All aboard

Nov 16, 2005 at 12:00 am

We want to begin the conversation in earnest, without the historic recriminations, obeisance to special interests, disregard for what we see and experience every day, and foolish refusal to recognize that the train coming down the tracks can either destroy us or give us an easy ride.

The issue in question is how we can best move from Point A to Point B and back, whether it’s from home to work, home to play, city to suburb or the other way around. The answer isn’t cars.

At this point, the wisdom of reliance on fossil-fueled, two- or four-seat horseless carriages is dubious at best. Their invention created Detroit and changed the world. But we have taken things to extremes.

Now, as we bitch about gasoline price-gouging, or become inured to it, we continue to roar around in largely pointless status symbols like SUVs or overpowered pleasure rides, thinking that the road will never end, because it never has. We continue to kiss up to the auto and trucking interests because so many of us are tethered to both. We seriously consider every day which of our natural treasures is expendable in the name of drilling for natural resources.

And here, more than anyplace else in the country, the idea of mass transit is heresy because, hell, we’re Detroit and we put the world on wheels! But while that happened, we came to value autoworkers over schoolteachers, Hemis over homework, gasoline emissions over fresh air or fair weather, parking lots and pavement over farmland or simply open spaces — all the while blissfully ignoring signs pointing down the path to our own destruction, all the while looking for someone else to blame.

The auto companies can and will take care of themselves, or die of their own excesses. The same goes for labor unions, which, in many cases, went far beyond the original mission of demanding and receiving fair treatment for the working man, and continued to ask for more after it was attained. At some point, takeaways are inevitable.

Detroit has reinvented itself several times, landing on an auto-centric way of life after serving variously as a shipbuilding powerhouse, a stove-making center and the Arsenal of Democracy. It can do so again; it has to.

Efficient, affordable mass transit throughout the region can play a key role in that, while uniting its component parts and helping to heal the fractures that have separated us. And a very strong argument can be — and is being — made that the economic benefits are enormous.

This issue of Metro Times includes what we regard as an intro to our effort in the next year to facilitate discussion of regional mass transit. I strongly encourage you to read Keith Schneider’s cover story, “Road not working,” and then join in. We can get there. We really don’t have any other choice.

The people have spoken, a little less than half of them anyway, if you can believe anything from Jackie Currie’s marvelous vote-vending apparatus. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will retain his plush office. He says he’s learned from his first term, including that he and his administration need to be more open with the press — which is to say, with you. He says he wants to build relationships. In that spirit, I stand ready. So, Mr. Mayor, when are we going to have that lunch?

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