Thursday, August 20, 2009


This looks familiar, but I can't remember if I have seen it before. But Joe (Gerontologo Americano) uploaded this film clip to youtube:

Now I remember. I mentioned the longer film in passing here, but Joe has clipped out the best parts relating to Pittsburgh. But man... I know my friends at the conference would at least be a little more subtle in their marketing these days, but check out this film from the 1950's:

There are a few things about this. While the history of cleaning up the air gets more attention in retrospect, I am pretty sure that if you seriously tried to assess what took up the conference's time in it's early years I bet it was more the issue of parking, in particular Downtown parking. , This thesis from1950 goes right along with that film clip. It's just an undergraduate student thesis, but has an interesting provenance. See: The Allegheny Conference for Community Development for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (warning, large file) by John David Weidlein. May 1950.

and non sequitur, but speaking of cars.. I wouldn't trust my thoughts on retail trends in just about any context, but I really suspect this car may be a big seller here. It's just enough bigger than a smartcar to be practical, and I am guessing it will have a price point well below a mini. Just a thought.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remind me please. What's the history of the surface parking lot across the street from the City County Building?

Thursday, August 20, 2009 2:11:00 PM  
Blogger Denovich said...

I am a long time Alfa Romeo owner, inveterate petrol-head, a member of the burgh-diaspora currently living in the UK, and I own a Smart (and a Lotus Elise.)

I want the Fiat 500 to be a success in the US. They are the fashionable small car at the moment (in and around London.) The Top Gear guys like it, and even Formula One legend Michael Schumacher has one as a daily driver. BUT: A Mexican made Fiat backed by Chrysler's dealer network seems like a recipe for disaster. Fiat pulled out of the US almost 30 years ago, but people still remember FIAT = Fix It Again Tony.

Fiat hopefully will copy from the Mini's playbook, with a full on charm offensive and outstanding service (or at least the impression of it.)

My beloved Alfa Romeo, now fully part of FIAT has been making some great cars, but sins of the past and an indifferent dealer network here making owning one a trying experience. You are lured in by the look and performance and then crushed by massive depreciation. Who wants to buy a potentially dodgy Italian used car? (other than bottom-feeding fanatics like me.)

Smart (despite being made in France) has the advantage of the Mercedes name backing it up. But the Mercedes name was no help for Chrysler during their disastrous marriage. What chance does FIAT have?

My wife and I both have been convinced of the practicality of a smaller car, and I'd love to get a Fiat 500 Abarth SS when we return. But only if someone else eats the depreciation first. Otherwise I'll stick with the Mini.

Thursday, August 20, 2009 2:28:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I do not see how the Smart Car sells. Maybe to people with very tight parking and no knowledge of how cheap a KIA or Cobalt is? The Mini at least looks nice and has some room in the back.

Of course, I'm probably not their target shopper, given the two SUVs we have. When one dies, I will be looking for something smaller, but you still need to be able to get up the hills and to get through streets that have not been cleared of snow.

Thursday, August 20, 2009 2:43:00 PM  
Blogger Denovich said...

I wrote a long response, but realized I could have answered it a different way... The short snark-filled answer:

People buy Smarts as a way of signaling to other people a bit about who they are. It says "I've got extra money" or "I have no kids" or "I'm cappuccino-drinking-eco-hippy-douche-bag." The last one might not be the reaction they want, but at least it's a reaction. KIAs and Cobalts don't signal much at all other than "this is all I could afford" or "I hate driving and/or myself" which is why they have to almost give the damn things away.

The long one:

It all depends on what compromises you are willing to make. I'd rather have a few cars that are each excellent for their intended purpose, than one car that sucks at everything equally (an SUV.)

I switch daily between a Lotus Elise and a Smart ForTwo (a 600cc one with a paltry 50hp)

The Elise at 1700lbs and 150hp delivers quite possibly the purest sports-car experience available... 0-60 in 5, handling that is simply out of this world, and it gets 35mph while doing so. It totally sucks at moving furniture, but holds its own lapping the Nurburgring and puts a smile on my face like almost nothing else.

The Smart is almost unbeatable as a grocery-getter, errand runner, city-commuter. Visibility is great, with an SUV like seating position and tons of headroom too. I have the puny 600cc one, but from 10-35 it's pretty nippy... I've even hit the 90mph speed-limiter in mine. Hopping out of the Lotus and into the Smart, I don't hate it. Ever drive a golf-cart or a riding lawn mower WAY too fast? We're you smiling when you did it? Same thing with the Smart. It also sucks at moving furniture, or more than 2 people... etc. But... My wife loves it and other people smile when they see it.

I've lived with this duo for over a year and I haven't had to move furniture or a bunch of people. The inherent compromises weren't really compromises. In the US where I had the luxury of a big driveway, I had other sports cars and a truck for haulin' and a Lexus SC400 for going out or hitting the highway. (Plus a CBR1100XX, a KTM250 and a Vespa for 2-wheeled action.)

We now have a daughter on the way... so all of a sudden, I've got a compromise that is going to make the Smart hard to live with. I can get my wife to the hospital for the delivery, but I'll need to make two trips to get both of them home. If I had the parking space I'd be happy to keep it... but maybe a Fiat 500, or a VW GTI will have to take it's place.

Thursday, August 20, 2009 5:17:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Congrats. Unless you and your wife are very strong/agile, I recommend a 4-door. It can get hard to put them into the backseat with a 2-door, especially when they get a little bigger and when they are not in the mood to sit.

As for going too fast in an underpowered car, my dad had Swift (also sold as a Geo Metro) that I used to love to drive too fast, especially in empty parking lots/side streets that had about four inches of snow. (This was in a more spacious and flatter city than Pittsburgh.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009 5:31:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

wow.. I drive a cobalt. I may need therapy I guess is what you are saying. :-(

and for earlier.. I actually don't know about that lot. I may need to find out unless that was a rhetorical question? Several lots in town are curious in their undevelopment. The city lot on 18th and Carson I find curious in it's lack of development given how much of a success the South Side is.. could be a really big bar.

Thursday, August 20, 2009 5:35:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I drove a Neon to the point that it was only worth $500 at trade in. I wouldn't worry about it.

Thursday, August 20, 2009 7:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not rhetorical at all. I always wonder how it is that a prime lot across from City Hall doesn't get a nice park and/or some restaurants and other retail. To me, it shows a lack of civic pride. There look to be about 100 parking spaces there. It could be developed ala Schenley Plaza, another premium site that that spent many decades as a parking lot eyesore.

Friday, August 21, 2009 2:41:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

"To me, it shows a lack of civic pride."

Not nearly as much as who we elect to city hall.

Friday, August 21, 2009 3:16:00 PM  

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