M-1 Rail: Alternative Motion in the Motor City

Go Lean Commentary

Buy local!

This is the first mandate for any economic empowerment plan. Applying this logic would influence the City of Detroit to deploy public transportation options utilizing products and services of their local home-grown industries: The Big 3 auto makers.

And yet, Detroit is celebrating their initiation of a streetcar system – with no Ford, General Motors (GM) or Chrysler contributions; (they do no produce streetcars).

Yet, this is indisputably wise!

CU Blog - M1 Rail - Alternative Motion in the Motor City - Photo 2Streetcars were a common mode of transportation in many American cities, then something villainous happened: most systems were dismantled in the 1950’s & 1960’s as part of a switch to bus service. Detroit ceased their service in 1956, while Philadelphia never stopped and still continue to operate the same streetcars, even today. (The buses were manufactured by the Michigan-area auto companies; the Big 3). This plutocratic behavior proved a “greedy monster that ultimately ate itself”.[1] (In 2008 GM & Chrysler had to file for Bankruptcy Protection; 5 years later Detroit filed for Bankruptcy Protection as well).

The once great City of Detroit has to re-boot, remake and revive its metropolitan area, and streetcars are now part of the solution. There is the need to efficiently move people forward to facilitate live, work and play activities. See the M-1 Rail story here:

CU Blog - M1 Rail - Alternative Motion in the Motor City - Photo 1 M-1 RAIL is a non-profit organization formed in 2007 to lead the design, construction, and future operation of a 3.3-mile circulating streetcar along Woodward Avenue between Congress Street and West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan. M-1 RAIL is an unprecedented public-private partnership and model for regional collaboration Notably, the first major transit project being led and funded by both private businesses, philanthropic organizations, in partnership with local government, the State of Michigan, and U.S. Department of Transportation.

The mission of M-1 RAIL is to create a catalyst for investment, economic development and urban renewal that positively impacts the entire region through the construction of a streetcar circulator system running along and connecting Woodward Avenue from the Riverfront to the NewCenter and North End neighborhoods.

The M-1 RAIL Woodward Avenue Streetcar project is envisioned to be one element of a future modern, world-class regional transit system where all forms of transportation, including rail, bus, vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian, are considered and utilized to build a vibrant, walkable region that includes a thriving Downtown Detroit. This city center is envisioned by supporters of M-1 RAIL to become a foundation for growth and prosperity throughout the surrounding neighborhoods adjacent to the Central Business District, Midtown, NewCenter and North End.


Video: M-1 Rail: Moving Forward Togetherhttp://vimeo.com/106327746

M-1 RAIL: Moving Forward Together from M-1 Rail on Vimeo.

CU Blog - M1 Rail - Alternative Motion in the Motor City - Photo 3Dallas, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, Salt Lake City, and soon Detroit.  All home to modern streetcar lines that serve as connectors throughout their respective regions, as well as economic catalysts, spurring investment and growth along their routes.

Construction will soon be underway for the M-1 RAIL streetcar connecting 20 stations serving 12 locations between Congress Street in Detroit’s Central Business District up to West   Grand Boulevard at the North End.

Stretching 3.3 miles along Detroit’s famed, Woodward Avenue, A National Byway®, the modern streetcar will travel between Congress Street in Downtown to West Grand   Boulevard, in the North End, providing access to hundreds of businesses and connecting neighborhoods and points of interest along the way including major cultural landmarks, sports stadiums, entertainment venues, restaurants, hospitals and universities.

When completed, whether going to work, going to lunch, or going to a game, visitors and residents alike will have the option to ride the M-1 RAIL Streetcar.
M-1 RAIL Project – Website; About Us – Retrieved December 11, 2014

This consideration by the publishers of the book Go Lean … Caribbean, a roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU), is part-and-parcel of the effort to “observe and report” on the turn-around of the once great City of Detroit. Previous commentaries alluded that streetcars are also being considered for Caribbean deployment, especially since these member-states report very high fuel costs. In addition to streetcars, light-rail, natural-gas powered vehicles and toll roads are all part of the effort to empower the region through mass transit (Page 205).

CU Blog - M1 Rail - Alternative Motion in the Motor City - Photo 4It is the conclusion that the American auto industry played a key role is dissuading cities from streetcar deployments, but now that the dynamics have changed (oil price inflation, declining city residential populations/tax base, and re-gentrification to repatriate a middle class back to the inner city); this mode of transit is now “all the rage”. This is the consensus despite any objections or lobbying on behalf of auto manufacturers. After careful analysis, this commentary asserts that Detroit has been very kind to the Big 3 auto makers, but these companies have not reciprocated to Detroit. The references show that GM, Ford and Chrysler have grown their manufacturing footprint, many times globally, while decreasing their presence in Michigan[2][3][4].

There is a matter of self-interest. Though there is some interdependence, the Big 3 auto makers must execute strategies and tactics for their best interest while Detroit must execute strategies and tactics for its best interest; though these may not align. The ethos, the Greater Good was missing in prior iterations of city administrations, but it is hoped now that this lesson is learned; and if not in Detroit, then surely we must practice this ethos in the Caribbean.

The Go Lean roadmap anticipates the challenges that communities like Detroit – failed-states/failed cities – have had to endure and pledges to pursue a course of action for better outcomes on our end. These points were pronounced early in the book, in the opening Declaration of Interdependence (Pages 12 & 14), with these statements:

xii.     Whereas the legacy in recent times in individual states may be that of ineffectual governance with no redress to higher authority, the accedence of this Federation will ensure accountability and escalation of the human and civil rights of the people for good governance, justice assurances, due process and the rule of law. As such, any threats of a “failed state” status for any member state must enact emergency measures on behalf of the Federation to protect the human, civil and property rights of the citizens, residents, allies, trading partners, and visitors of the affected member state and the Federation as a whole.

xiv.    Whereas government services cannot be delivered without the appropriate funding mechanisms, “new guards” must be incorporated to assess, accrue, calculate and collect revenues, fees and other income sources for the Federation and member-states. The Federation can spur government revenues directly through cross-border services and indirectly by fostering industries and economic activities not possible without this Union.

xxvi.  Whereas the Caribbean region must have new jobs to empower the engines of the economy and create the income sources for prosperity, and encourage the next generation to forge their dreams right at home, the Federation must therefore foster the development of new industries, like that of ship-building, automobile manufacturing, prefabricated housing, frozen foods, pipelines, call centers, and the prison industrial complex. In addition, the Federation must invigorate the enterprises related to existing industries like tourism, fisheries and lotteries – impacting the region with more jobs.

xxx.   Whereas the effects of globalization can be felt in every aspect of Caribbean life, from the acquisition of food and clothing, to the ubiquity of ICT, the region cannot only consume, it is imperative that our lands also produce and add to the international community, even if doing so requires some sacrifice and subsidy.

xxxiii.   Whereas lessons can be learned and applied from the study of the recent history of other societies, the Federation must formalize statutes and organizational dimensions to avoid the pitfalls of communities like … Detroit…

The CU mission is to implement the complete eco-system to deliver on market opportunities of streetcars, as related in the foregoing article/website. There are many strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies that will facilitate this readiness; a sample is detailed here:

Economic Principles – Economic Systems Influence Individual Choices Page 21
Economic Principles – People Choose because Resources are Limited Page 21
Economic Principles – All Choices Involve Costs Page 21
Economic Principles – People Respond to Incentives Page 21
Economic Principles – Economic Systems Influence Individual Choices Page 21
Community Ethos – Job Multiplier Page 22
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Return on Investments Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Help Entrepreneurship Page 28
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Department of State – SGE’s Page 80
Tactical – Separation of Powers – Department of Transportation Page 84
Implementation – Security Initiatives at Start-up – Command-and-Control Page 103
Implementation – Steps to Implement Self-Governing Entities Page 105
Implementation – Ways to Improve Energy Usage – Electrified Buses/Trains Page 113
Implementation – Ways to Benefit from Globalization Page 119
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Trade Page 128
Advocacy – Ways to Create Jobs Page 152
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Governance Page 168
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Cooperatives Page 176
Advocacy – Ways to Foster Technology Page 197
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Main Street Page 201
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Transportation Page 205
Advocacy – Ways to Develop the Auto Industry Page 206
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Urban Living – Transit Options Page 234

The world, including Detroit (for 2016), is preparing for the change to more efficient mass transit options to make transit to urban areas more appealing to live, work and play. This ethos of adapting to change has also now come to the Caribbean.

This blog commentary touches on many related issues and subjects that affect planning for Caribbean empowerment in this transportation industry-space. Many of these issues were elaborated upon in these previous blog/commentaries:

DC Streetcars – Model For Caribbean Re-development
Mitigating the Dreaded ‘Plutocracy’, as GM practiced in the US in the past to quash Streetcar enterprises
The Criminalization/Abuses of American Business – Applying Lessons Learned
Preparing for the automotive future – Google self-driving cars to mitigate highway safety concerns
Go Green Caribbean – Streetcars are electric, less carbon footprint
Trains and Trucks play well together

The Go Lean book relates that the “greatest good to the greatest number of people is the measure of right and wrong”. This Greater Good mandate has a different charter for a city-community versus a for-profit corporation. This logic was lost during the modern history of Detroit; but we must ensure this principle is adhered to in the Caribbean future.

The Caribbean needs help…with transportation, jobs, urban renewal, growing the economy, and motivating our youth to impact their future here at home… in the Caribbean; as opposed to the recent history of societal abandonment. We have much to learn from Detroit.

Let’s pay more than the usual attention to these lessons; too much is dependent on our efforts.

The people of the region are urged to “lean-in” for the Caribbean empowerments as described in the book Go Lean … Caribbean. The benefits of this roadmap are very alluring: emergence of an $800 Billion single market economy and 2.2 million new jobs. That is a great destination in which we need the right vehicle to get the whole community there. Like the M-1 Rail in the foregoing article, let’s Move Forward Together.


Download the book Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


1.   Erysichthon – The monster that devoured everything and then itself. Retrieved December 11, 2014 from: http://sonjablignaut.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/a-monster-that-devours-itself-a-capitalists-parable/
2.  List of General Motors factories. Retrieved December 11, 2014 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_General_Motors_factories
3.  List of Ford Motors factories. Retrieved December 11, 2014 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Ford_factories
4.  List of Chrysler factories. Retrieved December 11, 2014 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chrysler_factories


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