Have you ever heard of the Great American Streetcar Scandal? In the 1920s, GM, Standard Oil, Firestone, Mack Truck and Phillips Petroleum succeeded in buying out the electric trolley lines and closing them down, resulting in a monopoly on transit. At that point, only 10% of Americans had cars, but that number was about to increase dramatically.
Great marketing scheme, but kind of evil, right? (Read more about the trolley scandal on About.com.)
Fortunately, the rest of the country bounced back, and most big cities now have public transit systems. Unfortunately for Detroiters, this is the Motor City, the heart of the auto industry. Not that we're opposed to automobiles, the people who drive them (ahem, us) or the people who work to build them. Our Motown identity is great, but we've suffered from having no public transportation. And I (Jen) get speeding tickets all the time.
As gas prices rise and environmental awareness grows, people -- especially those without access to public transport -- are starting to see the necessity for it. Most thriving cities have it, and have enough options that their citizens can manipulate multiple systems to get around efficiently -- New Yorkers don't rely solely on the subway.
You've heard talk about the development of a light rail system in Detroit. We think that's fantastic. Light rail systems are reliable; they improve traffic conditions and emit minimal pollution (depending on the system). They may have limited usage, but properly funded, ours could grow to great extremes. It might take a while before the system is perfect. In fact, it'll be a while before the system is even built, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be excited about it.
People have asked us if we're concerned about trying to compete with the rail system. But like we said, you need options to be able to get around efficiently. Along that vein, we're talking with some local cab companies about adding that medium of transit to our network, as one that provides passengers with a specific-destination solution. We're hoping to work something out with a cab company, and preferably a "green" one, so we can provide a more complete service. That's the idea, anyway. We're trying to look to other green companies for our partnerships, who share our views and can help us make an impact. We'll talk more about the whole green thing in our next post, because let's face it, saving the planet is sweet. They wouldn't have made a whole superhero to do it if it wasn't.