don't have rail.  San Antonio doesn't have rail and it's doing okay.  Even though it's kind of a bland city, lol.

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Things that probably helped to kill Detroit:

 

Globalization

Mechanization

Rigid unmoving Union Practices

Crime

White Flight

Lack of Economic diversification 

 

Trains are a "bit" of a stretch. 

 

 

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That was part of the GM conspiracy. They overthrew Hitler because he was pro-transit. That's why they ramped up so heavily to support the war effort.

 

Actually, it goes much deeper than that.  Towards the end of his term as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1920, FDR instituted a covert operation to destabilize Germany and bring the nascent Nazi party to power.  Roosevelt knew Hitler and his second in command Hermann Goering had an affinity for trains and despised automobiles.  It's a little known fact that Hitler was turned down for a driver's license due to short-sightedness (an affliction that would come to haunt him more and more after the commencement of Operation Barbarossa in June, 1941).  Hermann Goering, of course, loved to play with his model trains and later in the war would spend less time at his Luftwaffe command and more and more playing with his Marklin toy trains. 

 

Roosevelt's end game in this was to prompt a new European war so that the US could bomb and destroy the European rail system once and for all.  He had failed at his attempts during the First World War and was determined not to fail again.  To this end, Roosevelt began a policy of provoking Hitler in hopes he would start a war.  Indeed, when Germany invaded Poland on Sep 1, 1939, Hitler blamed the Polish for not allowing him to build a rail transit line, with extrateritoriality, across the Polish Corridor that seperated Germany from East Prussia.  When the Western powers, the US included, lined up against Germany he attempted over and over to tell the world that Roosevelt and Churchill had provoked the war and were trying to destroy Germany.  This news was supressed by GM in the US and Western Europe.  Once the war was in full swing, GM became the world's largest defense manufacturer.  It built the planes and bombs that were used to specifically target rail assets in the European theatre.  After that, it exported thousands of Jeeps and other motor vehicles to Europe as the Allied armies advanced on Germany.  Thus GM, through the complicity of FDR and the US and British Governments, provoked WW2 as a means to destroy rail and build the world's largest automobile producer.

 

In his last broadcast from his bunker under the Reich Chancellery in Berlin on the eve of it's fall, his last words were...

 

Alles, was ich wollte, war einige Stadtbahn!
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I believe that the fall of the Roman Empire has also been blamed on lack of rail transit.

 

You are correct.  When the Vandals swept south into Italy and sacked Rome in 455AD, their battle cry was "Down with Rome, more light rail!".  Or something like that...

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You are correct. When the Vandals swept south into Italy and sacked Rome in 455AD, their battle cry was "Down with Rome, more light rail!". Or something like that...

I also recall reading about the "non in bardus meum" (NIBM) protests around the proposed site for the Colesseum. They were really upset that it didn't match the character of the neighborhood.

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I also recall reading about the "non in bardus meum" (NIBM) protests around the proposed site for the Colesseum. They were really upset that it didn't match the character of the neighborhood.

 

Yeah, but there was worse...Suetonius records in "Lives of the Caesars" the cases of the Ashbium Altum Surgentibus and especially the Forum Walmartium and it's Pontem Mortis.

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With the news that Detroit joined the growing list of municipalities to declare bankruptcy, I wanted to take a look at the role perhaps unnecessary infrastructure played in Detroit's implosion as well as what indicators might portend trouble for other municipalities around the country.

It's been well- if not overly-documented the role that a monoculture of industry has played in disrupting Detroit.  I'm also on the record suggesting that the negative impact of the car industry on Detroit was more indirect than direct.  That it was the suburbs that are more to blame for Detroit's implosion than the competition from other cities through non-union auto industry workforce.  The metropolitan area has diversified its economy and it has continued to grow while Detroit declined over the last 50-60 years.

I'm certainly not of the belief that any one thing killed Detroit, but rather a convergence of factors compounding their problems.  What I'm suggesting is what might be MOST to blame.  Or at least, what no one's talking about, that actually translates to other cities.  As I pointed out this morning, many of the cities that have declared bankruptcy, Harrisburg, Stockton, etc., have very high rates of driving amongst the citizenry.  And in HBGs and Detroit's case even higher metro population to city proper pop. ratios.  Point being, the weight of the surrounding suburbs is what can implode the city burdened with the infrastructure to support a much larger area, with a surrounding population loathe to pay for that infrastructure not directly in their jurisdiction.

Others like Streetsblog are starting to pay attention, noting that Detroit is planning $4 billion worth of new highway expansion despite highways that are by no means at capacity.  And even if they were, we have to start asking ourselves if new capacity, which then induces more driving, meaning more need for infrastructure and greater cost to the households in terms of gas and car ownership, is actually the direction we should be heading.  Particularly a place that has already hit bottom.  I guess MDOT and Detroit Metro Planning hit bottom they think the only way out is to keep digging.  /sigh

The truth of the matter is the only way to reduce congestion is to get people out of cars and to re-localize with emphasis on alternative modes of transportation which benefit from density, thus diluting the costs while increasing mobility through proximity.

----------
All of this brings me to some new data I've put together.  Highway capacity per capita is pretty easy to find and assemble (or at least getting easier) for metropolitan areas, but rare for within actual city boundaries.  So I've slowly but surely begun adding data to this table since it's pretty time consuming.  I actually measure out all of the highways within a city's boundary in 1 mile segments and create multipliers in the table based on lanes within that 1 mile segment (excluding on/off ramps).
 

Detroit is sort of middle ground here, but you could argue it's also the oldest in terms of its enthusiasm for highway/car-based infrastructure and thus, the furthest down the life cycle of construction, decay, reconstruction, and population dispersal.

Today, I added Atlanta.  Since I have so many Sun Belt and Rust Belt cities, I couldn't possibly leave out Atlanta, particularly because it has such a high metro to city population ratio.

I've also added median income and population ratios to this table.

The numbers are grim and perhaps illuminating, like a lighthouse in the fog demarcating the edge of a rocky shore straight ahead.
--------------------
Let's go through some of these Rankings shall we.

In the Chart above, I'm showing the following highway lane miles per capita within the city proper.  The numbers break down into pretty similar groupings.  Also, if your city falls on the worse side of Detroit in any of these, there could be a rocky landing in the future of S.S. YourCity.

KC: 147.74

Dallas: 96.38
Houston: 91.41

StL: 67.54
Austin: 66.53
Detroit: 59.31

Portland: 38.83
Seattle: 37.27

Manhattan: 10.83

Stockholm: 13.72
Paris: 8.15
Barcelona: 5.38
Vancouver: 3.13
London: 2.37

Where is Atlanta?  I'll tell you.

118.55.  Yikes.

This number puts Atlanta in between the Texas giants and Kansas City.
-------------------
There are other factors I thought necessary as density, income, and population ratio within metro will all be important when considering a city's ability to support this infrastructure per capita number as highways life spans end and they must be replaced.  Over and over again, whilst generating no new economic development besides some temporary jobs, but further undermining tax base.

Let's look at metro to city ratio:

Atlanta: 12.30
Manhattan: 11.67 (to entire MSA, not just NYC - so there is an intermediate jurisdiction)
StL: 8.79
Seattle: 6.15
Detroit: 6.15
Paris: 5.44
Dallas: 5.40 (this probably should be even lower since Fort Worth is within DFW MSA, but a secondary center)
KC: 4.43
YVR: 3.83
Portland: 3.80
BCA: 3.32
Houston: 2.86 (which annexes most of its growth)
Stockholm: 2.43
Austin: 2.18
London: 1.81

------------------------------------
In terms of median income (I had to leave out international cities to standardize data to US Census), Detroit is by far the lowest at 27,862.  Only St Louis is approaching that number with 34,402.  As we mash-up income with various factors like Density, Lane Miles per Capita, we start to get a clearer picture of city's facing some seriously uncertain futures (provided they think they can highway-build their way out of the problem of highway-building.  Which is hilarious if you think about it.)

Manhattan blows the box on showing this data graphically, so lists will have to suffice:

Dollar Density (which is millions of $ per km-squared):

Manhattan: 1,829.77
Seattle: 176.78
Portland: 84.76
St. Louis: 68.24
Houston: 66.42
Austin: 65.00
Dallas: 57.40
Atlanta: 56.55
Detroit: 55.31
Kansas City: 25.51

The irony of this list is that the cities with the most dollar density, or capability of sustaining infrastructure, would be the least likely to support highway and car-based infrastructure because of 1) the disruption to their existing density, and 2) clout via dollars.  I'd gander that any under Portland here are in some trouble.  KC, really not looking good.

Let's make it worse.  And mash Highway Lane Miles per Capita with Total Income Dollars as proxies for car-based infrastructure with ability to pay for it.  We'll call this data set "Burden."  Lower number the better because we're dividing infrastructure by income, meaning a low number would have low infrastructure and high income.  Drum roll for the most burdened cities of this particular cross-section of ten US cities:

1. KC - 704.93
2. StL - 617.04
3. ATL - 581.42
4. Detroit - 303.46
5. Dallas - 183.76
6. Austin - 153.03
7. Portland - 128..35
8. Houston - 95.87
9. Seattle - 94.96
10. Manhattan - 9.95

Most interesting here, besides just how much higher ATL, KC, and StL are than Detroit (/shudders), is Houston.  Even though it has one of the highest Highway Lane Miles per Capita number, it also is one of the most capable of affording their infrastructure from this list.

However, there may be another way to look at it.  And that's per capita infra over median income.  The previous was per capita infra over total income.

Looking at it this way, where population is, in effect, controlled looks something like this (again, don't be above Detroit):

1. KC - 3.27
2. ATL - 2.58
3. Dallas - 2.28
4. Detroit - 2.13
5. Houston - 2.07
6. StL - 1.96
7. Austin - 1.29
8. Portland - 0.77
9. Seattle - 0.60
10. Manhattan - 0.16

Put it this way, KC.  At least each of you own the most amount of freeway!  Go out, and plant your flag!  Set up a homestead.

The primary point I'm trying to make is that Detroit isn't an anomaly.  It's just ahead of the curve.  And considering its boom and peak was about 30 years ahead of much of the Sun Belt, the Sun Belt must 1) learn from Detroit, 2) don't repeat Detroit's mistakes and 3) plot a different course for a different, less car-dependent future.

However, the Sun Belt does have something in its favor:  population bubbles and timing.  Detroit collapsed before Millennials and retiring boomers sought out cities as places to live, which just might be the saving grace of our cities.

Now it's time to start building an infrastructure for them.  Not for the generations prior.

http://www.carfreeinbigd.com/2013/07/burdensome-highways.html
 

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Further to the author's point about how unnecessary infrastructure can cripple an economy, attached article details the impact that the Greek rail system had on the financial crisis in that country.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18032721

Hahahaha...it's cheaper to send people by taxi than by train in Greece. It's the lack of economic activity and the cars and traffic that comes with it that's the root of Detroit's problems. They need more cars and taxis on the road.

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Hahahaha...it's cheaper to send people by taxi than by train in Greece. It's the lack of economic activity and the cars and traffic that comes with it that's the root of Detroit's problems. They need more cars and taxis on the road.

 

That's just an illustration of what is heavily flawed in the author's analysis.  His base assumption is that unnecessary infrastructure can cripple an economy.  That's understandable, but he then moves from a general assessment of infrastructure to a specific assessment of road infrastructure without considering other aspects of infrastructure at all.  Lots of things are infrastructure.  Rail is infrastructure.

 

He also doesn't make any kind of evaluation of the infrastructure requirements of the individual cities.  Of course, Manhattan scores high.  Nothing gets made in Manhattan, it's heavily driven by the financial sector which requires virtually no material infrastructure.  Kansas City has a strong manufacturing sector like Detroit did.

 

Basically what the author is advocating is go heavily into finance and office jobs, they create high income, low demand for roads, and high density and don't support any jobs that require infrastructure. 

 

Hey, let's just outsource all manufacturing jobs to Asia then we can have dense cities with low infrastructure requirements.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that?

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Hey, let's just outsource all manufacturing jobs to Asia then we can have dense cities with low infrastructure requirements. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that?

Hahahaha...that's been government policy for quite a while now.

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When a city loses as much population as Detroit did, it's no wonder why they went bankrupt.  I think a more appropriate analysis is why did Detroit lose half of it's population, rather than why it went bankrupt. 

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When a city loses as much population as Detroit did, it's no wonder why they went bankrupt.&nbsp; I think a more appropriate analysis is why did Detroit lose half of it's population, rather than why it went bankrupt.

I gather that the OP's position is that they lost population because they had too much highway and not enough rail. If only Houston had more rail and less highway we wouldn't be in such a steep decline in population and economic activity...

Oops...wait a minute...

Edited by august948
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I gather that the OP's position is that they lost population because they had too much highway and not enough rail. If only Houston had more rail and less highway we wouldn't be in such a steep decline in population and economic activity...

Oops...wait a minute...

 

Actually, we do not know the OP's positions, because he has only typed two words in this entire thread. I'd like for him to give us his perspective, starting with whether he agrees with the crap that he posted.

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I guess half the population being functionally illiterate doesn't have anything to do with it.

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Detroit is a victim of two things....

1) a map

2) it's own success.

 

Detroit is land locked by it's suburbs- it can't expand through annexation, so it can't go grab a bigger tax base from the citizens who moved to the suburbs in the 70's.

 

Detroit was very successful n the 60's and 70's- so much so that it's people wanted a better life than living in old houses built in the 1920's and 30's, so they built larger houses in the suburbs, then moved. The people still worked in Detroit at that time, though.When all the successful white people moved to the burbs, the only things left in Detroit proper was the lower class whites and all of the blacks. 

When the people in the suburbs moved farther out in even better suburbs, the poor whites moved in to the older suburbs, leaving nothing but the blacks in Detroit. 

 

Then, the manufacturing jobs moved out of Detroit and into the 'edge cities', and to Canada, Mexico, and eventually China.That caused Detroit to implode on itself.

 

The same thing is happening to Philly, except that white folks still work in downtown Philly.

 

 

 

So.. to recap what Purdue said...

 

White Flight

Lack of Economic diversification

 

Globalization

Mechanization

 

Crime

Rigid unmoving Union Practices

 

(fixed the order for you)

 

and this is why Houston annexed Kingwood and Clear Lake, and will eventually grab the outer 290 areas

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Houston's affluent population is growing and pretty rapidly. I agree they also grow by annexation but this city doesn't need to in order to survive. It's a luxury

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and this is why Houston annexed Kingwood and Clear Lake, and will eventually grab the outer 290 areas

 

I think that's one of the key differences between Houston and Detroit. 

 

Both Detroit and Houston had signature industries that went through hard times.  Detroit was rigid and drove other industry into suburbs which were outside of its tax base.  It also drove its key industry to other parts of the country by not adjusting to the changes.

 

Houston annexed suburban areas that were developing other industry and encouraged diversification inside the city so that it retained a solid tax base.  It was flexible in supporting the growth and evolution of its key industry.  Discussion of the amount of rail is noise.

 

I understand why cities like this are recreating themselves as "new urban" centers.  They have to do something to differentiate themselves and draw population.  Detroit, Pittsburgh and other "rust belt" cities have lost population for decades now.  How do you start to draw people back?  You create a different experience for them then what they receive in other cities.

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The Rust Belt cities from Detroit to St. Louis, weren't afforded the luxury of annexation and as a result were hemmed in while the suburbs thrived. But Detroit has a bigger problem than that. The riots in 1967 were spun into a race issue, and having a mayor that branded every white family that moved to the suburbs a racist didn't help much. You also had unions who were stuck in the past when it came to new foreign competition, and a legacy of corruption stretching for decades.

And you're talking about not having a light rail that caused them to be where they are now. Unbelievable, simply unbelievable.

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So basically the premise here is that lack of rail drove businesses to the suburbs which caused the decline of urban Detroit.  Pretty thoroughly discredited, but I did find the following interesting.  Following are the end of year 2012 occupancy rates for the five largest downtowns in Texas.  Interesting that Dallas is the only one that has invested significantly in rail to connect the suburbs to downtown yet it has the lowest occupancy rate by a large margin.

 

I'll admit that this surprised me.  Thoughts? 

 

Fort Worth - 92%

Austin - 88%

Houston - 87%

San Antonio - 82%

Dallas - 73%

 

http://news.yahoo.com/downtown-fort-worth-healthiest-office-market-texas-165300521.html

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So basically the premise here is that lack of rail drove businesses to the suburbs which caused the decline of urban Detroit. Pretty thoroughly discredited, but I did find the following interesting. Following are the end of year 2012 occupancy rates for the five largest downtowns in Texas. Interesting that Dallas is the only one that has invested significantly in rail to connect the suburbs to downtown yet it has the lowest occupancy rate by a large margin.

I'll admit that this surprised me. Thoughts?

Fort Worth - 92%

Austin - 88%

Houston - 87%

San Antonio - 82%

Dallas - 73%

http://news.yahoo.com/downtown-fort-worth-healthiest-office-market-texas-165300521.html

Houston's is above 87% right now. Closer to 100%. Also the suburbs of Detroit definitely had a huge effect on the decline of Detroit. Ask anyone that lived in Detroit and they'll admit the same. Whether rail had an extra effect is open for discussion but the author makes an interesting point that when people have the ability to get around easy based on a public transit infrastructure that's helpful in tough economic times.

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Houston's is above 87% right now. Closer to 100%. Also the suburbs of Detroit definitely had a huge effect on the decline of Detroit. Ask anyone that lived in Detroit and they'll admit the same. Whether rail had an extra effect is open for discussion but the author makes an interesting point that when people have the ability to get around easy based on a public transit infrastructure that's helpful in tough economic times.

Those are end of year 2012 numbers. My point was that Dallas is the lowest of the five major downtowns by a significant amount despite the largest amount of rail which should theoretically push more businesses to downtown. If Houston's downtown numbers have continued to improve that just reinforces the point because I understand that Dallas' numbers have not improved.

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Whether rail had an extra effect is open for discussion...

 

No, it really isn't open for discussion. There is absolutely no empirical data suggesting Detroit's demise is related to a lack of rail transit. None. Only a single rail fanatic has suggested it. Even you are clearly keeping your distance from that opinion.

 

I am a rail fan, but I am realistic about it. That blogger is an example of being completely blinded by rail lust.

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Isn't Fort Worth served nearly 20 times a day by the Trinity Express commuter train? Doesn't that train connect to DART's light rail system? Doesn't the Trinity Express make stops in several suburban locations between Dallas and Fort Worth as well as at DFW Airport?

 

Didn't Fort Worth build a new intermodal transit center for the Trinity Express? Doesn't that center also have daily train service to Oklahoma City (Heartland Express)? Doesn't it also serve Amtrak's daily Texas Eagle Train?

 

Also, last time I was in Austin, I was pretty sure I saw a light rail line running through downtown...

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Those are end of year 2012 numbers. My point was that Dallas is the lowest of the five major downtowns by a significant amount despite the largest amount of rail which should theoretically push more businesses to downtown. If Houston's downtown numbers have continued to improve that just reinforces the point because I understand that Dallas' numbers have not improved.

The problem with DART is that it's eat to get in an out of town but not easy to get around town once you get in. That's why Houston's plan if it's built will make it easier to travel within the city with commuter links built afterwards.

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It's dubious to me that investing in light rail in Dallas is a cause of high vacancy rates. 

 

Houston is investing in three lines to go downtown and their vacancy rate isn't rising.

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It's dubious to me that ifactors atg in light rail in Dallas is a cause of high vacancy rates. 

 

Houston is investing in three lines to go downtown and their vacancy rate isn't rising.

 

Not implying that at all.  What I'm implying is that there doesn't seem to be a strong coorelation between the amount of light rail and downtown office occupancy rates.  Dallas invested heavily in light rail and that does not appear to have increased the number of businesses that choose to locate downtown.  

 

There are certainly other factors at play, but it definitely isn't what I expected. 

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Not implying that at all.  What I'm implying is that there doesn't seem to be a strong coorelation between the amount of light rail and downtown office occupancy rates.  Dallas invested heavily in light rail and that does not appear to have increased the number of businesses that choose to locate downtown.  

 

There are certainly other factors at play, but it definitely isn't what I expected. 

 

I will say that Dallas is getting an increasingly vibrant street level scene downtown and in the surrounding areas though.  So while the office buildings might not be occupied with major firms, there's plenty of business in the area from a retail standpoint. Not sure what their investment in light rail has to do with it, if anything, but it certainly doesn't hurt. 

 

In regards to the OP, the proposed light rail line in Detroit will most likely spark some sort of rejuvenation along the corridor over the next few decades, making the area a more desirable place to live. 

 

However Detroit's problems are much bigger than poor quality of life on one major street, lol.  There are lots of cities with poor public transportation that are doing fine.  The posted article is pretty laughable IMO. 

Edited by mfastx

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I am a rail fan, but I am realistic about it. That blogger is an example of being completely blinded by rail lust.

 

Detroit already has a rail system- the People Mover is pretty cool

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Detroit already has a rail system- the People Mover is pretty cool

 

LOL, that thing is a joke, not sure how or why that thing got built. 

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Oh please it's a ugly miserable city. They should have diversified their economy 20 years ago.  I still would like to go to that Pawn Shop there with all the hootchies go and take pictures. :lol:

   

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