Thursday, December 6, 2012

Makin’ Bacon: Detroit Style

You probably saw Detroit Councilwoman JoAnn Watson yesterday on Dominoe’s linky.

Here’s an updated-for-entertainment-value version of JoAnn’s dissertation on quid pro quo politics:

"After the election of Jimmy Carter, the honorable Coleman Alexander Young, he went to Washington, D.C. He came home with some bacon," said Watson. "That's what you do."

I thought you might enjoy a little history lesson, and see some of the “bacon” that the honorable and legendary Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young brought home from then President Jimmy Carter’s stash.

young6Let’s just remember who owns whom here Jimmy-boy

The primo bacon prize was surely the Detroit People Mover:

02-Detroit-Renaisance-CenterA train bound for nowhere

A brief history: The Detroit People Mover (DPM) was the brainchild of a Congressional  agency created in 1966, the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA).  It was originally conceived as a demonstration project for the nascent agency seeking permanent funding - that part worked, the UMTA is now the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The demonstration project went on to become the one way rail system running in a perpetual 2.9 mile loop around the increasingly vacant city center of Detroit (reports to the contrary are greatly exaggerated).

Here’s what the UMTA project had in mind with it’s demonstration project:

“The intent of that program was to determine how well a fully automated transit
system might contribute to the revitalization of central business
districts of major older cities such as Detroit, and whether such an
automated technology could provide effective circulation/distribution
service at a cost lower than conventional bus systems.”

Allow me to answer the part about revitalizing the central business district:

detroit end of the line Not so much, more like the end of the line.

And regarding the part about “provid(ing) effective circulation/distribution service at a cost lower than conventional bus systems,” well, the system has required city and state subsidies to the tune of $12 million a year since it’s inception – not bad for a system that runs just under 3 miles. The cost per passenger mile hit $4.26 in 2009 vs.$.82 per mile for the Detroit Bus System, which covers the same routes.

Ridership was originally projected at 67,700 per day. (Hee. Are there even that many people living in Detroit any more?)

detroit_01City blocks where there used to be apartments and townhomes.

In 2010, the daily average ridership on the DPM was 6,071: off by a factor of 10 - which isn’t bad for government work. Or government math.

It might have helped if the DPM ran anywhere near the destinations in the Detroit Cultural Center which houses the Detroit Institute of Arts, Science Center, Symphony, Detroit Public Library, Wayne State University and – at the time – the world headquarters of General Motors. Butt I guess that makes sense, why would you want to have a mass transit system running by the headquarters of the world’s largest automobile manufacturer?


Cadillac Place in Detroit’s New Center: GM World Headquarters, 1926 – 2001


And yes, the People Mover might have picked up a few more riders had it actually managed to make the central business district “more vibrant” (it didn’t).


Fortunately the Detroit Red Wings’ Joe Lewis arena is situated along the DPM path. Also fortunate that the other Detroit teams, the Lions and the Tigers decided to build new (state and city subsidized) stadiums along the People Mover route:


Because if you factor out the ridership of sports fans who like to park in Greektown to grab some marinated octopus and pastitsio at their favorite restaurant -

pegasus tavernapastitsio

before riding to the arena of their choice, People Mover ridership would slip to a tiny fraction of the 6000 daily tally. You could say that the Federal Government essentially funded the most expensive dinner shuttle service ever created for Detroit’s sports fans. I’m sure the team owners (the Fords and the Ilitches)  appreciate it, butt the city of Detroit would have been better off by just building more parking decks in Greektown.

The People Mover had to shut down for nearly a year after its track was damaged by the implosion of the iconic Hudson Department Store building in 1998 (to make way for the building of the Detroit Lions new Ford Field). Unclear if anyone, other than Red Wing fans, even noticed.

It’s tempting to say something about this being a fitting metaphor for the fate of Detroit, butt I won’t


In other news: BO’s chief tax expert and resident rodent, Timmy the Tax Man,

timmy does he scare you tooSomewhere there’s a tail that goes with that rat nose and those rodent teeth

reported yesterday that both he and Big Guy are fully prepared to go off the “fiscal cliff” if the Republicans refuse to accept their terms for increasing the greedy rich’s fair share. And I understand that Big Guy himself will be in Detroit on Monday to push his “tax the rich” proposal. Maybe he’ll bring a little bacon with him, butt even if he doesn’t his pitch should play well to the people in this Great American City on the verge of bankruptcy. After all, there haven’t been any “rich” people living in Detroit since Ronald Reagan was president, so they don’t really have any “skin in the game.”

That doesn’t mean that Detroiters don’t remain perpetually optimistic:

detroit everything's gonna be alright

After all, they elected Big Guy, so they’re expecting to get a little of the skin that others have in the game. You know; a little of that quid pro quo fatback.

eggs_and_bacon_wood_style_lgDetroit voters made a contribution, and now they want your commitment.

Question: Are donuts and bacon anything like bread and circuses? Discuss.


Linked By: Larwyn’s Linx on Doug Ross@Journal, and BlogsLucianneLoves, and NOBO2012 on Free Republic, Thanks!