Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Detroit's Anarcho-Transportation vs the Establishment Transportation

Andy Didorosi, the founder and CEO of the Detroit Bus Company, is an amazing and heroic entrepreneur. Almost a year ago, I blogged about Didorosi's Detroit Bus Company, a private bus service that is introducing Detroiters to anarcho-transportation and changing the way they think about transit systems.

Didorosi is expanding his gig, and quickly. He's branching out into Poletown (Hamtramck) and flirting with routes to/from nearby suburban areas. Sarah Schmid, who authored this article on Detroit Bus Company's expansion, notes:
Also in the data-collection stage is Didorosi’s Take Back the Commute plan. This would be a route that carries suburban riders to their jobs in downtown Detroit. (Let me take a minute to acknowledge that this might sound headscratchingly simple to a resident of a city with functional public transit. Detroit is not that city. There’s one bus system inside the city limits called DDOT and a separate bus system for the surrounding suburbs called SMART. Incredibly, the two systems don’t coordinate with one another, which makes taking the bus in or out of Detroit a major pain in the ass.)
Didorosi is currently working to explore profitable routes from the 'burbs to downtown Detroit to serve those areas with his on-demand service so that he can fill the niche for the anarcho-youth and other downtown workers who are the new wave of Detroit boosters and hipsters.

One other market that Didorosi is currently exploring is occupied by the political machine monopolists who own the route to and from our Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus (Wayne County). The ground transportation at this airport is controlled by one company that is in favor with the politicos in power - Metro Cars. I despise everything about this monopolistic monster called Metro Cars. Everyone here hates Metro Cars, including its service and the pricing scheme.

Outside of this one evil company, Metro Airport shuttle restrictions are horrid. Even the local hotels are blocked from offering a proper shuttle service because Metro cars has kissed the rotten ass of every crooked government official in Wayne County in order to hold onto its government-granted monopoly and keep hotels from serving their customers. Schmid notes the following:
Didorosi says that the newly established Regional Transit Authority has deemed a sensible bus route between the airport and metro Detroit a priority, but Didorosi expects the wheels of bureaucracy to grind so slowly that it could be years before that happens. Plus, because Metro Cars has the contract to provide ground transportation at the airport, any competing services are required to pay a fee every time they enter the airport property, which raises fares. “Metro Cars has a monopoly on land side transit, and that’s fine—they paid their way in to make that happen,” Didorosi says. “But in other cities, there’s usually a public transit component to go along with it.”
Didorosi is wrong - it's not "fine"; in fact, it's criminal, and this coercive act on the part of government raises costs and limits service choices for consumers. It's a fact that people here pick their friends up at the airport because friends don't let friends ride in Metro Cars.

Unfortunately for Didorosi, as the author points out, perhaps the only way around this monopolistic stronghold is a private-public partnership on the part of Detroit Bus Company that would allow for the potential to compete against the quasi-government Metro monopolists. He will likely be forced into some type of government alliance in order to get his business anywhere near the protected perimeter of our international airport.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Government-Private Dilemma: Moderation is the Key!

Each time this cliché is thrown out, I wince. "Moderation" may be the world's second most abused term, with the first place winner being the word "natural." As an appropriate follow-up to this post I just published on Detroit's latest news in the government vs free market domain, Detroit Free Press writer John Gallagher has noted that, wait ... let's not celebrate the lack of big government in Detroit, and let's not cheer on the entrepreneurs to the point where it's deemed excessive. John writes:
Amid the general celebration of billionaire Dan Gilbert’s remake of downtown, critics mutter about the dangers of letting one private businessman control so much.
On the opposite end of the ideological bandwidth, free-market zealots want to eliminate government entirely from the process of reimagining the city, advocating to turn it all over to market forces.
The best public policy lies between the extremes. In Detroit, as in many other cities, progress comes through a rich blend of both public and private engagement. Getting that mix right is the art we need to master.
I guess I qualify as the "free-market zealot." I like John Gallagher a lot. He has been a great advocate for this city, he has written books about Detroit, and he has a keen eye and keen mind for understanding this city's renaissance. I met him at Detroit Eastern Market last year, and we had a nice conversation and I thanked him for his  consummate dedication to the city. He's a producer with boundless work ethic. However, John believes that government can centrally plan, as long as the right people are in place and the "needle" pointing to public or private is perfectly adjusted so as to moderate between two "extremes." Yet it is folks with opposing political interests who are in charge of the "needle," hence the reason that coercive politics can never be managed for best outcomes.

While government planning and corruption destroyed this city and turned it into the most despairing city in the U.S., it is all market forces that have turned the tables and made this city a renaissance zone and media darling. Next time I see John out and about, I'll have to give one of my favorite journalists an anarcho-pitch?

Detroit's No-Jail Economy

A great story has emerged here in Detroit that helps to confirm my hypothesis that an environment of anarcho-entrepreneurship is surging due to the existence of a powerless, ineffective government (the best kind of government). In the midst of all the great anarcho-happenings here, one blight on the landscape has been looking out of my office window every day at the Wayne County jail that is currently under construction on a prime piece of downtown property. They actually call this a criminal justice complex. The jail is a pet project of the Wayne County Executive's office, the Wayne County Sheriff's office, and the union workforce that was employed to construct it. Detroit has a disgraceful history of using prime pieces of downtown and riverfront land for building pet political projects and pass-thru freeways, which has left some of this city's prime downtown areas almost unwalkable. On that note, I'll quote Tom Lewand, president of the Detroit Lions.
“It’s always been the part of the central business district that’s stood out like a sore thumb,” Lewand said. “You’ve got this criminal justice center in its various shapes and forms that stands in between one great entertainment district in the Greektown area and another great entertainment destination in the stadium district. ... I don’t think you could have found anybody who would have said the highest and best use of that gateway parcel of Gratiot would have been a new jail in terms of welcoming people to the central business district.”
Welcome to government central planning, Tom. Word is that at least $100 million has been spent on this fiasco thus far.

Crain's Detroit is reporting that talks are underway to abandon the prison project because the project is already way over budget and way behind on a completion date. Additionally, there is a cheap, alternative location for the government's prison camp. The interesting part is that the bungling politicians have turned to Detroit's Renaissance Man, Dan Gilbert, to explore having his company purchase the site and repurpose it with his entrepreneurial vision. Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans, has been a magical force here in Detroit, as his Rock Ventures LLC is reforming downtown Detroit one piece of property at a time.

Government apparatchiks, with the fire burning 'neath their buns, turning to private businessmen and investors to bail them out is a concession of failure on the part of government and a victory for the free market and private industry. Here's to hoping that this latest botch on the part of the corrupt Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano will finally find him ejected from office, or better yet, make him a resident in his own prison, wherever that ends up being located.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

CNN on Anarcho-Detroit

Detroit's entrepreneurial surge is all the rage, these days, with media attention from all corners of the globe. CNN has published an article, "Reviving Detroit from the Ground Up." As one would expect from the mainstream media, scant attention is paid to the motivation and success of entrepreneurs in spite of government intervention, taxation, business mutilation, and specifically in Detroit, the downward spiral from insolvency to a potential bankruptcy.

The article's author gives a nod to the upcoming book from Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Broken Economy.
"The cavalry is not coming," said Katz, who describes local innovations from across the country in a new book, "The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy." Cities cannot wait for old programs to return, Katz says. They are not coming back. Instead, cities should build from whatever assets they have at hand and make a new kind of business case for investment, from within and without.
A Brookings press release for the book release reads:
Across the nation cities and metropolitan areas, and the networks of pragmatic leaders who govern them, are taking on the big issues that Washington won’t, or can’t, solve.  They are reshaping our economy and fixing our broken political system.
In reality, government "leaders" in Detroit are not responsible for any of the business boom we are witnessing here in the more dense areas of the city. Instead, the laughable and incompetent bozos on the Detroit city council, as well as the blundering boobs in the mayor's office, have managed to stick their wrenches into the spokes of many excellent efforts on the part of local business barons to reform this city's decades of decay and neglect. Still, our city's finest entrepreneurs have managed to overcome the attempts at political coercion with brilliant strategies for dodging the bureaucracy and accomplishing free-market endeavors. In fact, Whole Foods is getting set to open its new Detroit store.

I've long made the argument that it is the lack of a powerful government that has blessed Detroit with an environment where a quasi-anarchy that has spawned multiple grass roots movements consisting of voluntary forces doing good things for the community, as well as allowing for a profusion of these notable entrepreneurial efforts. The battle is not between Big Government (the Feds) and local government; it is between the state (all governments) and the efforts of private entrepreneurs and spontaneous orders within the communities.

Detroit's Anarcho-Patrols vs Police

While Detroit's "finest" are unable to maintain order in the city's neighborhood's, this city's regeneration is being helped along by volunteer watchmen who patrol their own neighborhoods while the DPD (Detroit Police Department) makes excuse after excuse about manpower shortages and equipment issues. Yesterday, Bloomberg ran this story about the men and women who choose to make a stand against the criminals as opposed to whining and waiting for inept government to tend to their personal safety matters.

My old neighborhood, East English Village, has been very successful at soliciting volunteer patrol people as well as monetary contributions to help fund their community efforts.
Besides East English Village, neighborhoods with vigorous crime prevention efforts include: the Grandmont-Rosedale Park area that straddles the Southfield Freeway on Detroit's far west side; Palmer Woods, Sherwood Forest, the University District and Green Acres on the north side, and the West Vernor and Springwells Business Improvement District, a commercial area in southwest Detroit bounded by West Vernor, Clark, Springwells and I-75. In the business district, merchants each started paying up to $2,000 a year for added security a few years ago, said Matthew Bihun, program manager of the Southwest Detroit Business Association, which oversees the district.
Thanks to Jed Martin for the story link.