Sunday, July 10, 2005
There goes the neighborhood
Another thing about Amtrak is that you see the ass end of America out the windows. Rusted out factories, the poorest quarter of every town, all kinds of garbage, and junkyards full to bursting with empty shells that used to be mobile homes.
In comments, Saheli wrote, "I wonder which came first, the train or the conditions."
I have a theory.1 Most of the small towns on the rail line (in the West and Midwest, at any rate) were originally built to take advantage of the railroad. Because the railroad was central to the economy of the town, it was a hub for economic development and the land near the railroad was more densely developed than outlying areas. Later, the development of automotive transportation made it both possible and preferable for economic development to move away from the rail lines, and it did. The evacuation of capital explains what can be seen now -- lots of old, broken down buildings, many of which have been abandoned for decades.
On a slightly different subject, here's a question that's been bothering me for awhile. What is it, exactly, that's supposed to be wrong with gentrification? Lots of my lefty friends talk about gentrification as if it were some terrible blight, but I can't quite get my head around the idea that there's something wrong with renovating a run-down neighborhood. I know I must be missing something, but for the life of me I can't figure out what it is.
1 For what it's worth, I had breakfast on the train with an architect from Long Island and this is one of the subjects that came up. I mentioned my theory to him and he said, "I dunno. Maybe."