Transition and Mobility—Do the US and Europe Have Anything in Common? A Comparison between Detroit and Zurich

By Merja Hoppe.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: January 9, 2014 $US5.00

Transition is a challenging process cities have to face from time to time. A successful transition requires innovation in economics, politics, and culture. Adaptation to changing frame conditions requires innovative perspectives as well as new ways of acting. The basis of former wealth, such as the regional economy and experience, may interfere with thinking about new solutions. Comparing a city like Detroit to a city with a different cultural and economic background could provide ideas for a new perspective, even if the comparison does not seem very obvious at first glance. This paper will add a new perspective to the discussion on transition by comparing Detroit and Zurich on the basis of their similarities in the transition process. Detroit is an industrial U.S. city that represents the American way of life, especially when it comes to (auto-)mobility. Zurich is a European city that has experienced economic transformation over the last decades and may face another in the near future. The paper focuses on the links between influencing factors (e.g., national economics and changing political and market conditions) and regional development in the transformation process. The key question is: Are there any general principles to be applied to other cases?

Keywords: Economic Transition, Regional Transition, Innovative Perspectives, Change, City Transformation, Detroit, Zurich

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and Extraurban Studies, Volume 4, Issue 1, March 2014, pp.17-35. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: January 9, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 770.343KB)).

Dr. Merja Hoppe

Senior Scientist, Lead Sustainable Mobility, Institute of Sustainable Development, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Winterthur, Zurich, Switzerland

Dr. Hoppe has a Ph.D. in Geography, and her thesis focused on regional economy and globalization. She also worked on the competitiveness of European cities in an EU-Project during her doctorate. From 2006 to 2010, she worked as a Senior Economist at Credit Suisse in the financial sector on regional economics and transition in Switzerland. Her research was mainly focused on interconnections between the quality of location, economy, and population development—also providing policy advice for Swiss authorities. Since 2010, she has worked as a Senior Scientist at Zurich University of Applied Sciences, establishing the research field of sustainable mobility at the Institute of Sustainable Development. Her work includes issues of regional development linked to accessibility, transportation, and mobility behavior—mainly in international research projects financed by the European Union. This paper is inspired by a visit to Detroit in the summer of 2012.