Tag Archives: cars

A light in Detroit

The woes of the auto industry have been well-publicized throughout this recession, and with good reason. But there are projects that show some hope in the embattled Michigan city.

WNYC’s Soundcheck music program visited the Detroit music scene and how it’s changed in the past year. Soundcheck host John Schaefer reflected in a blog post about how an arts scene can flourish in a bad economy, and the challenges existing art institutions face.

Unfortunately, the things that allow a musical underground to form don’t usually work as well for bigger arts institutions, like the Detroit Symphony Orchestra or the Detroit Institute of the Arts. So the question is, what to do about these institutions. If you just let them disappear then it becomes much harder for younger generations to acquire a taste for the so-called fine arts. Plus, there is evidence that a high-profile arts scene can be help drive a city’s economy: the so-called “Bilbao Effect,” named after the Spanish town where Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum transformed the city into a major destination. And if the auto industry isn’t doing it for Detroit, something has to fill that void.

One developer in Detroit is reinvigorating interest in the area by recruiting “inchvestors” – people who are giving a small amount to one project and in return giving them a small piece of ownership in the land. Michigan Public Radio reports:

Some inchvestors have sentimental ties to the city, and they just liked the idea of having a physical stake in the place where they or their parents or grandparents grew up. But a lot of them are attracted by the project’s virtual possibilities and say Loveland is sort of like the SimCity computer game, but with real land.

PRX and public radio stations KCUR-Kansas City, WDET-Detroit, WUNC/The Story-North Carolina, WFPL-Louisville are getting ready to launch a new nationwide program, Shifting Gears, which will explore issues in the auto industry. Have a car photo or story of your own to share? Submit it to the Flickr group .

Shifting Gears will be available free for broadcast to public radio stations. More information is here.

Fueling confusion

The government’s Cash for Clunkers plan has dominated headlines this week – working so well in some places that dealerships have run out of cars.

Nightly Business Report’s Xchange blog details how the program is working so far, and which members of Congress are voicing their support to extend it.

“Today, Senators Diane Feinstein (D-California) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced their support for extending the program. Despite earlier concerns, they are happy with how consumers are using the program, particularly the increase in the number of fuel efficient vehicles purchased.”

But some senators are skeptical, Capitol News Connection reports:

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said she worries any new spending will further burden taxpayers.

“Most of the folks who are buying cars with this program would have probably bought a car. Maybe not today or tomorrow or next week, but probably in the next 18 months,” McCaskill said. “What does that say for demand next year, when this recovery needs to be sustained? Aren’t we just robbing Peter to pay Paul?”

KCRW’s “Which Way LA” spoke with California car dealers who are hoping Cash for Clunkers funding continues.

And for a car-related (and gas-saving) fun fact of the day, NewsHour’s Paul Solman finds out why different makes of cars have the fuel doors on different sides.

Economic Naturalist author Robert Frank explains:

“Putting fuel filler doors on different sides of different cars thus means that some cars can access pumps from the left. And this makes it less likely that drivers will have to wait in line for gas. That benefit greatly outweighs the cost of occasionally pulling up to the wrong side of the pump in a rental car.”