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Transit Updates for Greater Grand Rapids

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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.

 

If they didn't build roads they could provide everybody with 4 wheel vehicles.

Public Transportation is an infrastructure service that benefits everybody in the covered region and beyond.

It surely is not redistribution.

When the system was run by GRATA it was mostly unusable.

The Rapid has made the system much more usable and pleasant to use. Nicer buses, nicer, happier, more service oriented drivers and more.

Many more middle class riders.

Having a top notch public transportation system sure does promote business and population growth. And that benefits even those that don't use it.

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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.

 

You're wrong about investing in public transportation as being merely an income redistribution program, but so what if it is? I'm no fan of European style cradle to the grave benefits but I do think everyone should have as fair a shot as possible at making it in life. Part of that is to have adequate access to transportation and education. I'll gladly give away some of my middle class income for those two causes, I don't think people should have lost before they even began.

 

If you can give me a reasonable scenario where a poor person in Grand Rapids who genuinely wants to make it to their new job and better their lot but this job is 10 miles away and they have no reliable access to a car gets there without using the bus, than maybe I'll rethink my stance. Besides, even if they do get a car and drive, it's not like the roads they use are any less tax payer supported

Edited by Matchetes
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This pie in the sky stuff is so irritating and grating, like dreaming about:

-building a gigantic convention center

-building an awesome arena that turned a whole neighborhood from a dump into the hottest thing going on

-building a botanical gardens and sculpture park that becomes one of the most visited places in the state

-transforming a historic zoo

-building a wonderful downtown market

-building a game-changing BRT line

-remaking the Grand River

 

Like any of those ridiculous ideas will ever come to fruition.

 

This city sucks because it keeps on talking about all this pie in the sky stuff, like streetcarts, and never gets anything done. These dreamers with all their outlandish ideas are totally the ones that are irritating.

 

Like x99 and GR_Urbanist are saying, put up or shut up you ridiculous dreamers! If we had more people like these realists, we would be in a much better city.

 

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 Jippy

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I support the reintroduction of streetcars in Grand Rapids. At this point, I think the better question is: how can we best reduce the costs of streetcar lines to make it more appealing to the masses? It seems as though when these lines are designed, some cities try to go 'all-out.' I'm not sure what areas of high cost could be improved on, but here's a link for starters. I haven't read the whole thing yet (and it is geared towards LRT instead of streetcars), but some of what I read seems to have merit...

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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.

 

You really need to retire this stale talking point.  Yes, buses cost money.  So does every thing else.  Every form of transportation, from walking to aviation, is facilitated, at great expense, by all levels of government.  They do it because a functional economy depends on access to transportation.  The goal of transportation policy isn't to find a comparative advantage on one conveyance, it's to make access as close to 100% as possible.  How to do that is why we argue.  But just because poor people ride buses, that doesn't make it "redistribution," no matter how much you may resent that.  All transportation is subsidized.  Walker overwhelmingly voted to keep the Rapid in 2012, despite the fact its commuting habits strongly favor single-occupancy vehicles.  Boy, what a bunch of welfare freeloaders they are!  If this is your idea of redistribution, then the post office, parks, and emergency services are too.

 

This is an aside, but the snowstorm in Atlanta a couple weeks ago is a great example of how dependent we all are on local transportation authorities, and what happens when they completely drop the ball.  I found it breathtaking that all it takes is 2 inches is turn a major city into a scene from The Day After Tomorrow.  Motorists were helpless.  Sure makes one appreciate what MDOT and the county road commissions go through every year.  That's a lot of tax dollars devoted towards helping us drive in the snow.

 

Okay, sorry guys, back to the streetcar...

Edited by RegalTDP
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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.

 

If anyone had to pay the "true cost" to have police protection, they wouldn't ever call the police either. That's such a lame tea-party argument, and it is ridiculous. The Rapid's millage portion is what, 1.47 mills?

 

It's hardly redistribution. And I think you do a great disservice to the hundreds of men and women who work for The Rapid, as well as leaders of the six cities who created the ITP and have made it a pretty succesful transit system, the ITP board that is made up of city and local business leaders, and the people who rely on The Rapid to get around every day.

 

Cities need transportation alternatives other than cars, plain and simple. Just because you don't need it doesn't mean other people don't.

 

 

I think what everyone should do is wait to see what the streetcar study findings are before passing judgment.

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Woah. Now impugning anyone's political leanings isnt helping this.

 

I dont like how much of this stuff is fanning out.

 

This study is costing a lot of money, which people need to understand is short all around. If this thing is built, then that's going to costs even more. Now as a citizen of GR that pays lots in tax dollars, while I see lots of lay-offs around me, you will have to excuse me if I personally do expect lots more discussion about this beyond the transit advocates almost question-less cheerleading.

 

And this is coming from someone that likes these things. I may like them, but if my tax bill is going to go up, I expect it to do something other than be a toy with wild claims of great rewards. When I look at examples in the region and see that it caused major political rifts almost everywhere, and in one city (forgot which one) most of the city government was tossed out based on their own streetcar controversy, that's a red flag. They grossly misread the people of their city and spent too much time around people like us that love talking about these things, and thought that people against it were just ignorant and would "come around to their senses". Not a good way to have gone about that there, and I believe here as well.

 

 

Now do cities "need" alternatives? Sure, eventually.

 

Now show us the need. The BRT isnt a need to me. It is an expensive system that no one can still point out exactly whose going to use it and why. We just need to build it...just because it's transit and that's all that matters?

 

This streetcar isnt a need either in the form that it has been presented so far. From what I can gather, one of the main reasons is that the buses are ugly and this will entice people to use it because it isnt a bus. Well...that's just not good enough. I dont want to see my tax bill to go up for something whose usefulness isnt clearly defined outside of theory. 

 

If they aren't slow and careful with this study, and fill it with "We need to do this now. Dont ask questions" language, then I will not support it, period. That's not Democrat, Republican, Tea Party or Occupy Wall St.. That's just responsible. 

 

If this idea is good enough, then it can survive honest examination. If it's rationale is flaky then I can get why it needs to be rushed. Since it isnt meeting any immediate demand, then it isnt a priority to be passed along without lots of discussion.

Edited by GR_Urbanist

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This pie in the sky stuff is so irritating and grating, like dreaming about:

-building a gigantic convention center

-building an awesome arena that turned a whole neighborhood from a dump into the hottest thing going on

-building a botanical gardens and sculpture park that becomes one of the most visited places in the state

-transforming a historic zoo

-building a wonderful downtown market

-building a game-changing BRT line

-remaking the Grand River

 

Like any of those ridiculous ideas will ever come to fruition.

 

This city sucks because it keeps on talking about all this pie in the sky stuff, like streetcarts, and never gets anything done. These dreamers with all their outlandish ideas are totally the ones that are irritating.

 

Like x99 and GR_Urbanist are saying, put up or shut up you ridiculous dreamers! If we had more people like these realists, we would be in a much better city.

 

Ok. I wont begin to pick apart the absurdity of this. Well, why not.

 

"-building a gigantic convention center"

Wasn't against this. The Grand Center was a ugly mess that had outlived its usefulness.

 

"-building an awesome arena that turned a whole neighborhood from a dump into the hottest thing going on"

​I was 16 years old at the time it was built. I biked across town in summer and winter to watch it get built. I considered the people in the shelter community that were the most vocal opponents of this to have been crazy for acting like this would destroy the homeless.

 

"-building a botanical gardens and sculpture park that becomes one of the most visited places in the state"

I was against this? I was there in the first weeks it was open. And Fred Meijer paid to build it.

 

"-transforming a historic zoo"

1) I supported it being rebuilt by the Meijer Gardens.

2) I thought the people that didnt want them to expand one inch into the park to have been nuts.

 

"-building a wonderful downtown market"

I was against this?

 

"-building a game-changing BRT line"

I do think that was a stupid idea. "Game-changing" is a bit of a stretch. 

 

"-remaking the Grand River"

I'm neutral on it until I see how they will accommodate all interests and how much will it cost.

 

Urbanism is not a religious cult, people. Questioning questionable things is not sacrilege. Seeing this as an all or nothing thing is inching dangerously close to how I saw that Salon group operate.

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Ok. I wont begin to pick apart the absurdity of this. Well, why not.

 

"-building a gigantic convention center"

Wasn't against this. The Grand Center was a ugly mess that had outlived its usefulness.

 

"-building an awesome arena that turned a whole neighborhood from a dump into the hottest thing going on"

​I was 16 years old at the time it was built. I biked across town in summer and winter to watch it get built. I considered the people in the shelter community that were the most vocal opponents of this to have been crazy for acting like this would destroy the homeless.

 

"-building a botanical gardens and sculpture park that becomes one of the most visited places in the state"

I was against this? I was there in the first weeks it was open. And Fred Meijer paid to build it.

 

"-transforming a historic zoo"

1) I supported it being rebuilt by the Meijer Gardens.

2) I thought the people that didnt want them to expand one inch into the park to have been nuts.

 

"-building a wonderful downtown market"

I was against this?

 

"-building a game-changing BRT line"

I do think that was a stupid idea. "Game-changing" is a bit of a stretch. 

 

"-remaking the Grand River"

I'm neutral on it until I see how they will accommodate all interests and how much will it cost.

 

Urbanism is not a religious cult, people. Questioning questionable things is not sacrilege. Seeing this as an all or nothing thing is inching dangerously close to how I saw that Salon group operate.

 

 

 

I think Jippy was just talking about naysayers in general. I guess. I actually don't know.

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Ok. I wont begin to pick apart the absurdity of this. Well, why not.

 

"-building a gigantic convention center"

Wasn't against this. The Grand Center was a ugly mess that had outlived its usefulness.

 

"-building an awesome arena that turned a whole neighborhood from a dump into the hottest thing going on"

​I was 16 years old at the time it was built. I biked across town in summer and winter to watch it get built. I considered the people in the shelter community that were the most vocal opponents of this to have been crazy for acting like this would destroy the homeless.

 

"-building a botanical gardens and sculpture park that becomes one of the most visited places in the state"

I was against this? I was there in the first weeks it was open. And Fred Meijer paid to build it.

 

"-transforming a historic zoo"

1) I supported it being rebuilt by the Meijer Gardens.

2) I thought the people that didnt want them to expand one inch into the park to have been nuts.

 

"-building a wonderful downtown market"

I was against this?

 

"-building a game-changing BRT line"

I do think that was a stupid idea. "Game-changing" is a bit of a stretch. 

 

"-remaking the Grand River"

I'm neutral on it until I see how they will accommodate all interests and how much will it cost.

 

Urbanism is not a religious cult, people. Questioning questionable things is not sacrilege. Seeing this as an all or nothing thing is inching dangerously close to how I saw that Salon group operate.

 

I like healthy debate... as long as it is grounded in reason and openness to fact.

 

When x99 has concluded "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..."  and you have already concluded with your immense expertise that this is no more than a shiny new train and you have already determined that the BRT is already a waste prior to it even opening, it is not possible to take either of you seriously. [As a somewhat ironic aside, the whole concept of a streetcar suburb did what x99 sarcastically described. Streetcars were laid in greenfield tracts to create development for the claimed land. And let's not also pretend that other transportation investments in this community haven't led to massive amounts of development. Drive to any exit off the South Beltline and that is obvious (publicly funded through the appropriations committee, i.e. not gas tax). 

 

You may not have been against the list of community projects that I listed, but your attitude is not unique. It has spanned generations. They are described as naysayers. I agree that urbanism isn't a cult and any community expenditure should be scrutinized, but blindly concluding that all public urban transportation investment is a terrible thing even before the study has commenced has certainly become a cult of its own. It is called the Tea Party. 

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I like healthy debate... as long as it is grounded in reason and openness to fact.

 

When x99 has concluded "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..."  and you have already concluded with your immense expertise that this is no more than a shiny new train and you have already determined that the BRT is already a waste prior to it even opening, it is not possible to take either of you seriously. [As a somewhat ironic aside, the whole concept of a streetcar suburb did what x99 sarcastically described. Streetcars were laid in greenfield tracts to create development for the claimed land. And let's not also pretend that other transportation investments in this community haven't led to massive amounts of development. Drive to any exit off the South Beltline and that is obvious (publicly funded through the appropriations committee, i.e. not gas tax). 

 

You may not have been against the list of community projects that I listed, but your attitude is not unique. It has spanned generations. They are described as naysayers. I agree that urbanism isn't a cult and any community expenditure should be scrutinized, but blindly concluding that all public urban transportation investment is a terrible thing even before the study has commenced has certainly become a cult of its own. It is called the Tea Party. 

 

I like a healthy debate too, just please dont dismiss opposing viewpoints as not being "grounded in reason and openness to fact". That's not a good way to start out.

 

Based on what has been presented so far, that is what I think of the streetcar proposal. A useless service to ferry a non-existent group of people from the 6th street bridge to Central Station. What else am I supposed to think? The idea is based on a out-of-date study from when everyone thought N. Monroe was the next hot place in DT before the housing crash. My suggestion was that it should run east-west from the westside library to at least Fuller or Plymouth where it would have some use and impact far quickly than hoping that N. Monroe will blow up with tons of carless residents that hopefully all work DT or will want to use this.

 

And yes I do see the BRT as is is constituted here as an almost equally useless idea catering to an non-existent group of people that we are told are ready to ditch their cars on 68th street to commute on a bus that is only 45% faster than the existing #1. That monster amounts of TOD developments will spring up on a strip of road that has been 1000% oriented towards car use for 60 years and though two cities that overwhelmingly voted against it twice. 

 

And the thing is I can afford to be wrong, because that means the BRT will be a rousing success. The supports cant.

 

You dont have to take me seriously if you dont want your worldview to be questioned, but you should because my position is the mild one compared to people that really do want the whole bus system to be scrapped. And we mild ones are the votes that will tip something like this streetcar to the no side if our simple desire to see better reasoning is just dismissed.

 

" And let's not also pretend that other transportation investments in this community haven't led to massive amounts of development. Drive to any exit off the South Beltline and that is obvious (publicly funded through the appropriations committee, i.e. not gas tax). "

 

 

The people in those cars are spending money off of the S. Beltline in those developments. There is obviously a reliable population of people with access to cars to make all of that worthwhile. Is it pretty? No. Is it my dream vision? No. Is it working for those people? Yes. There are millions of people using those highways every month. Far more than are on any public transportation option. If buses were seeing that demand (not counting GVSU, GRCC and GRPS students) then it would be stupid not to do it for those options too.

 

"You may not have been against the list of community projects that I listed, but your attitude is not unique. It has spanned generations. They are described as naysayers. I agree that urbanism isn't a cult and any community expenditure should be scrutinized..."

 

 

So you are a "naysayer" as I am. I didnt say this stuff SHOULD NOT be done. I said if there is a NEED, and the numbers add up, then it makes sense. If it is all grounded in a theory that you can just stick BRTs and streetcars anywhere and it will magically generate ridership, economic development and less car traffic, and then nothing else (just pay the higher tax bill you are going to get and keep quiet), then that isnt good enough no matter how much it rankles.

 

"...but blindly concluding that all public urban transportation investment is a terrible thing even before the study has commenced has certainly become a cult of its own. It is called the Tea Party. "

 

??

 

Like I said, be more mindful of dissent. There are cities where these things being pushed with no respect for opposition regardless of what label you want to paint them with, leads to a voter backlash. You are playing with other people's money in the end, and they are not obligated to just go with it because you feel you are more right than they.  

Edited by GR_Urbanist

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I like healthy debate... as long as it is grounded in reason and openness to fact.

 

When x99 has concluded "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..."  and you have already concluded with your immense expertise that this is no more than a shiny new train and you have already determined that the BRT is already a waste prior to it even opening, it is not possible to take either of you seriously. [As a somewhat ironic aside, the whole concept of a streetcar suburb did what x99 sarcastically described. Streetcars were laid in greenfield tracts to create development for the claimed land. And let's not also pretend that other transportation investments in this community haven't led to massive amounts of development. Drive to any exit off the South Beltline and that is obvious (publicly funded through the appropriations committee, i.e. not gas tax). 

 

You may not have been against the list of community projects that I listed, but your attitude is not unique. It has spanned generations. They are described as naysayers. I agree that urbanism isn't a cult and any community expenditure should be scrutinized, but blindly concluding that all public urban transportation investment is a terrible thing even before the study has commenced has certainly become a cult of its own. It is called the Tea Party. 

 

Everyone needs to keep this discussion to the issues, and not directed toward other members. Thanks.

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I like a healthy debate too, just please dont dismiss opposing viewpoints as not being "grounded in reason and openness to fact". That's not a good way to start out.

 

Based on what has been presented so far, that is what I think of the streetcar proposal. A useless service to ferry a non-existent group of people from the 6th street bridge to Central Station. What else am I supposed to think? The idea is based on a out-of-date study from when everyone thought N. Monroe was the next hot place in DT before the housing crash. My suggestion was that it should run east-west from the westside library to at least Fuller or Plymouth where it would have some use and impact far quickly than hoping that N. Monroe will blow up with tons of carless residents that hopefully all work DT or will want to use this.

 

And yes I do see the BRT as is is constituted here as an almost equally useless idea catering to an non-existent group of people that we are told are ready to ditch their cars on 68th street to commute on a bus that is only 45% faster than the existing #1. That monster amounts of TOD developments will spring up on a strip of road that has been 1000% oriented towards car use for 60 years and though two cities that overwhelmingly voted against it twice. 

 

And the thing is I can afford to be wrong, because that means the BRT will be a rousing success. The supports cant.

 

You dont have to take me seriously if you dont want your worldview to be questioned, but you should because my position is the mild one compared to people that really do want the whole bus system to be scrapped. And we mild ones are the votes that will tip something like this streetcar to the no side if our simple desire to see better reasoning is just dismissed.

 

 

The people in those cars are spending money off of the S. Beltline in those developments. There is obviously a reliable population of people with access to cars to make all of that worthwhile. Is it pretty? No. Is it my dream vision? No. Is it working for those people? Yes. There are millions of people using those highways every month. Far more than are on any public transportation option. If buses were seeing that demand (not counting GVSU, GRCC and GRPS students) then it would be stupid not to do it for those options too.

 

So you are a "naysayer" as I am. I didnt say this stuff SHOULD NOT be done. I said if there is a NEED, and the numbers add up, then it makes sense. If it is all grounded in a theory that you can just stick BRTs and streetcars anywhere and it will magically generate ridership, economic development and less car traffic, and then nothing else (just pay the higher tax bill you are going to get and keep quiet), then that isnt good enough no matter how much it rankles.

 

??

 

Like I said, be more mindful of dissent. There are cities where these things being pushed with no respect for opposition regardless of what label you want to paint them with, leads to a voter backlash. You are playing with other people's money in the end, and they are not obligated to just go with it because you feel you are more right than they.  

 

To quote someone from the Clancy Ave/St. Apartments discussion, "But I also feel bad for the developers that they have to make magic happen with dingbat NIMBYs carping at your rear."

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This seems a bit off topic but I'd like to talk about the streetcars.  I am in favor of the streetcars but I hope that they plan for early expansion.  I see both sides of the argument going on here.  To build it just to say we have one is not a good idea.  If the route is too short, it would be like the one in Kenosha Wisconsin (an attraction).  I used to live in Seattle and the Monorail that they had went from Point A to Point B but it was only a few blocks. The only people that rode it were tourist.  I think if we build something similar too hastily, it will turn off the public to a bigger and better system down the line.  On the other hand, I've also lived in San Diego.  I lived one block from the trolley line.  I saw first hand the development that happened when they extended the line east.  Neighborhoods that were desolate (being nice) were transformed within one year.  If we had a system like that, I think wonderful things can happen here.  I guess I wouldn't put myself in the camp of build it just to build it but I also think that with careful planning and a little patience, a streetcar system would be amazing.  Alright, now every can go back to political name calling :console:    

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To quote someone from the Clancy Ave/St. Apartments discussion, "But I also feel bad for the developers that they have to make magic happen with dingbat NIMBYs carping at your rear."

 

Ok, you are going to have to explain what I said there has to do with this. The quote here is taken out of context and was talking about the people near the Clancy apartments that were unreasonably demanding that the developer abandon the dense apart concept for something that looks "more like individual houses". That is what I was commenting on. Instead of stopping at just wanting it designed to look nicer, they wanted it to be completely redefined. And these people were not even paying the cost of it being built, and the city still allowed their dissent to be heard and not brushed off, sending it back to be redesigned. Btw I thought it was ugly too as was stated in the first part of the post that isnt shown here. I did not agree with redefining the density because the project wouldn't make sense anymore.

 

And in the end? That is exactly what happened. The density stays and it looks nicer, but I do still feel sorry for those developers that have to steer a minefeild though unreasonable demands that could have compromised their projects and potentially have scuttled it.

Edited by GR_Urbanist

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This seems a bit off topic but I'd like to talk about the streetcars.  I am in favor of the streetcars but I hope that they plan for early expansion.  I see both sides of the argument going on here.  To build it just to say we have one is not a good idea.  If the route is too short, it would be like the one in Kenosha Wisconsin (an attraction).  I used to live in Seattle and the Monorail that they had went from Point A to Point B but it was only a few blocks. The only people that rode it were tourist.  I think if we build something similar too hastily, it will turn off the public to a bigger and better system down the line.  On the other hand, I've also lived in San Diego.  I lived one block from the trolley line.  I saw first hand the development that happened when they extended the line east.  Neighborhoods that were desolate (being nice) were transformed within one year.  If we had a system like that, I think wonderful things can happen here.  I guess I wouldn't put myself in the camp of build it just to build it but I also think that with careful planning and a little patience, a streetcar system would be amazing.     

 

Thank you GRJohn for getting us back on topic.

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I don't understand how it is at all political and leads to "Tea Party" nonsense and mudslinging to ask for proof that a streetcar is a wise idea and a good use of resources.

 

For BRT or Streetcars to make sense, or for any of these projects to turn into "economic development" projects, ridership needs to drastically expand beyond those who would currently ride the bus, most of whom likely have little if any disposable income.  Now, if I am wrong, and those riding the bus have money to burn--and lots of it--this may make wonderful sense as an economic development program.  

 

Trying to equate public transit to police protection, fire protection, or highways does not make sense, and is not fair.  People will use the highway--we know this.  They will build $200,000 houses and build new stores where you put in a new highway around here.  We know this.  Does that make building huge new highways a great idea or a great use of resources?  That's a whole 'nother ball of wax.  Same thing with police and fire--we have public police and fire protection for a fairly good reason.  Lawlessness and uncontrolled fire are rather bad things in urban environments.  However, that does not mean we should pay for more police and fire than we need. 

 

Public transport is expensive.  They hide the ball as well as they can in the "Transit Master Plan" by comparing how wonderfully efficient they are compared to some other bus systems.  To get the real story, we have to look elsewhere.  According to the GR Press,  passengers on the Rapid pay 17.8% of the operating costs. The Press reported in 2013 it cost $.76 to move a passenger one mile.  However, it appears that does not even include the cost of the buses.  If my car cost that much to operate, I wouldn't be able to afford to drive it.  Including the cost of gas, insurance, and $1000/yr for maintenance (which is much higher than it actually costs me), my car costs about $.19 a mile to move me one mile.  With two people in the car, it costs me $.09 or so.  I didn't count the cost of the car, because apparently, neither do they. 

 

Ergo, yes, those who ride the Rapid are being heavily subsidized, and yes, that subside is very costly.

 

Now, even if we concede that some degree of public transportation is a good thing to provide for those who cannot otherwise get around, that does not mean that shoveling more money into transport as an "investment" or "development opportunity" makes a lick of sense.  So why build and pay for even more of it if what is already in place is not being fully utilized?  Where is the proof to show that building some sort of monorail or light rail is going to be anything more than 1) a taxpayer subsidized tourist trap, or 2) another alternative mode of transit for those already taking the bus?

 

Unless there is no more room for cars, expansion of mass transit is generally economically backwards.  And if current methods provide adequate mobility, further expansion also appears to serve little if any social purpose.  It might be a fun little project, but I would submit that arguments for it are rather hard to support.

 

EDIT:  Turns out a lot of work has already been done uncovering some of the truth about the Rapid.  Interesting website:  http://www.itpwatch.org/

Some of the information there is frightening.  Far, far worse than even I had assumed.

Edited by x99
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I don't understand how it is at all political and leads to "Tea Party" nonsense and mudslinging to ask for proof that a streetcar is a wise idea and a good use of resources.  Let's look at what I think are fairly unarguable facts:

 

Assumed Fact #1:  Buses in Grand Rapids likely cost more to operate than a private car on a per rider basis.  Even if this is not completely accurate, the system charges a rate to ride on it to ride that costs less than it does to operate it.

 

Assumed Fact #2:  Private cars generally speaking offer a faster, private, and more convenient method of transportation.  Most people who have cars do not ride the bus.

 

Assumed Fact #3:  There are people who cannot afford cars and a very small number of people who, for whatever reason, don't like to or are not able to drive.  In Grand Rapids, this group constitutes the majority of the bus ridership. 

 

For BRT or Streetcars to make sense, or for any of these projects to turn into "economic development" projects, ridership needs to drastically expand beyond those who would currently ride the bus, most of whom likely have little if any disposable income.  Now, if I am wrong, and those riding the bus have money to burn--and lots of it--this may make wonderful sense as an economic development program.  

 

The counterarguments that we had streetcars 100 years ago says nothing about today.  So what if it worked before the advent of reliable automobiles? 150 years ago I could have built a buggy whip factory and made a killing.  That doesn't make it a particularly good idea today.

 

Trying to equate public transit to police protection, fire protection, or highways does not make sense, and is not fair.  People will use the highway--we know this.  They will build $200,000 houses and build new stores where you put in a new highway around here.  We know this.  Does that make building huge new highways a great idea or a great use of resources?  That's a whole 'nother ball of wax.  Same thing with police and fire--we have public police and fire protection for a fairly good reason.  Lawlessness and uncontrolled fire are rather bad things in urban environments.  However, that does not mean we should pay for more police and fire than we need. 

 

Public transport?  Most of those who subsidize the cost will never or seldom use it. And it is expensive.  They hide the ball as well as they can in the "Transit Master Plan" by comparing how wonderfully efficient they are compared to some other bus systems.  According to the GR Press,  passengers on the Rapid pay 17.8% of the operating costs. The Press reported in 2013 it cost $.76 to move a passenger one mile.  However, it appears that does not even include the cost of the buses.  If my car cost that much to operate, I wouldn't be able to afford to drive it.  Including the cost of gas, insurance, and $1000/yr for maintenance (which is much higher than it actually costs me), my car costs about $.19 a mile to move me one mile.  With two people in the car, it costs me $.09 or so.  I didn't count the cost of the car, because apparently, neither do they. 

 

Ergo, yes, those who ride the Rapid are being heavily subsidized, and yes, that subside is very costly.  At least in GR, the bus system is a fairly heavily subsidized outfit that can probably be fairly characterized as a transfer program.  That isn't an indictment of the system, but simply a fair descriptor of what it actually is.  Are all cities this out of whack in terms of the subsidy?  Are all cities transfer programs (such as New York)? No, but they are in GR, which was my point.

 

Now, even if we concede that some degree of public transportation is a good thing to provide for those who cannot otherwise get around, that does not mean that shoveling more money into transport as an "investment" or "development opportunity" makes a lick of sense.  So why build and pay for even more of it if what is already in place is not being fully utilized?  Where is the proof to show that building some sort of monorail or light rail is going to be anything more than 1) a taxpayer subsidized tourist trap, or 2) another alternative mode of transit for those already taking the bus?

 

Unless there is no more room for cars, expansion of mass transit is economically backwards.  And if current methods provide adequate mobility, further expansion also services little if any social purpose. 

 

Okay, lets look at this in reality.

The cost of operating the buses per rider is an infrastructure service. How many bridges in Michigan has one never used or only used once or twice, yet pays taxes on that bridge, which provides a vital service for those that use it on a regular basis?

How often does The Rapid provide service to those with broke-down vehicles? How many vehicle owners participate in the van share program? How many "public transportation" services does The Rapid provide?

How many people benefit from public transportation? How much has The Rapid improved, resulting in MUCH higher ridership? How many people that use the bus system work and pay taxes?

The reality is that public transportation is an infrastructure service.

The reality is that even The Rapid was surprised with the number of people that used their park-n-rider shuttle when the S-Curve was being reconstructed. Look at the number of vehicle owners that use public transportation in other cities like Chicago.

How many low-end middle income people dump their vehicle to save money because of high quality public transportation?

An increased rider system is not needed to promote economic development. Building fixed stations has more than proven to increase economic development.

The reality is that businesses are attracted to locations with high quality public transportation.

The Mayor of Wyoming has stated that there is much excitement with developers since the construction of stations for the SilverLine has begun.

Public Transportation systems that go beyond normal bus service attracts attention from other areas, and in some cases even other countries.

And they benefit those that don't even use the system because of the economic growth and stability.

Again, public transportation is an infrastructure service.

The BRT SilverLine will improve service to many, will attract, cause economic development and attract visitors and the status, reputation for the Grand Rapids area.

Streetcars are different than other modes. I am of the opinion that they are mostly an attraction.

The Reality is that the Streetcar Line would draw people to downtown Grand Rapids. As like Cedar Point the attraction would not die off.

The reality question is, does Grand Rapids need this attraction?

I am of the opinion that it does not.

There are other attractions in the works; Zip The Grand and returning the Grand River with rapids.

I am against laying tracks and see the overhead cabling as an eyesore.

The reality is that the streetcar would actually benefit downtown Grand Rapids for business and entertainment.

The reality is that there are other options.

Could a BRT Line with this type of trolly on wheels provide the same type of attraction?

 

trolley.jpg

That one is offered by Gillig, who The Rapid favors as a manufacturer.

And there are other trolley replicas like the following:

WCT3386.jpg

The reality is that a high quality transportation system does make sense as an investment, as they improve the area and have been proven to attract business and economic development, stability, sustainability.

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I don't understand how it is at all political and leads to "Tea Party" nonsense and mudslinging to ask for proof that a streetcar is a wise idea and a good use of resources.

 

For BRT or Streetcars to make sense, or for any of these projects to turn into "economic development" projects, ridership needs to drastically expand beyond those who would currently ride the bus, most of whom likely have little if any disposable income.  Now, if I am wrong, and those riding the bus have money to burn--and lots of it--this may make wonderful sense as an economic development program.  

 

Trying to equate public transit to police protection, fire protection, or highways does not make sense, and is not fair.  People will use the highway--we know this.  They will build $200,000 houses and build new stores where you put in a new highway around here.  We know this.  Does that make building huge new highways a great idea or a great use of resources?  That's a whole 'nother ball of wax.  Same thing with police and fire--we have public police and fire protection for a fairly good reason.  Lawlessness and uncontrolled fire are rather bad things in urban environments.  However, that does not mean we should pay for more police and fire than we need. 

 

Public transport is expensive.  They hide the ball as well as they can in the "Transit Master Plan" by comparing how wonderfully efficient they are compared to some other bus systems.  To get the real story, we have to look elsewhere.  According to the GR Press,  passengers on the Rapid pay 17.8% of the operating costs. The Press reported in 2013 it cost $.76 to move a passenger one mile.  However, it appears that does not even include the cost of the buses.  If my car cost that much to operate, I wouldn't be able to afford to drive it.  Including the cost of gas, insurance, and $1000/yr for maintenance (which is much higher than it actually costs me), my car costs about $.19 a mile to move me one mile.  With two people in the car, it costs me $.09 or so.  I didn't count the cost of the car, because apparently, neither do they. 

 

Ergo, yes, those who ride the Rapid are being heavily subsidized, and yes, that subside is very costly.

 

Now, even if we concede that some degree of public transportation is a good thing to provide for those who cannot otherwise get around, that does not mean that shoveling more money into transport as an "investment" or "development opportunity" makes a lick of sense.  So why build and pay for even more of it if what is already in place is not being fully utilized?  Where is the proof to show that building some sort of monorail or light rail is going to be anything more than 1) a taxpayer subsidized tourist trap, or 2) another alternative mode of transit for those already taking the bus?

 

Unless there is no more room for cars, expansion of mass transit is generally economically backwards.  And if current methods provide adequate mobility, further expansion also appears to serve little if any social purpose.  It might be a fun little project, but I would submit that arguments for it are rather hard to support.

 

EDIT:  Turns out a lot of work has already been done uncovering some of the truth about the Rapid.  Interesting website:  http://www.itpwatch.org/

Some of the information there is frightening.  Far, far worse than even I had assumed.

 

Haha!! Sorry x99, that site itpwatch has been debunked quite a few times over the last 5 or 6 years. Sorry you missed all that discussion. It's run by a cardiologist or plastic surgeon who lives way the hell out in Cascade Township and doesn't even pay taxes for transit. He doesn't even have to look at a bus all day, yet he devotes his entire tea-baggery life to anti-bus websites and campaigns. Probably on his patients' healthcare dimes that are probably subsidized by medicare and medicaid.

 

AS I SAID IN A PREVIOUS POST, why don't we wait to hear what the streetcar report has to say before we trash it. If you want some information about transit systems and how they work, this thread is pretty good. You'll have to go way back though.

 

And buying bus-riders a car or taxi ride is always the DUMBEST IDEA ever. Who in the world thinks we need MORE cars on the streets? The ones crumbling into rubble, those streets, need more cars on them? The streets you can barely drive down in the winter due to the snowpiles. We need more cars on those?

 

And how would this car-buying system work? Who'd pay the insurance? Who determines what car dealerships participate? Would they be late model cars? Hybrids? What colors? Would they be able to deduct mileage? Could I take my government car to a regular oil change place?

 

DUMB.

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GRDad -- This one seems to really touch a nerve for you, and I can't say I understand why.  My own fiscal analysis, which I came up with long before I ever found that website today, largely mirrored his.  There isn't a lot to "debunk" there.  Factually, he is correct and is using figures that The Rapid is required by law to submit.  He is also correct that the Rapid does its level best to avoid publicizing the actual cost of its bus system. 

 

That said, he also believes, as do I, that it would make more sense to run small vans than to endlessly run huge, empty buses around town.  The vans, by his analysis, are actually cheaper than driving private cars.  Now why aren't we pushing those like crazy?  That seems like a darn good idea.

 

What I have is a problem spending even more money on a system that is already under-utilized, over-funded, and wildly inefficient that is often sold by its propoents as spurring "economic development".  Bupkus.  Grand Rapids simply does not have a lack of public transit capacity.  So you replace one form with another.  Big deal.  That is supposed to bring whopping amounts of economic development? 

 

As for buses impact on roads?  I live on a main street with buses running past my house.  I follow buses into work, and drive the city street each and every day.  I don't live in Cascade, and I pay an enormous amount in taxes to Grand Rapids.  I think I've got a pretty legitimate voice in this conversation.  I watch those buses do a great deal of damage to roads compared to lightweight passenger vehicles.  They also frequently stop in rather bad spots.  In my daily experience, I have been stalled out more by buses than by other cars in this town.  With BRT and bike lanes popping up, the situation is only going to get worse. 

 

And I don't think I ever proposed a "car buying" program. I simply said it would be more economically efficient if it were possible, which is true by any rational account--indeed, by even the Rapids' own numbers.

 

What the Rapid wants is 2 mils and as we have seen, they will do whatever it takes to get it, even if there is no good, rational reason for it.  They have a "build it and they will come" mentality.  However, this has never proven true.  By their own admission, a lot of their recent "increases" in ridership come from contracts with local colleges to help fill their empty buses.  What new well are they going to find to milk?

 

 

Haha!! Sorry x99, that site itpwatch has been debunked quite a few times over the last 5 or 6 years. Sorry you missed all that discussion. It's run by a cardiologist or plastic surgeon who lives way the hell out in Cascade Township and doesn't even pay taxes for transit. He doesn't even have to look at a bus all day, yet he devotes his entire tea-baggery life to anti-bus websites and campaigns. Probably on his patients' healthcare dimes that are probably subsidized by medicare and medicaid.

 

AS I SAID IN A PREVIOUS POST, why don't we wait to hear what the streetcar report has to say before we trash it. If you want some information about transit systems and how they work, this thread is pretty good. You'll have to go way back though.

 

And buying bus-riders a car or taxi ride is always the DUMBEST IDEA ever. Who in the world thinks we need MORE cars on the streets? The ones crumbling into rubble, those streets, need more cars on them? The streets you can barely drive down in the winter due to the snowpiles. We need more cars on those?

 

And how would this car-buying system work? Who'd pay the insurance? Who determines what car dealerships participate? Would they be late model cars? Hybrids? What colors? Would they be able to deduct mileage? Could I take my government car to a regular oil change place?

 

DUMB.

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GRDad -- This one seems to really touch a nerve for you, and I can't say I understand why.  My own fiscal analysis, which I came up with long before I ever found that website today, largely mirrored his.  There isn't a lot to "debunk" there.  Factually, he is correct and is using figures that The Rapid is required by law to submit.  He is also correct that the Rapid does its level best to avoid publicizing the actual cost of its bus system. 

 

That said, he also believes, as do I, that it would make more sense to run small vans than to endlessly run huge, empty buses around town.  The vans, by his analysis, are actually cheaper than driving private cars.  Now why aren't we pushing those like crazy?  That seems like a darn good idea.

 

What I have is a problem spending even more money on a system that is already under-utilized, over-funded, and wildly inefficient that is often sold by its propoents as spurring "economic development".  Bupkus.  Grand Rapids simply does not have a lack of public transit capacity.  So you replace one form with another.  Big deal.  That is supposed to bring whopping amounts of economic development? 

 

As for buses impact on roads?  I live on a main street with buses running past my house.  I follow buses into work, and drive the city street each and every day.  I don't live in Cascade, and I pay an enormous amount in taxes to Grand Rapids.  I think I've got a pretty legitimate voice in this conversation.  I watch those buses do a great deal of damage to roads compared to lightweight passenger vehicles.  They also frequently stop in rather bad spots.  In my daily experience, I have been stalled out more by buses than by other cars in this town.  With BRT and bike lanes popping up, the situation is only going to get worse. 

 

And I don't think I ever proposed a "car buying" program. I simply said it would be more economically efficient if it were possible, which is true by any rational account--indeed, by even the Rapids' own numbers.

 

What the Rapid wants is 2 mils and as we have seen, they will do whatever it takes to get it, even if there is no good, rational reason for it.  They have a "build it and they will come" mentality.  However, this has never proven true.  By their own admission, a lot of their recent "increases" in ridership come from contracts with local colleges to help fill their empty buses.  What new well are they going to find to milk?

 

I suggest you start your own website and campaign then. We're not going to re-argue the debates about the "sheer existence" of transit here on UrbanPlanet. If we do, then we also have to debate the sheer existence of roads as well (and nobody here wants to go through that again).

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Meanwhile, roads receive over 50% of their subsidies from non-gas tax sources. Strangely that is okay and not a subsidy, but when democratic elections choose to pay for transit service it is redistribution. Ahh the logic. 

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I don't think I or anyone is arguing about the sheer existence of transit.  However, in order to cogently discuss an expansion of transit, it is necessary to understand the transit we already have (including cars), who rides it, and what it costs.  What I and some others have argued is that we already have a transit system that is underutilized--and frankly, this includes the roads which aren't all that full most of the time.  I have added to that discussion that the existing public transit system is a very expensive operation that costs significantly more than cars to operate, and for better or worse, is heavily subsidized by people who generally don't use it.  Facts are facts, even if they're ugly, and even if they grind against my general love of cities and distaste for suburbs. 

 

No matter how much I might love cities and all they can offer, I want to be sure that money is being wisely spent.  The existing transit system wastes enormous amounts of money.  What is proposed are more taxes and more expenditures to expand that same system, and to leave the same wastrels in charge of it--wastrels who, when questioned, apparently don't answer questions and run from TV cameras.  I don't like that, or trust it.  At two mils, I would be paying close to $400.00 a year in property taxes for something I would never use.  It depends on the returns, and property value increases, but over a lifetime of ownership of my house, the opportunity cost of the Rapid to me comes close to a cheap new car, or about 2000 miles a year in my car. That's significant.  Hopefully that helps explains why I can on a little strong out of the box and called this a "transfer program".  So far as it affects me and many others, it is--and far more so than most other things property tax money goes for.

 

The ever-present counter argument is that it will get people out of their cars into the trains.  I doubt it.  But so what if it would?  All indications are that streetcars cost even more to install and operate than buses!  Since buses already cost more than cars to operate, why would we encourage the wasteful spending of money on streetcars (whose power is indirectly derived primarily from coal of all things) when we have an existing road and highway infrastructure that we will not be abandoning in place, as well as an existing bus system that will still be running, all of which we will still need to spend money to maintain and operate.  Nearly doubling the Rapid's millage means, at least to me, a likely doubling of waste. 

 

In the meantime, let's all just continue griping about "tea baggers", republicans, and any other convenient bogeyman instead of directly confronting some of the ugly facts about our existing and proposed transit options.  Honestly, I expected better from this group.  I didn't realize that in order to be a fan of cities and all they offer you also have to be a fan of every (likely) wasteful fantasy project that comes down the pike.

 

 

I suggest you start your own website and campaign then. We're not going to re-argue the debates about the "sheer existence" of transit here on UrbanPlanet. If we do, then we also have to debate the sheer existence of roads as well (and nobody here wants to go through that again).

Edited by x99

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