Detroit 3.0: It's Aerotropolis
May 5, 2011 5:48 PM   Subscribe

I find it amusing that the blog hosting the first link is "the Utopianist," and that the first inline graphic appears to show Manhattan with Central Park transformed into an airport.
posted by mwhybark at 6:03 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

2012 - Aerotropolis: A city built around an airport
2020 - Aeropolis: A city inside an airport (ID check to enter.)
2035 - Aeropolis Network: An alliance of safe Aeropolises.

No criminal record? Great genetic disposition? Join the Alliance today!
posted by lemuring at 6:05 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Reading This interview with one of the authors, I don't know what I find more disturbing: the horrific dystopian future they present, or the giddy enthusiasm they have in trying to make it happen.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 6:11 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yet another reason to look forward to the oil crash.
posted by ocschwar at 6:13 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

I thought freight was mostly moved by container ship... and that air travel would become more prohibitively expensive as fuel goes up in price...

I mean, why do people hate trains so darn much anyway? I just do not get it. I admit that I'm not a specialist in this area, but it seems like trains can:

A. Move very fast.
B. Not expend energy to move X mass Y distance up in the air.

So somebody fill me in, is air travel / air cargo transport really an efficient use of fuel?
posted by SomeOneElse at 6:21 PM on May 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

You know what? That sounds pretty awful.
posted by gc at 6:23 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

How the hell are they getting internet access in 1952?
posted by The Whelk at 6:27 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Why build your city around the airport when you can build your airport on top of your city? Win-win!
posted by hangashore at 6:42 PM on May 5, 2011

Thank you SomeOneElse,

Here's an article that appeared in the Guardian. Key tidbit:
"Shipping is responsible for transporting 90% of world trade which has doubled in 25 years."
Here's a discussion of the article on Treehugger. Key tidbit:
"If the same amount of freight was shipped by air or by sea, which would produce more greenhouse gases?...if it is a question between shipping cargo by ship or by plane, then it looks like the ship wins every time, at least if these numbers are to be believed. "
Although, to be fair, there are ecologically-sustainable transportation methods and possibilities for ground, sea, and air.

Nevertheless, container ship+container truck is by far the dominant method for the transportation of goods today. The closest hydro-counterpart of the Aerotropolis is Jebel Ali with its Jebel Ali Free Zone (which you may have seen in Code 46). The port is operated by DP World and is one of many that DP World operates.

A true hydro-counterpart to the idea of the Aerotropolis would be to take the mega land reclamation projects in Dubai and plan them to be port cities, as opposed to massive residential developments. Hydropolises could be created between continents as halfway points for people as well as goods.
posted by lemuring at 7:02 PM on May 5, 2011

I'm not suggesting this is a well-thought out idea.
posted by lemuring at 7:05 PM on May 5, 2011

Hey lemuring, I have an idea! Why don't I interview you for a breathless go-go book about how water-based trade may well be the very future of mankind, and then flip that into a personal full-employment plan in which I research the idea that water-based transport of goods - in vehicles known as 'ships' - may lead to the development of a loosely-interconnected network of water-oriented trading cities, or, as you call them, HYDROPOLII.

I can clearly see the future, where these 'port cities' will place the shipping and receiving 'centers' AT THEIR LITERAL CENTERS, and a thriving submarine tug trade will move the goods from the open ocean to the central shipping centers BENEATH THE VAST URBAN BUSTLE such a visionary economy will generate.
posted by mwhybark at 7:36 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ah, so the book revitalized it. I was all into researching to make a post a few years ago. I saw boingboing had some stuff on it and found some really cool pdfs but it was still too thin. Nice to see there's a book out (along with the Detroit thing) that brought the talk back.
posted by cashman at 7:52 PM on May 5, 2011

ha :)

One could reframe the proposal for Aerotropolises in the same way; they're cities with 'airports' that transport goods using vehicles known as 'aer-o-planes'.

The point of the FPP article was:
To build ready-made cities that are sustained by a centrally located airport and that are planned with an even greater focus on air travel and transport.

In other words, to intensify the current idea of an airport city to a degree where it's a qualitatively different kind of city, an Aerotropolis.

I was simply suggesting that the same could be said of today's port cities.
posted by lemuring at 8:02 PM on May 5, 2011

mwhybark, submarines are totally the new steampunk. Mark my poorly-informed, sheltered words.
posted by gc at 8:05 PM on May 5, 2011

Detroit as an aerotropolis? The airport there's not centrally located. It's in Romulus.
posted by DaddyNewt at 8:11 PM on May 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

gc: "mwhybark, submarines are totally the new steampunk. Mark my poorly-informed, sheltered words"

All the rage for drug shipments, I'm hearing.
posted by mwhybark at 9:26 PM on May 5, 2011

DaddyNewt: "Detroit as an aerotropolis? The airport there's not centrally located. It's in Romulus"

When will the oppressed of Remus rise up and wrest the star empire from their overlords?
posted by mwhybark at 9:29 PM on May 5, 2011

lemuring: "I was simply suggesting that the same could be said of today's port cities"

Sorry, I wasn't meaning to knock your point, although I can see how it came off like that. I was more trying to poke at the whole concept of visualizing actual physical central hubs for certain kinds of transport as the geographic center of the city. Ports need open water nearby or they can't do volume. Airports need to be able to add runways, for similar reasons. Siting an air-based industrial shipment center centrally is a bad, bad, bad idea, since growing the center would then require the site to acquire what has become the most expensive real estate.

Not to mention how physically trying it is to live or work under a low altitude approach, or the cost per weight unit of air-shipped goods. I'm an airplane freak of the first water, but the argument here seems overblown to me on first blush.
posted by mwhybark at 9:36 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think after 9/11 the idea of having planes land so close to one's house would make many Americans shudder. Not to mention the noise - I live directly in a flight path, 2 miles from the Milwaukee airport, and I frequently have to stop phone conversations or pause my TV.
posted by desjardins at 9:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Silly, silly, and more silly. Air travel is getting worse, not better. TSA checks, ever-shrinking seat sizes, ever-increasing ticket prices, long lines, and aging 747 fleets all over the world.

If you need to fly from America to Asia, yes, sure. Africa to Europe, maybe. But Chicago to Des Moines? L.A. to Seattle? Miami to Dallas? LET THERE BE HIGH SPEED TRAINS. See, now if I were God, boom, we'd have them now. But I'm not, so we need to build them. We might get started, but it'll fall to our grandkids or great grandkids to really get the high speed rail ball rolling.

As a kid, I used to love to fly. Now I hate it. Hate it, hate it. And I don' think I'm alone. I live in Japan and sometimes take the bullet train and it is so easy, so convenient, it's cheaper than a plane, and doesn't make that big a difference time-wise, either, when you subtract out all that time you spend going through the Security Theater.
posted by zardoz at 9:45 PM on May 5, 2011

My city of Edmonton has been an aerotropolis since 1929, when Blatchford Field (now the Municipal) was built. Then they built the International Airport in 1960, way off to the south, and the two airports have been engaged in a kind of death struggle ever since, competing for traffic. It took decades, but city council finally got the political momentum going to ensure the Municipal Airport will be closed. It's a gradual thing, but in a few years the central airport will be gone and new neighborhoods will take its place. So I guess we're going backward by Kasarda and Lindsay's standards.

I've lived under the Municipal's flightpath for many years, and it wasn't much fun back in the high traffic years when 747's would roar overhead at odd intervals, shaking the cupboards. It also sucks having a big hole in the city that you have to go around if you want to get anywhere. All in all, I think the aerotropolis is one of those ideas that's better in the abstract than it ever is in the real world.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:57 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

A quick Googling shows car carrier transport ships that can hold 6,500 or even 8,000 cars. How big are these planes going to be?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:25 PM on May 5, 2011

I read this book last week.

Or most of it, anyway. I gave up when I realized nothing interesting was going to happen, except possibly the arrival of our corporate overlords, and the descent of the human race into a joyless and horrific existence.

Which was sad, because I find the general concept -- that the transportation levels within our reach transform the way we build our cities and our civilizations -- to be fascinating. But the book is basically the theories of a man who must surely be on the side of the baddies in envisioning the future, and a young writer who barely looks old enough to order a drink describing these theories, in a tone ambivalent enough that I feel like he's trying to make them sound awesome, but even he is kind of privately appalled at how awful it sounds.

Because as best as I can figure out, the Big Idea is to sell the making of cities to corporations with boatloads of money, and let them build a city around their needs, with the airport at the center of it, where they can more easily ferry their workers and mass-produced goods around the globe. The workers, of course, will be drawn to this financial honeypot like flies, where they will conveniently go about the business of living, working, playing, and buying (but mostly working and buying), turning the "aerotropolis" into a bustling center of capital. The City, by corporations, for corporations, in corporations we trust, etc.

But I didn't read the last couple chapters, because I ran out of time before the library reclaimed it for the next person on the list. So perhaps I'm judging it too harshly.
posted by crackingdes at 10:41 PM on May 5, 2011

It may have appeared on metafilter before, but this is the article that made me interested in the book: BLDG BLOG interviews Greg Lindsay. Also, this excerpt from Salon.
posted by crackingdes at 10:46 PM on May 5, 2011

One of the articles gave Quito as an example of an Aerotropolis, and offered the tidbit that it's one of the most dangerous airports in the world.

While I think the idea of the aerotropolis is awful, I don't think the dangers of Quito's airport are due to the fact it is surrounded by a city. Quito is an awkward airport to fly into due to the fact it is at 9,228 ft / 2,813 m and it is in a valley surrounded by mountains.

Several times when I've flown into Quito the other passengers have burst into applause after landing, which is something I've never experienced anywhere else. Thankfully accidents are relatively rare at Quito due to the fact that airlines tend to use their more experienced pilots for difficult airports such as this one.
posted by Harpocrates at 11:09 PM on May 5, 2011


Also, getting to eat people you don't like without having to worry about jail time.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:49 AM on May 6, 2011

I clicked this link thinking I was going to find my future home in the clouds. Where's my jetpack?
posted by arcticseal at 4:04 AM on May 6, 2011

The book, Aerotropolis by Lindsay and Kazarda, was amusingly reviewed in The London Review of Books by Will Self.
It didn't come out of it too well.
posted by jan murray at 2:32 PM on May 6, 2011

"Detroit as an aerotropolis? The airport there's not centrally located. It's in Romulus."

That kind of the point, actually. The Detroit Region Aerotropolis project is the brainchild of county and suburban city officials who've concluded Detroit itself is a lost cause.

I'm not going to bother explaining why they might think Detroit is a lost cause, because there are plenty of Metafilter discussions of that already.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 10:42 AM on May 8, 2011

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