Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Talk cheaper than gas more than ever

This article was originally posted as a comment on a headline appearing in Ferndale Online.
People from Clarkston don't need to come to Ferndale for our downtown--they have their own and it's quite nice, if a little more spread out than ours.

No, Mr. Mayor, the reason Ferndale and other inner-ring neighborhoods will likely see a rise in popularity is because of the cost of gas. As even Ms. Shor of Clarkston said in the Free Press article, "As much as we've enjoyed living in Clarkston, we feel that the exurbs are too far removed from everything. I hate all the driving."

This is pretty much what I predicted in May 2007 in the article Selfish Sympathies:
When gas costs $4, $5, or $6/gallon, people may not be willing to sit in clogged traffic and begin demanding subways, elevated rail, or other public transportation that can be financed with new gas taxes. Buses fall somewhere between personal and mass transit, but are neither personal or mass. Mass transit is progress for Detroit and Michigan.

Cheap gas accelerates urban sprawl. It makes 20, 30, or even 40-mile or more commutes an inconsequential expense. Imagine how real estate costs might change if Detroit and its inner-ring cities like Oak Park, Ferndale, Royal Oak and others suddenly become more desirable properties than Clarkston and Addison because of their close proximity to mass transit, urban infrastructure, office and retail space, and $4-or-higher per gallon gas prices.

One problem in Ferndale is our priorities seem disconnected from our rhetoric. There's a lot of mass-transit-talk from city managers and council persons, but that doesn't stop the spending or construction of pork projects in Woodward's median. Both the Crow's Nest and the Woodward Avenue Tribute Totem Pole actually stand in the way of mass transit as surely as a young Ferndale mother, her two-year old, stroller, and our Welcome to Ferndale wall stood in the way of a car driven by an medically-impaired driver.

Instead of walls, jungle gyms, or monuments we should erect signs announcing "mass transit coming soon," or "this is a site of a proposed mass-transit station" whether it's proposed or not.

If we're going to proceed using the Woodward Avenue median as our memorial park to local government pork spending, then we should drop the environmentally-sensitive/green city/pro-mass-transit talk and start lobbying middle schools to consider Ferndale instead of Washing DC for their Eighth-Grade Trips.

Maybe that's what our city leaders have in-mind for Ferndale's future--tourism.

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