Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why does Detroit make it so hard?

In "The Return of the King", the third book in "The Lord of the Rings," Samwise Gangee observes after finally entering Mordor that, 
"As he gazed at it suddenly Sam understood, almost with a shock, that this stronghold had been built not to keep enemies out of Mordorbut to keep them in."
Perhaps a nod to the USSR's iron curtain, or to Detroit's traffic management and neglect of its visitors.

Tonight I left our house in Ferndale to head to Ford Field an hour before a Monster Truck event.  Only 16 minutes away under ordinary conditions, we were trapped in our car for over 90 minutes trying to work our way downtown.

The closer we got to Detroit, the slower traffic moved.  I felt like the JoBeth Williams in Poltergeist trying to reach her screaming children when the hallway stretches longer and longer as she ran towards their bedroom.

Detroit proponents may protest that between the Monster Truck show, the auto show, and concerts at both the Fox and Fillmore theaters that some delays ought to be expected.  If Detroit wants these events to bring people down, they need to make sure these events don't end-up driving them away.

I was reminded why I don't go downtown for an event but maybe twice a year--tops.

90 minutes with two eight-year olds in the car?  Do you have any idea how many thumb-wars that is?

Someone once told me that the spacing between a woman's children is approximately the time it takes her to forget how painful the previous child's delivery was.  Perhaps there's a similar to affect on how frequently suburbanites visit Detroit.

After more than an hour, I gave-up trying to reach the Madison exit (the correct exit for Ford Field) and bailed-out onto Mack.

Bad idea.

Though not as bad as Judgement Night, so many streets were closed off I had to travel west from I-75 past Woodward before making my way toward Grand Circus Park.  Lots of cars.  Lots of pedestrians.  None of them looking happy to have made it as far as they did, with many more blocks to walk from where they abandoned their cars in neighborhoods as dissimilar from their suburban homes as Mordor is to the Shire.

Leaving the city was only slightly easier than trying to get into it.  I felt like Kurt Russell trying to escape from Detroit's sidestreets.  Just as the approach to Detroit, there wasn't a police officer in sight directing traffic, or sufficient signage to assist visitors find the quickest paths to freeways.

Some may say this is an argument in-favor of public transportation.  Rather, I think, it's an argument against building a new Joe Louis Arena for the Red Wings downtown, and a reminder about the appeal Pontiac's Silverdome had for the Lions, or Auburn Hills' Palace has for the Pistons.  Or for that matter, why it's so much more enjoyable to patronize restaurants in Ferndale, Southfield, Dearborn, Troy, or even Rochester (OK, maybe not Rochester) than to pay the price of going downtown--especially when other events are going on.

Figure out how to bring people in and get them out, and perhaps they'll do more of both.

In the meantime, my next dinner reservation will be at Howe's Bayou.