Wednesday, January 13

The Detroit transportation industry

flickr credit (via infrastructurist)
Amidst all of the media hype and congressional soundbites surrounding the Detroit Auto Show, Robert Reich, a regular commenter on NPR's Marketplace, drops a heavy dose of reality:
"The world auto industry -- including GM, Ford, and Chrysler -- will have to rationalize, consolidate, reduce capacity. Bailing out GM and Chrysler, bailing out GM's finance division, giving cash for clunkers, hoping the American auto industry will bounce back, throwing another big auto show in Detroit. All this is irrelevant to the real challenge.

And that challenge is getting new, good-paying jobs for all the auto and auto-parts workers who will continue to be laid off, even when the U.S. economy is fully recovered. And helping Detroit and other auto communities create new industries that move people from place to place at minimum cost, with minimum carbon.

This is what the Detroit Auto Show ought to be about. Not more cars."

And if current market conditions are not enough to compel the Detroit transportation industry to diversify its portfolio, today's announcement by Ray Lahood about new criteria for federal transit funding may strengthen the case. Insiders are hailing this as a big shift in federal priorities. Cost effectiveness for transit projects will no longer be determined only on the basis of speed, but other "livability" factors will be considered as well - spurring development, limiting congestion, reducing carbon output, and in Lahood's words "how it makes our communities better places to live." If we're going to be buying more streetcars and rail equipment, it would be nice if Americans could make it.

The Infrastructurist has been beating the drum for a revived American train industry for a little while now, with an interview with Michael Dukakis, an interesting series on global train manufacturers, and an announcement from Michigan's governor over the summer.

1 comment:

Eric Orozco said...

Brighter days are ahead for manufacturers of light rail vehicles.

Speaking of which, 10 of the major vehicle manufacturers, including Bombardier, Siemens and Skoda, will be in Charlotte on Jan. 28-29. The city has invited them to pitch their latest Streetcar models to us and to tell us what they are developing in terms of alternative propulsion systems. An impromptu technology showcase is being hosted on the 29th in Charlotte's Government Center. Planners/transit people in other cities considering a streetcar future are also definitely invited to drop in to see what's ahead with streetcar/LRT technology.

I'm certainly very excited for my chance to interact with these manufacturers. Rail vehicle design, done well, is where industrial design meets urban design. Tom Low (of DPZ) describes it as "architecture on wheels"...