Thursday, November 7, 2013

A plea for UM students to vote local

I, too, retained my home address in Redford Township throughout undergrad. It's useful, because your bills and tax refunds then go safely to your parents instead of that weird kid who subleased your room for the summer. Changing it requires effort and a trip to a poorly constructed Secretary of State site (and it you're from out of state, you're still searching hopelessly for the DMV). And if you're from almost any Detroit suburb or anywhere else non-urban, you probably maintain the old excuse: "They need me more over there!"

Nope! Sorry. I know there's something heroic about imagining yourself offsetting the closeminded old white people in your hometown, casting the vote that tips the district, the state, and indeed the country for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Way cooler than joining the hundred thousand other liberal sheep in Ann Arbor, in a county that hasn't gone red since 1984 (apparently Washtenawites had a thing for Reagan).

Monday, November 4, 2013

Do planners need social media?

Oh, Facebook.  After six years of being part of the beast, I sometimes get tired of looking at all the faces and consider getting rid of the whole kit and caboodle. But, aside from the fact that I like seeing the designs everyone has carved into their pumpkins, I have a little devil that appears on my shoulder and whispers Carolyn, think about your career!

 Wait! you say. Urban planners don't putz around on social media. They, you know, draw maps and plan things other stuff.

But this funny thing happens in jobs I have, where I become a communications lady-planner hybrid. I manage facebook pages, and when I do I like it. Also, people like me! Over and over again. Creating pithy transit-related sound bites isn't the worst job in the world, and when your followers count sours into the several-hundreds, you feel kind of warm and fuzzy inside. It's a strange thing, really.

Monday, October 14, 2013

MANN ARBOR - choosing a new mayor

It's fall break, and this means I have time to write stuff.

The mayor of Ann Arbor, John Hieftje, has announced that he won't be seeking reelection. Well, you know, nobody can be mayor forever, and while I've agreed with him on some issues (cough countywide transit), I've disagreed with him on others (cough...RTA obviously...).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Normal curves and networking nerves

It's been a while, friends, and that's because I've embarked on a mission to become a real planner, getting a piece of paper that declares to the world that I KNOW ABOUT CITY STUFF. It'll be good to have in the end, and I am unbearably happy about all these other cool kids in my cohort I get to hang out with, but the day-to-day deal can be a drag. I have to learn about statistics, for instance.

I know it's important, for, um, something, but my kind of planning is convincing folks they want to pay tax money for a bus system, and normal people don't respond as well as you would think to normal curves.
From this picture, calculate the likelihood that the libertarian neighbors will raise their pitchforks against a randomly selected bus.

All that jazz. I learn these relevant, useful things, but for each one I learn something I'll probably never use again in my career, except when I'm fancy enough to go to cocktail parties. No, what costs several thousand dollars' tuition is that signalling device, that all-important bat signal sent out to future employers - and of course, the people I meet in the process.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Somos vegetarianas

Folks, this doesn't really have to do with cities or Michigan, but it's an old thing I wrote two years ago when I lived in Spain, and I think it deserves another go. Enjoy!


Madrid from my terraza

Nearing the end of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, aware that I’m about six years behind on this (but when you’re in school there’s no time to read), I’ve just reached the point where the witty journalist refutes the logic and morality of vegetarianism. It comes at a relevant time, when this aspect of my personal culture, along with many others, has encountered intense challenges.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Five cool things about Redford

So, sometimes I hate a little on my hometown for being a not totally walkable bedroom suburb with little to attract young people. BUT. I'm living at my parents' house during the month of August due to lease hullaballoo. and this throwback has led me to appreciate some of the wonderful changes, and wonderful things that have stayed the same. Ready for some Redford love? Here it comes.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bicycle rides, race, and gentrification

My boyfriend is starting medical school at Wayne State, because he's awesome like that, and it means that I get to spend more time in Detroit visiting his apartment and meeting his friends. Since I really like Detroit, this is a win/win situation. He recently invited me to join his classmates on a bicycle tour of the city. Since I also really like bicycles, this seemed like a good plan. I managed to stuff my bike into a tiny Ford Focus and zoomed down the freeway towards the riverfront.

(Actually, I stopped zooming before I reached the riverfront, because being totally clueless about sports, I neglected to take into account the Tigers game traffic. Driving in downtown Detroit that day was actually worse than driving in southern Manhattan. Really. I've done both.)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ideology and Art Fair (from the front lines)

Funny things happen when you squish all the ideologues in Ann Arbor into one block in ninety-degree heat and set the mood with an suave, amplified trilingual guitarist. Yes, friends, Art Fair may be a blast or, if you're a townie, a plague upon the city, but I contend that the real place to go for the action is the Walk of the Non-Profits. Stretching between Division and Fifth along Liberty, everybody from the Jesus Made Me Kosher to the Land A Space Rover On Mars to the Republicans/Democrats/ProLife/ProChoice/ProBanana/AntiBanana/ProHappiness/AntiFun - it's all there.

And I was all there, as much as the heat would allow me to be, myself one of these poor do-gooder souls who invested their hearts and sweat into a ten by ten plastic booth, hoping to lure passersby into my den of goodwill.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Anxiety in the city

I couldn't eat anything. And my God, I was in New York City. My aunt and cousin had already devoured a pizza from across the street, and we were at a weird diner where people wouldn't stop singing at us and I had in front of me, I kid you not, a salad full of goat cheese. Goat cheese is probably my favorite thing in the world. But I squished it between the tines of my fork and shared a sad look with my mother. The waiters were singing "Proud Mary", and I've had it stuck in my head ever since.

But I never saw the good side of the city / Till I hitched a ride on a riverboat queen

Not my first time in New York. No, friends, I got to the point there a couple years ago where the tourists would ask me for directions in the subway, and I'd give them the right answer (usually) (okay it was only three months but still).

Friday, May 3, 2013

Roadless in Plymouth

If you're wondering what I'm satirizing, check out the real story.

Michiganders woke up yesterday to find that one township has taken advantage of the bill recently passed in the state legislature, allowing any municipality in metro Detroit to opt out of the state road system.

Road removal has begun

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rats, shopping carts, and nice people.


I was getting a new aquarium for our pet rats, the reason being that our rats had grown a lot since we saved them from being snake food on New Year's Eve, and they felt a little squished within those glass walls. It was a ten minute walk to the shopping area, on a nice paved path along a speedy four-lane road with the bonus feature of pedestrian-activated traffic signals.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Car Culture Debunk

Do we not ride trains because we are obsessed with cars?

On the road to Ann Arbor at sunset

I can't tell you how many times, during public meetings for the transit initiative I worked on last year, some curmudgeonly man or woman in a semi-rural satellite community raised his or her voice and declared that it couldn't work, because unfortunately we live in a car culture, and our love for automobiles trumps all else. No self-respecting Michigander would be caught on a bus, so we shouldn't even try.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

America's Next Top Commuter?

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Due to the academic prowess of my homeskillet, who got accepted to med school at Wayne State, and my own choice to start a Master's program in Urban Planning at the University of Michigan in the fall,  I'm faced with choices that extend beyond the range of my heretofore uber-walkable, extremely local existence.

One might ask, Carolyn, how did you ever manage in the metro Motor City for six years without a car? Well, a few answers. My life for nearly four of those years revolved entirely around the city of Ann Arbor, where everything - school, work, friends - was in walking, biking, or bussing distance. The only thing that lured me away was my family back in Redford, and they kindly provided shuttle service whenever we wanted to see each other.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bar your windows, bolt your doors - crime

While taking a weekend in Detroit, I spent the night recently at a friend's home in Hamtramck. It was a beautiful house - one that his parents owned so he didn't have to pay rent (can you imagine?), one that he had painted and decorated nicely, one that had an extra futon with clean sheets for me to sleep on. Everything was perfect, my friend was super hospitable, and the cats purred peacefully as I prepared to sleep. But I couldn't help being a little on edge, and that's because of the cumbersome security door and window grates that had greeted us upon entry.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A tale of Pope Benedict and Detroit, in light of recent events in the city

How would a most distinguished visitor fare in our "urban environment"?

In a surprise announcement last month, the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declared that he had changed his plans, and would now live out his retirement in the city of Detroit, Michigan.

"Its struggle to reinvent itself is inspiring," he explained. "It is the ideal location for my own meditations and rediscovery."

Not long after moving into his stately Woodbridge home, however, he received a ruder awakening than expected.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cities sufferin from the chillies

Grand Rapids Transit Center, looking wintery. Photo by Carolyn.

This weekend, my homeskillet and I went over to Grand Rapids to hang out with his folks. I really like GR but I'm still not an expert on it, so I asked him to show me around downtown some more. We parked over by the transit center and began walking, ready for an urban adventure.

I looked over at him as we passed Founder's and he was crying.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Of public space and peeing

No, the pissing season is never over, not even in the winter. The message was tellingly scrawled on the women's room door in an Ann Arbor park - I imagine because it's pretty easy to open a fly at a distance, but taking off one's pants on the banks of the Huron River is another matter. If you're a woman (or a particularly scrupulous man), you're not in possession of a car, and you don't live nearby as I do, how long do you have to walk from that defunct latrine to find a suitable place to pee?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Belle Isle is a park, not a commonwealth

view from Belle Isle beach, photo by Carolyn Lusch

Crain's Detroit Business published an opinion piece by Keith Crain encouraging the city of Detroit to consider all ideas, however ridiculous, regarding Belle Isle - including those that involve creating an exclusive libertarian utopia commonwealth.
He could not be more wrong. Everyone in metro Detroit, including business leaders and politicians, should summarily reject this idea. They should do this to show Detroiters that they understand the difference between apocalyptic, frightening pitches and real, reasonable proposals for change.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


The word boondoggle was recently brought to my attention after residing sleepily in that part of my brain reserved for little-used vocabularly - by a commentator on a local new site who stated that the countywide transit plan in Washtenaw was the "biggest boondoggle in the history of the nation."

Wow! Do we get a medal for that? It sounded like quite a distinction. Having trouble summoning the mental dregs that would give me a precise definition, I turned to our good friend Wikipedia:

"A boondoggle is a project that is considered a useless waste of both time and money, yet is often continued due to extraneous policy motivations."

I considered posting that maybe, you know, the Vietnam War was a slightly larger national boondoggle than the transportation planifications of the fourth-largest county in Michigan - but my more prudent side prevailed.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Redford Rambles: The findings of two (Sub)urban explorers

Adam waits patiently for his bus
New trees along Five Mile

What will new planters, new trees, and new benches at the bus stops bring to Redford?