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Transit Updates for Greater Grand Rapids

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Why? It doesn't go anywhere. It "conceivably" will run from the transit station to the 6th street bridge. So what? What is on N. Monroe right now that remotely points to a need for this?

 

I have to agree with John. If this is indeed anything beyond an attraction, then why isnt there already some special run of buses going between these locations already proving the usage and demand is there for something more elaborate? Where are the lines of people forced to walk from N. Monroe into DT because the bus system is too inadequate?

 

Where are the developments that are currently on-hold because there is no streetcar to service them?

 

 

Cities in other countries can be cited for evidence, but that is assuming that all cities are the same, and that a streetcar is just some product that can be plopped down anywhere and generate the same result.

 

Yes they are cool, and I can look at videos of them all day (I have) and drool at the idea, but these are expensive, and tax money is tight, so there has to be a solid need for these before I could ever support it.

 

But if private concerns want to pay for it, then more power to them! Please do it! I really want to ride one.

 

I guess that's like saying "Why build a new art museum? Were people sitting at Rosa Parks Circle looking at art on canvas in any great numbers?"

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I could see a consortium set-up to pay for the operating costs but I'm afraid that the construction and streetcars would be mostly if not entirely paid for by tax payers, via grants.

Where's Eric Larson when we need him, LOL.

What about special BRT Buses like this one?

brt_vehicle.jpg

Image Source: http://buyvtabonds.org/brt/benefits.html

 

What government "grants" for streetcars are you referring to?

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Grants that paid for Central Station, the fairly new operations center/garage, the SilverLine construction and buses, etc.
ITP, The Rapid are experts at getting grant monies from the government.

If private funding could be used for this streetcar line, why not for other transportation means?

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So putting together a couple of other pieces of news: the Sackner building is remodeled for market rate, meanwhile law firms move south of Fulton. A street car line looks more like a connection between continued housing development and the downtown professional community. The Sixth Street end looks more like part of a long-term plan for North Monroe than any tourist amenity.

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Hello, a mostly lurker here.

 

While I won't say anything specifically about this plan except that I have very mixed feeling about it, I will say this - Infrastructural can and is used to enable and shape development patterns rather than directly respond to a need. American suburbs exploded in response to the construction of the freeway system and, while there was certainly a desire to move out of the densely populated inner cities at the time, the spacial development of the burbs more often than not followed the layout of the freeway system and not the other way around.

 

China's amazing economic development over the last 20 years has been in large part to an infrastructure led investment. The government builds the infrastructure for a city that doesn't exist, and then the city and industry develop in response to the infrastructure. When neighborhoods in NYC and other cities began to redevelop many of the first ones to do so were the ones with easy access to mass transit. The neighborhood became hot and desirable because of (among many many other things) its access to mass transit, not the other way around.

 

Revitalizing an urban area faces a Catch-22. People would be willing to move to an urban center if it had certain amenities, but those amenities won't exist if enough people don't live there. Just look at how difficult it is to get a grocery store downtown. Sometimes someone needs to bite the bullet and go for it.

 

Don't read to much into those examples, I actually think this would be a bad idea at the moment. Big expensive projects like this can just as easily become white elephants. This was just a rather wordy way of saying that you need to keep in mind the potential alongside the current need when debating a project such as this.

 

Hope this all made sense

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As someone who was actually a part of The Rapid's Great Transit/Grand Tomorrows (GT2) Steering Committee that planned both the Silverline Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system AND the Market/Monroe Avenue Street Rail Transit (SRT) system, I just could not take any more of the hyperbole about both of these systems by certain zealous participants in the discourse pertaining to this thread.

 

Please consider these truths (heretofore to be known as FACT PERTAINING TO GR BRT & SRT):

 

1]  The Silverline became the option for The Rapid to pursue ONLY after long and intense debate over modalities that included consideration of HEAVY RAIL TRANSIT (HRT; i.e. - Washington D.C. Metrorail, Atlanta MARTA rail system, Bay Area BART system, San Juan Tren Urbano rail system), LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT (LRT; i.e. - Hiawatha Line in Twin Cities MN, the Hudson-Bergen LRT system of New Jersey, the Charlotte NC LYNX system, the Portland OR TriMet MAX system, etc.), BUS RAPID TRANSIT (BRT; i.e. - Cleveland's Euclid Avenue Corridor and unfortunately NOT the much more robust and rail-like Bogotá Colombia example) and, yes, Street Rail Transit (SRT aka Streetcars; i.e. - Oregon's Portland SRT, the South Lake Union SRT in Seattle, etc.).

 

2] The Silverline BRT evolved from that debate as the chosen modality due to a "do-ability" compromise/consensus that weighed cost, Grand Rapids' "newness" or "city with least enhanced/fixed-guideway transit experience on the totem pole" status in the community of urban areas applying for Federal Transportation Administration TEA-2 New Starts/Small Starts funding, the consideration of making a choice that would be "palatable" or "seen as scale-appropriate" by what was perceived by GT2 as Grand Rapids' ubiquitous conservative standards AND that could succeed sufficiently to win future FTA support for larger, more world-class transit systems for Metro GR like the modern SRT planned for the Market/Monroe corridor and even the longer-term LRT or HRT system envisioned one day for the 19-mile Ford Airport/Downtown/GVSU-Allendale East-West corridor.

 

3] The Market/Monroe SRT has a COMPLETELY different transit function from the Silverline or ANY BRT for that matter.  While a BRT, LRT and HRT are all for moving riders rapidly over longer-haul distances (like from 60th & Division to Central Station) with limited stops in between, LRT is designed to actually enhance the walkable footprint of a central business district (CBD) or inter-related CBDs; in relation to the Market/Monroe SRT, consider that from Rosa Parks Circle, a pedestrian 5-minute walk radius would reach West to the Grand River, South to The BOB, East to Kendall College and North to Calder Plaza; with the SRT in place the East and West 5-minute walk limits would be extended north to the 6th Street Bridge area and south to Central Station effectively increasing pedestrian access to areas north and south of Central Downtown that are primed for expansive growth in housing, entertainment, education and office uses [it is no coincidence that The DASH shuttle's south leg is on Market/Monroe and that it now has a north leg up to the 6th Street Bridge in what transit planners call "infrastructure place-holding/case-making"].  Mayor Logie, who also was a part of GT2 at the time, has eloquently stated the facts about the superior development attraction reality of fixed-guideway transit as compared to the more modest amount of BRT-associated development expected with minimal BRT (which the Silverline unfortunately is; see Bogotá Colombia BRT to understand why the Silverline is not full-tilt BRT); his commentary on developers taking more seriously an opportunity to develop a people-oriented use like housing, retail, entertainment, etc. adjacent to or within blocks of a fixed-guideway station is spot-on.

 

4] The GVSU Lakerline BRT is common sense and will go far toward paving the way for the western side of any potential engagement of the East/West LRT or HRT line.

 

5] Metro GR is headed in the right direction with transit planning and is correct to proceed thoughtfully with a multiplicity of overlapping and inter-related transit modalities – REMEMBER:  the best metropolitan areas are those where the majority of the people can access the majority of the landscape with a maximum of convenience, independence, safety, cost savings and flexibility of THEIR time.

 

BE POSITIVE and KEEP IT MOVING! :camera:

Edited by metrogrkid
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Grants that paid for Central Station, the fairly new operations center/garage, the SilverLine construction and buses, etc.

ITP, The Rapid are experts at getting grant monies from the government.

If private funding could be used for this streetcar line, why not for other transportation means?

 

Those FTA (New Starts and Small Starts) grants are generally not available for streetcars. Or I haven't heard of a streetcar line that received FTA funding. They're extremely difficult to get just for the projects you listed, and you have to show that you can support the capital investment from the FTA with local operating revenue. In other words the FTA will not give you the capital improvements if you can't show a long term revenue plan to maintain them (millages, fare boxes, etc).

 

My guess is the streetcar would be free to ride, or very inexpensive, or supported by private sponsorships/advertising/some other means.

 

Generally speaking transit is not a big money making venture, which is why you don't see a lot of private investment in transit. The only exceptions are shuttle bus services and services like MegaBus. If Amtrak were a private company living on its own, it would have gone out of business a long time ago. If the Rapid were a privately run business, it would have gone under a long time ago.

 

A private invesment in a streetcar line would be pretty much altruistic for local family foundations, which is a lot of what Grand Action does. There aren't the ROI metrics that you need to get private investment in a business idea.

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I think a combination (to provide for a downtown segment) of Route 7 (Bridge/Covell to Michigan/Plymouth) and Route 8 (Fulton/John Ball to Fulton/Lakeside) or Route 7 and Route 6 (Chicago/Marble to Leonard/Covell) from Harland Bartholomew's streetcar plan (link) would probably work best for a proposed first segment.

 

Way off topic I suppose, but this old streetcar map in Jonathan’s link shows where the mystery dividing line between northeast and northwest addresses in Grand Rapids streets such as Ann, Knapp, Burr Oak, Dean, and others came from.  Look at the map and you can see the dividing line was based on what is marked as streetcar line #1.  North of the end of Taylor Street, the streetcar line did not run on a street.  The street car line is long gone and properties have encroached on the old right of way, but the street numbers still go from northeast to northwest based on the old streetcar line.

If you take a look at Google Maps at a close enough range to see the building outlines, you can make out where the streetcar right of way used to be.  On Google, the displayed number 2 on these streets is either ne or nw based on which side of the right of way the building falls.  

 

Google Map:

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=%22grand+rapids%22&hl=en&ll=42.997962,-85.67041&spn=0.004473,0.010568&safe=images&hnear=Grand+Rapids,+Kent,+Michigan&t=m&z=17

Edited by walker

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I think the priorities are out of line with the streetcar. I still see it as a not needed attraction. I don't see the need to add more attraction than what we now have with ArtPrize, Medical Mile, Beer City and more. I don't see the streetcar as meeting a need. And as far as being an economic development incentive, I have not seen any study that shows more with a fixed rail system over a BRT system. I'm sure that having more BRT Lines would generate more economic development than a short streetcar line. There are at least a few routes that need and would benefit from BRT Lines.
I see a need for BRT Lines and don't see a need for this streetcar.
We should move forward with more BRT Lines.

The streetcar would be an expensive, not needed attraction that would not fulfill a need.
Having a system of BRT Lines would be an attraction and would be a boost for economic development along with fulfilling needs.

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You know, a lot of these same arguments were made against the construction of the arena back in the 1990's.  People waved studies that showed other cities that built arenas did not enjoy any beneficial economic impact.  They said it was a folly.  They said it wasn't really needed.  They said it wouldn't spur redevelopment of the area that surrounds it.  They asked who was going to fill it?  They said a lot of stuff like that.  Looking at things now, it's difficult to imagine all the vibrant activity in that area south of downtown would be there if the arena had not been built. 

 

And let's be honest, you can dress it up in plastic, you can paint it pretty colors, you can fuel it with alternative energy sources but a bus is still a bus and there are people who will not ride a bus.  Pretending that isn't true doesn't make it reality.  These same people will ride a streetcar because it is quaint or entertaining or some such thing.  I hate to burst the bubble that buses are a panacea for all our transportation problems, but it's true.  Their is a romance with rail that buses can't equal.  Kids don't play with electric bus sets when they are little.  About the only bus you could run up and down Monroe that might garner the same perception would be large red London-style double decker buses.

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^ agreed, this could also serve as a catalyst to get more people to ride the bus as a bridge to public transportation? It does seem expensive and a bit of a gamble but now is the right time to look into these things. 

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And let's be honest, you can dress it up in plastic, you can paint it pretty colors, you can fuel it with alternative energy sources but a bus is still a bus and there are people who will not ride a bus.  Pretending that isn't true doesn't make it reality. 

 

I'm pretty much one of those people.  mostly because whenever I try and ride the bus it seems like the slowest most uncomfortable form of transportation imaginable.  I don't have the problem with rail.  it seems to reliably get me where I need to go with a minimum of fuss.

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You know, a lot of these same arguments were made against the construction of the arena back in the 1990's.  People waved studies that showed other cities that built arenas did not enjoy any beneficial economic impact.  They said it was a folly.  They said it wasn't really needed.  They said it wouldn't spur redevelopment of the area that surrounds it.  They asked who was going to fill it?  They said a lot of stuff like that.  Looking at things now, it's difficult to imagine all the vibrant activity in that area south of downtown would be there if the arena had not been built. 

 

And let's be honest, you can dress it up in plastic, you can paint it pretty colors, you can fuel it with alternative energy sources but a bus is still a bus and there are people who will not ride a bus.  Pretending that isn't true doesn't make it reality.  These same people will ride a streetcar because it is quaint or entertaining or some such thing.  I hate to burst the bubble that buses are a panacea for all our transportation problems, but it's true.  Their is a romance with rail that buses can't equal.  Kids don't play with electric bus sets when they are little.  About the only bus you could run up and down Monroe that might garner the same perception would be large red London-style double decker buses.

 

Is this seriously trying to compare a streetcar to a concert/sports facility?

 

A place that concentrates tens of thousands of people in one area is not the same as a bus on rails. The arena has generated returns in the billions because of that almost guaranteed usage number.

This streetcar will actually have to generate something other than joy rides.People will have to pay to use it to actually go somewhere they need to go or else the novelty will wear off quickly.

 

 

Transit activists/supporters need to seriously stop with these wild promises of huge returns in terms of development every time something like this comes up. The Silverline hasn't generated any of the developments that people were told would arise from it's creation even though the exact route was known for almost 2 years now, unless you want to count the drve-thru Popeyes in Burton Heights. 

 

We have buses. They can make special runs from 6th street to the transit center if it is that important. If the buses we have are too ugly and "unromantic" then that's too bad. Is this supposed to be about transit or is this supposed to be a Disney ride?

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Is this seriously trying to compare a streetcar to a concert/sports facility?

 

A place that concentrates tens of thousands of people in one area is not the same as a bus on rails. The arena has generated returns in the billions because of that almost guaranteed usage number.

This streetcar will actually have to generate something other than joy rides.People will have to pay to use it to actually go somewhere they need to go or else the novelty will wear off quickly.

 

 

Transit activists/supporters need to seriously stop with these wild promises of huge returns in terms of development every time something like this comes up. The Silverline hasn't generated any of the developments that people were told would arise from it's creation even though the exact route was known for almost 2 years now, unless you want to count the drve-thru Popeyes in Burton Heights. 

 

We have buses. They can make special runs from 6th street to the transit center if it is that important. If the buses we have are too ugly and "unromantic" then that's too bad. Is this supposed to be about transit or is this supposed to be a Disney ride?

 

I mostly agree but I don't think the novelty/attraction would ever wear-off. But like amusement parks it would not be used much during the winter or other bad weather conditions.

The mayor of Wyoming has said that the SilverLine has caused much interest with developers.

“Research specifically points to an increase in economic activity with this kind of new transportation option and we have already seen the beginnings of strong positive impact. Developers have started purchasing properties along this route and more have informed us of their interest and are watching various properties closely. Interestingly, many developers we have spoken with from all over the world concerning the Site 36 property have been very intrigued that the Silver Line is so close.”

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2014/01/the_most_important_decision_fo.html

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Is this seriously trying to compare a streetcar to a concert/sports facility?

 

A place that concentrates tens of thousands of people in one area is not the same as a bus on rails. The arena has generated returns in the billions because of that almost guaranteed usage number.

This streetcar will actually have to generate something other than joy rides.People will have to pay to use it to actually go somewhere they need to go or else the novelty will wear off quickly.

 

 

Transit activists/supporters need to seriously stop with these wild promises of huge returns in terms of development every time something like this comes up. The Silverline hasn't generated any of the developments that people were told would arise from it's creation even though the exact route was known for almost 2 years now, unless you want to count the drve-thru Popeyes in Burton Heights. 

 

We have buses. They can make special runs from 6th street to the transit center if it is that important. If the buses we have are too ugly and "unromantic" then that's too bad. Is this supposed to be about transit or is this supposed to be a Disney ride?

 

I for one have always maintained that BRT lines do not encourage development like a rail system does.

 

If you travel to a city for business or pleasure, and you see a streetcar going by and the hotel concierge tells you it goes to an entertainment district, you'd probably get on it. If you live in one part of downtown and need to go to work or school in another part of downtown, you'd probably ride it daily.

 

If you see a bus go by, probably not so much. Probably not at all.

 

We went to Universal Studios Orlando about 3 or 4 years ago and there was a shuttle bus that ran up and down the hotel strip and to the major parks. It was the worst friggin ride ever. People had to stand up because it was so crowded, so every time we entered or left a hotel parking lot the whole thing would rock violently with people crashing into each other. It was worse than my school bus rides I had as a kid, which weren't great to begin with.

 

I've ridden the People Mover in Detroit about a half dozen times and I think it's awesome, particularly for bar crawling at night. It would be even cooler if it were ground level, but whatever.

 

I've ridden the monorail system in Las Vegas, also pretty cool. It also could be really cool at ground level on Las Vegas Boulevard, but I hear they're kicking around that idea.

 

I've been on light rail and heavy rail systems in Denver and Minneapolis and Chicago. There is NO comparison to bus, and each had a ton of neighborhood development going on at each stop.

 

Grand Rapids development patterns are beginning to spread North to South. It's actually quite a long walk from Monroe North to Founders Brewing Co. or Ionia or the Downtown Market. An unbearable walk in this weather. It's actually a long walk from Rosa Parks Circle to Founders in this weather. As metrogrkid mentioned, you extend the 5 minute walking radius quite a bit with a rail system.

 

Bus has its role in certain corridors. BRT has a role in certain corrridors (you wouldn't run light rail all the way out to Allendale, IMO). But I agree, people who keep trying to compare the systems (streetcars or light rail and BRT) and say that one is better than another is better than another need to stop. They all serve different roles.

 

But development has never been shown to happen along BRT. The Euclid Corridor in Cleveland is used as an example of BRT development but according to a colleague of mine who works in economic development there, most of that development would have happened anyway.

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But development has never been shown to happen along BRT. The Euclid Corridor in Cleveland is used as an example of BRT development but according to a colleague of mine who works in economic development there, most of that development would have happened anyway.

 

Similarly I think people (like wingbert above) give the arena too much credit for the development south of Fulton.  While the arena has been important, I think the development would have happened anyway.  Renewal and re-purposing of old downtown buildings is what's happening all over in cities, whether there is a new arena or not.  

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People just don't want to accept the fact that a BRT Line CAN provide the SAME SERVICE as a streetcar.
I have not seen a study that shows that a rail system has more economic development than a BRT system.

A BRT Liner can be compared to a streetcar.

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People would ride this monster:

And not this BRT Beauty?

 

 

Or this one:

Why lay tracks and have an ugly overhead cable system?

 

John, have you seen the REAL BRT buses they are using? You keep flashing those slick articulated ones but the Euclid Corridor one looks like something out of Robocop. The Rapid Silver Line looks similar to what they're using now. And with that, I'm done with this silly debate. :) If you don't like a streetcar, don't ride it.

 

GCRTA_New_Flyer_DE60LF-BRT.jpg

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Is this seriously trying to compare a streetcar to a concert/sports facility?

 

 

Ummm, no.  No, man, no.  That wasn't the point at all.  The point was that there were plenty of naysayers who said a new and different idea for downtown wouldn't work.  

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Would a streetcar line be a flashy luxury? Of course. Do event planners consider flashy luxuries when picking the location for their next event? Absolutely. Just because it doesn't deliver the absolute lowest cost/person/mile doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a driver of development and tax revenue.

 

Regarding BRT and development: I think that the reality is that the Silver Line will spur plenty of development, but probably not as much as if it were rail-based. Anecdotally, I know of some influence that it's had already: Dwelling Place cited it as one of the factors influencing their decision to rehab the old church at Burton & Francis into affordable senior housing.

 

The Rapid has come a long way in the past decade - it's a superb bus system, and enables mobility for thousands of people who are unable/unwilling to own a car. Its next step is to get past being seen (rightly or wrongly) as transportation only for "poor people and millennial hippies" to a system that is actually preferable to driving. The Silver Line will do this to some extent - it will come close to eliminating the time disadvantage of taking the bus (and when parking is considered, will likely surpass it for many trips). But, it's still a bus - albeit a well-dressed one (and I'm not too hopeful about that front, given the renderings).

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GR_Urbanist is right.  The pie in the sky stuff is really irritating after awhile.  If streetcars spur so much economic development, why not build one out in a cornfield somewhere? 

 

All of this public/mass transit discussion is grating, because each and every time, no one talks about the comparative cost of a ride on the shiny new toy.  That cost, per trip, is typically more than it costs to take a decent used vehicle, including the cost of gasoline, insurance, and depreciation on the vehicle.  I did the analysis here one upon a time, and so far as I can recall, no one could really dispute it.  If anyone actually had to pay what it actually costs to ride the bus, the bus would be virtually empty.

 

If you want to "spur economic development" along a bus route like the much-vaunted Silver Line, it would be cheaper and more efficient to use the cash to build buildings and rent them out at below market rates for two decades.

 

Let's call a spade a spade:  Public transportation in Grand Rapids at its core is typically a redistribution program which taxes primarily middle class property owners and tax payers and generally transfers it to the poor because, in Grand Rapids at least, that's who rides on the stinky, slow buses.  That, and college students.  Whether you're okay with inefficient redistribution programs is one thing.  Gussying that up in the language of "economic development" and "investment" is another, and is absolutely ridiculous.

Edited by x99

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