Detroit is one of the only major American cities to lack a subway system or other form of citywide public transportation. At the same time, nearly one third of Detroit households do not have cars.

So how do the city's poorest residents get to and from stores, jobs, and their homes without government-provided transit? They ride jitneys—private, low-cost transportation services offered by private citizens who have a vehicle and the time and desire to provide transportation for a modest fee.

The problem is that jitneys are illegal in most cities, including Detroit. But what's wrong with entrepreneurs driving people around town safely and cheaply?

Nothing—except that jitneys directly compete against higher-priced bus and taxicab services. Decades ago, bus and taxi operators teamed up to persuade government to outlaw their cheaper jitney competitors.

Fortunately for tens of thousands of satisfied jitney customers, who include many low-income and disabled citizens, the anti-jitney law is not enforced in Detroit. In fact, no Detroiter has filed a complaint against jitneys in 26 years.

Detroit and other cities should repeal their jitney bans and allow driver entrepreneurs to legally serve the poor and disabled who rely on them to reach life's necessities.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Joseph Lehman.

 

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