Moment x Vuhlandes Grant Recipient

Loreal Salter-Dodson

Detroit is well known for its rich and historic car culture. A perspective that a lot of people don’t get to see is that transportation is not easily accessible to a large amount of the population of a place known as the “Motor City.” Detroiters are so proud of their vehicles not only because of the cities’ reputation, but because of all the barriers people are forced to overcome in order to get the vehicle.

Detroit is filled with predatory lending businesses that prey on the fact that people don’t have many options.*lack of strong economy for many decades.* These places lure people in with promises of no credit checks and low down payments, while charging absurdly high interest rates, reaching upwards of 20%. These businesses also price cars for far more than their value. Since it’s so difficult to get around the city without a car, people unfortunately feel like this is their best bet. The average car note payment in Detroit is $495/mo.

Along with high interest rates on auto loans, Detroit is also known for notoriously high auto insurance rates as well. The average rate for auto insurance in Detroit is $450/mo. It is illegal to drive without auto insurance in Michigan, and you cannot register your car without it, so people have no choice but to pay the high rates. Detroiters car note and insurance payments can be equivalent to rent in other places in the country. That doesn’t even include gas and upkeep for the vehicle.

L.A. Insurance is known for offering short term policies for 7 or 13 days. While Michigan outlawed 7-day insurance, 13 days is still available. These short term policies are extremely predatory as well. The policies were sold for hundreds of dollars, depending on the quotes, for just one week. Salespeople convinced customers that the one week was a “better deal” to pay a lump sum just to register the car, as opposed to paying a high payment every month. When in actuality, customers paid a lump sum to register the car, and not be protected if they get in an accident a month later. However, this protection is only applicable if you get pulled over. Michigan is the home of “no fault insurance,” where essentially, if you are in an accident, it's not your fault, so the insurance company is not obligated to pay.

Public transit is not easily accessible either, because it is literally the “Motor City.” A car is necessary to get around. Bus stops are not frequent all throughout the city, and extremely infrequent in the outside suburbs of Detroit, where many have to go for work.

The pandemic has had a big impact on public transit. Busses are at limited capacity, and are roped off in the front inorder to protect the drivers. The busses aren’t as full anymore because so many have lost their jobs, and others may be uncomfortable about sitting with others in such close quarters, all due to the pandemic.

Due to public transit not being as established as it is in other big cities, such as New York or Chicago, a trip on the bus can take a while. What may take 20 or so minutes in a car, can take up to an hour or more on the bus, and you may even have to take multiple busses.

It was really important to me that this photo story felt voyeuristic. I wanted to really place the viewer in the city of Detroit, so that they can understand a bit more of the culture. I don’t want people to just see the photos, I need them to experience them.

When you see natives wearing gear with quotes like “DETROIT vs. EVERYBODY” and “Detroit Hustles Harder,” it’s for good reason. Detroit is a city full of love and culture, that has been exploited, neglected, and looked for years. Despite it all, a Detroiter is always gonna get right to it.

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