Cognitive Dissonance in Detroit?

As both faithful readers of this blog know, Detroit has pretty much reached the end of its rope, and faced with the departure of its industry as well as more than half of its population, is increasingly turning to the idea of using the vacant land where homes and businesses once stood for agricultural pourposes. As the Los Angeles Times put it recently, in “a city where there are no major grocery store chains, and more that three-fourths of the residents buy their food at convenience stores or gas stations, the idea of having easy access to fresh produce is appealing.” P.J. Huffstutter, Investors See Farms as a Way to Grow Detroit, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 27, 2009, at p. A3.

We have noted this phenomenon in our earlier posts (see http://www.gideonstrumpet/?p=305  and http://www.gideonstrumpet/?p=331 ) and we wish all those veggie-loving Detroiters the best of luck in pulling this one off, even as our curmudgeonly side wonders how many Detroiters will actually abandon fast-food hamburgers and fries in favor of Ceasar salad and boiled cauliflower. But be all that as it may, another new idea has come to Detroit, that is not exactly consistent with the vision of Motor City as the urban truck garden of the Midwest. of December 21, 2009, reports that Detroit is well along the way to glomming on to federal funds that along with some earlier private contributions would enable it to build a trolley line running for 3.4 miles along Woodward Avenue, that city’s main drag. What’s wrong with trolley cars, you ask? Actually, nothing. Your faithful servant sort of likes them. He used to ride them regularly as a young gossoon, and always thought that the ride was fun. Last time we rode a trolley car, was in Hong Kong where, accompanied by Number One Son, we took a ride from one end of the line to the other to take in that city’s sights. And a fun ride it was.

But the problem in Detroit is that it is not exactly overflowing with tourists eagerly seeking to explore the Motor City by trolley. Besides, as noted, the whole shebang is planned to be only 3.4 miles long. So the question asks itself: who will ride those trolleys, from where to where? A hint of an answer to these questions is provided by the trolley line’s proponents who according to The Transport Politic’s dispatch, only want to “revive the city’s spirits and potentially its economy.” For that they mean to blow some $125 million? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to revive their spirits by judicious consumption of some bottled ones? In fairness, we note that they hope for an eventual extension of the 3.4-mile line to a full 8 miles, at a cost of $425 million. Still, if you ask us, blowing $125,000,000 to “revive the city’s spirits” seems a bit steep.

Besides, we have trouble envisioning all those agricultural workers shouldering their hoes and pitchforks and taking the trolley to reach the downtown urban truck farms. And if not they, then who will ride those trolleys?