105th ACSA Annual Meeting Proceedings, Brooklyn Says, "Move to Detroit"

The Derailment of Detroit: Public Transit as a Threat to the Brand of Capitalism

Annual Meeting Proceedings

Author(s): Noah Resnick

The disappearance of the Detroit Street Railway in themid 1950’s ushered in the demise of a functioning masstransit system in a city that had found such a thingto be obsolete. While this loss cannot be blamed forthe economic, social, and spatial collapse of the city,neither can the reverse be said that the once largesturban network of streetcars in the nation was simplya victim of Detroit’s ruin. When the last streetcarmade its final run in 1956, the Motor City brand andthe auto industry it nurtured were at the peak of theireconomic powers, and the high-water mark of thecity’s population. This paper will examine the factorsthat caused a large city to abandon its primary masstransportation system and build the argument that itwas not the slow deterioration of a failing municipalamenity, but the result of an automotive brandingcampaign that defined capitalism by infiltrating thespatial, social, cultural, economic, and governmentalmechanisms of the American city.

Volume Editors
Luis Francisco Rico-Gutierrez & Martha Thorne