Monday, November 29, 2010

Density Doesn't Solve Everything

Jane Jacobs
I'm a huge fan of population density. I have lived in and visited other cities with a lot more density than Detroit. I've seen its benefits on a firsthand basis. I've also been known to thrust Jane Jacobs's books in the faces of random people and urge them to read her works.

When Mayor Dave Bing started talking about increasing Detroit's population density, I was pleasantly surprised. There was a moment when I thought that we had an administration that got it; one that was able to move Detroit forward. Unfortunately, a year later, all we have is talk.

The worst part of this is that Detroiters still pay a tax burden that is roughly double national averages and we still suffer through public services that are almost non-existent. There seems to be a general acknowledgement that we need to change these things. However, we as a community have not made any real progress towards improving these matters over the past year.

I have, however, heard several people postulate that once a plan to improve Detroit's density is finalized and implemented things will start to improve. I have even heard people argue, in complete seriousness, that improving Detroit's population density is a prerequisite for improving basic city services.

This argument is, in my opinion, downright terrifying. The fact that I keep hearing this means that a sound urban principle, such as population density, has become nothing more than a corporate buzzword that is thrown around in lieu of actual ideas or actions.

For everyone who believes that Detroit cannot improve its core city services or reduce its tax burden until it improve its population density, I ask you to consider a few things: