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GRDadof3

Transit Updates for Greater Grand Rapids

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Say GRdad I think for a light rail we should look at a regional first. I would propose a 3 line approach. One using Chicago Drive to Holland, one using US 31 from Holland to Muskegon, and lastly a line from I-96 to Grand Rapids. I think as a whole the Rapid should discontinue the regular bus lines and change them to BRTs but only as the lines get busier. So for instance target the highest capacity lines that the ITP has in each city and create several BRT lines out of them. I think that would be the best method IMHO. I would also propose a board that would oversee the Light Rail. I do believe that if we start a process of changing our lines out to BRT lines with the funding at present it could start a small surge in development. If it creates enough maybe at that time they could go back and ask to create several secondary BRT lines and a Street Car system for the orginal BRT Lines.

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Sorry dragt.... I had made a quick logical guess that it may have been rushed together for the stimulus money and that guess falls on my back. I think the information could have been easier to find supporting The Rapid. Reasons as to why Division was such a good route that is was chosen was a big one for me. I never found a clear background as to why it was the best route (from a reliable source) and I dont think Division has a popular reputation in the area...so I think this was needed for the public. But yeah Regal said it nicely.

Sorry JoeSchmo. That answer is not good enough. :)

Like mgreven, I'm not in the service area so I didn't get a chance to vote on it. If I had a chance, I don't know that I would have voted for it. I'm pro transit. I'm just not convinced that this particular proposal was the right one. Just because I believe in alternative energy doesn't mean I support each and every alternative energy idea.

GRDad was this a test question??? Ugg I got it wrong. Bummer. Though... I am still not sure what answer to what question was not good enough??

Nonetheless the following were the reasons I voted for it:

1) The BRT would most likely have been the only bus that would actually be competitive with the car in Grand Rapids with commute times. This would encourage mass transit from people who normally dont ride...i.e. the assumed demographic seems to be: people who cant afford a car or dont have a license, crazy hippies (not that thats bad), and the occasional student.

2) Much of this project was funded by stimulus money that simply wont be available in the future

3) I believe that the United States oil dependency may possibly be one of the larges issues our nation is facing (underrated at that) and needs to be attacked from every single angle as soon as possible. (This could be a whole another topic)

4) The Rapid would have been a gentle next step in higher mass transit and probably the most affordable for our size community.

5) It could have spurred economic activity in a neighboring community that has suffered many blows due to both the decline of the manufacturing industry and the decline of the shopping districts after the creation of Rivertown mall.

6) And personally...I bike in urban areas and I get annoyed by breathing in car exhaust (I can feel it in my lungs).

I also agree with you GRDad that a light rail would have been simply awesome. But is Grand Rapids big enough for the length the BRT covers? We have 350,000 people in the metro area, I am not sure if we could afford it? Is the light rail/street car concept that was being planned for downtown...still progressing in the planning stages? I havent heard anything about it in quite some time.

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Excellent discussion on here. From my limited perspective, it seems that this was not merely an issue of branding (though this was, no doubt a major component of the failure). Many have said that the ITP did not adequately control the message going out to voters, while this is likely true, I would like to address posts by GRDad and the above post specifically.

Marketing for something like this in these times is hard enough when you have a united front. But it seems that not even all transit supports were onboard with this one. As was said above, political campaigning comes down to maybe just 5% of the vote, but that's assuming you have your base at your back. As such, to me it seems that the idea itself needs revision, not just the way it was sold.

4) The Rapid would have been a gentle next step in higher mass transit and probably the most affordable for our size community.

This comment specifically interested me. While small steps are preferred and even necessary to lay the groundwork for an expansion of transit like this, I believe that the "gentleness" of the proposal itself was a liability rather than an asset. A more bold proposal (such as light rail :rolleyes: ) I think would have brought the conversation to a more visible level and certainly would have ignited more passion especially within the supportive base. To put it simply, when you're climbing a mountain, slow and steady, step by step is the way to go, but when you come to a ravine, you have to be willing to make a much larger leap.

From my outsiders perspective, the BRT proposal, while probably both appropriate and cost effective just seemed underwhelming. An LRT proposal is just easier to excited about - one of its non-statistical benefits. Thus, I think that, with an eye for moving forward, a no vote must be viewed as an opportunity to go back and review both the message and its content.

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Truthfully, I don't want to chime in on this forum, but I just have to express my viewpoint on this extremely important topic.

I believe a light rail system would just be an expensive tourist attraction. It could pay for itself if promoted properly and draws people to Grand Rapids.

I strongly believe that BRT systems are the way to go. The permanent stations will draw developers just as with a light rail station.

But getting to the root of the matter it isn't about a light rail system or a BRT system. As the voters have resoundingly emphasized, it is all about raising property taxes for every public transportation improvement.

The answer to getting advanced public transportation modes is to come up with innovative methods for funding. The people have spoken with the clear message: NO MORE TAXES! The Rapid and cooperative cities need to find alternative funding.

The Greater Grand Rapids area needs to push for alternative funding for public transportation.

~John

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Truthfully, I don't want to chime in on this forum, but I just have to express my viewpoint on this extremely important topic.

I believe a light rail system would just be an expensive tourist attraction. It could pay for itself if promoted properly and draws people to Grand Rapids.

I strongly believe that BRT systems are the way to go. The permanent stations will draw developers just as with a light rail station.

But getting to the root of the matter it isn't about a light rail system or a BRT system. As the voters have resoundingly emphasized, it is all about raising property taxes for every public transportation improvement.

The answer to getting advanced public transportation modes is to come up with innovative methods for funding. The people have spoken with the clear message: NO MORE TAXES! The Rapid and cooperative cities need to find alternative funding.

The Greater Grand Rapids area needs to push for alternative funding for public transportation.

~John

I think a good way to fund something like the construction of the stations is through sponsorships by local companies, persons or groups. Give them the naming rights for their cash.

You can have the Van Andel station or the Brazzini station or maybe the DDA, and GVSU stations.

Maybe the bus purchase can be sponsored?

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John the problem we have is not that voters wont vote for it. Its a matter that some wont. If this was a vote that had every precint vote against it I would say yes this was a failure but most of GR and EGR voted for it. We have to look at our failures and see where to improve using what worked in GR and EGR. Thats what a lot of us are trying to figure out.

One problem with your proposal is that you state that we need to find alternate revenue for this. The problem is that the state does not allow us to use alternate revenue. The Income tax is for Cities and Counties (maybe I have to look that up) and it does not allow for these types of agencies from what I can understand. As for Sales Tax not only is it failing to keep up with the pace of inflation it is banned for local use. So that leaves us with Property Taxes as the only means to go by. If we were to do a county income tax I do think those cities that already have one would have to pony up some of theres instead of collecting it. That also begs the question would a .1% with a 10k deduction work to collect enough taxes to run the entire system. And would every citizen of the county have to pay even though they may not get said services like Sparta or Cedar Springs.

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John the problem we have is not that voters wont vote for it. Its a matter that some wont. If this was a vote that had every precint vote against it I would say yes this was a failure but most of GR and EGR voted for it. We have to look at our failures and see where to improve using what worked in GR and EGR. Thats what a lot of us are trying to figure out.

One problem with your proposal is that you state that we need to find alternate revenue for this. The problem is that the state does not allow us to use alternate revenue. The Income tax is for Cities and Counties (maybe I have to look that up) and it does not allow for these types of agencies from what I can understand. As for Sales Tax not only is it failing to keep up with the pace of inflation it is banned for local use. So that leaves us with Property Taxes as the only means to go by. If we were to do a county income tax I do think those cities that already have one would have to pony up some of theres instead of collecting it. That also begs the question would a .1% with a 10k deduction work to collect enough taxes to run the entire system. And would every citizen of the county have to pay even though they may not get said services like Sparta or Cedar Springs.

Alternative funding = Other than taxes!

Thank you GR_Urbanist, All ideas are appreciated and I'm sure that all the ideas proposed here will get to The Rapid for consideration.

~John

~John

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I hate to say this but europe operates their mass transit by a HUGE gas tax. I do mean huge. Their gasoline is actually cheaper than ours per gallon but they pay almost a 100% tax on fuel. I do not know of any way to do mass transit service without it being backed by a tax. To get a government service you must pay by a tax. How you tax is the real issue. A property tax you feel is not going to work. A sales tax is banned. So all we have left to offer is an income tax which I am not sure can be used. So we either pay for said service or we dont get service. I do not know of any other way outside of having a billionare donate enough money to create a seed trust that could pay for the service without cost to the taxpayer.

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I voted for the proposal and am disappointed that it didn't pass, but in retrospect, it could be a good thing. I have to agree that light rail would be a bold step, something BRT is at least perceived as not. Imagine how light rail in a city this size, if it is successful, would propel GR into the spotlight as being a "green city". Hopefully, the ITP can regroup and come back with a proposal that is audacious and will get both sides talking and get things moving toward our future. Since a BRT line on division won't be built, perhaps we can get something better. :thumbsup:

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I hate to say this but europe operates their mass transit by a HUGE gas tax. I do mean huge. Their gasoline is actually cheaper than ours per gallon but they pay almost a 100% tax on fuel. I do not know of any way to do mass transit service without it being backed by a tax. To get a government service you must pay by a tax. How you tax is the real issue. A property tax you feel is not going to work. A sales tax is banned. So all we have left to offer is an income tax which I am not sure can be used. So we either pay for said service or we dont get service. I do not know of any other way outside of having a billionare donate enough money to create a seed trust that could pay for the service without cost to the taxpayer.

"Banned" is a strong word. There have been a few bills written in the Michigan legislature that would allow local governments (Metropolitan Planning Commissions) to enact localized sales taxes. A bit more pressure and they may stand a chance of passing. Local sales taxes are the preferred method of funding transit in almost every city that has added mass transit in the last 20 years (Denver, Salt Lake City, Austin, Charlotte, Mpls, Portland, Tacoma). And the whole notion of a local sales tax fits the West Michigan mantra of taking the bull by the horns ourselves.

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The problem Dad is that the state consitution would have to be changed. That requires a vote by the entire state. I hate to say it but if a west side politican brings it up for mass transit it wont fly with the east side politicans. It does not matter which party because it just wont fly. On top of it you would have Me who would state why would we want to have a tax that has not kept up with inflation. It has failed our schools do you want it to fail our public transit? Thats why property tax is the best for keeping up with inflation. But it has the side effect of hurting bussinesses the most. An income tax is better because it allows business growth but it saddles the people who live and work in those communities with a high amount of taxation.

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The problem Dad is that the state consitution would have to be changed. That requires a vote by the entire state. I hate to say it but if a west side politican brings it up for mass transit it wont fly with the east side politicans. It does not matter which party because it just wont fly. On top of it you would have Me who would state why would we want to have a tax that has not kept up with inflation. It has failed our schools do you want it to fail our public transit? Thats why property tax is the best for keeping up with inflation. But it has the side effect of hurting bussinesses the most. An income tax is better because it allows business growth but it saddles the people who live and work in those communities with a high amount of taxation.

Not true. It would not require changing the state's constitution. It has been proposed by several East Side legislators, several times. Support from West Michigan would go a long way in pushing it along through the state legislature. The effort is not to have the entire state vote to approve one transit system in West Michigan. The local governments would still have to have to get their own citizens to approve a local sales tax, but they wouldn't have the restriction in place. It's how virtually every state in the U.S. operates, except Michigan.

http://www.google.com/#hl=en&q=sales+t...;fp=0_TDBcSQxa0

I'm not sure I buy your property tax argument. For one, as we have all seen recently, property values do not increase in perpetuity. A 1/2 cent sales tax would generate about $38 Million a year in revenue, and cost the typical Kent Co. taxpayer about $30/year in extra sales tax. It would take a 1.875 mill increase in property taxes to raise that much money, or $130/year for the owner of a $150,000 home, in addition to the current Rapid millage. Do you really see that kind of proposal flying? When voters turned down a .16 mill increase?

There is no guarantee in a recession that tax revenues of any kind for transit will keep up with inflation. But cities like Charlotte set up mandatory reserve balance minimums for just such circumstances. In other words, in most years they collect way more than they need for operating expenses, so they invest the balance for capital investments and for a rainy day fund.

As a long time property owner myself, I'd much sooner support a sales tax increase over a property tax increase. I'd even go as high as 1% or 2% added on to the sales tax, if it meant comprehensive metro area mass transit by 2020. But don't raise my property taxes.

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You dont understand the underlying problem with sales tax though. The amount of money collected by the state has not kept up with inflation. If you were to add food and drugs to the mix it would but since those are outright banned I do not see how that would be possible. On top of it any law passed by the state would have to jump the hurdle that the max that can be levied is 4% with an additional 2% for schools. That is the problem that would have to be voted on by the people. On top of those issues how are you going to solve the use tax aspect ie internet sales. If a tax does not keep up with inflation it can not keep up with general expenses that do go up. That is why property tax except in one of those once in a century type of events goes up on a yearly basis. But if we could do a flat income tax that would provide the best source of revenue funding since it does trend with the rate of inflation, it does not hurt business, and setup up right it would provide the necessary funding. I do think in the long term a property tax is the best method because it goes up.

Edited by aowwt

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I think a good way to fund something like the construction of the stations is through sponsorships by local companies, persons or groups. Give them the naming rights for their cash.

You can have the Van Andel station or the Brazzini station or maybe the DDA, and GVSU stations.

Maybe the bus purchase can be sponsored?

Naming rights for park N ride lots

Snack/soda/water vending machines at the stations.

Prizes/money, every time you ride you get entered into a drawing for a prize.

There is supposed to be monitors at each station displaying arrival times, why not use part of the screen to show advertisements.

It may not generate a whole lot of revenue, but every little bit helps. Anyone know how much the Rapid gets from the advertisements placed on the buses now?

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I hate to say this but europe operates their mass transit by a HUGE gas tax. I do mean huge. Their gasoline is actually cheaper than ours per gallon but they pay almost a 100% tax on fuel. I do not know of any way to do mass transit service without it being backed by a tax. To get a government service you must pay by a tax. How you tax is the real issue. A property tax you feel is not going to work. A sales tax is banned. So all we have left to offer is an income tax which I am not sure can be used. So we either pay for said service or we dont get service. I do not know of any other way outside of having a billionare donate enough money to create a seed trust that could pay for the service without cost to the taxpayer.

This idea has been thrown around recently with a 'Carbon Tax'. Personally I think this would be great and we would need to do this at a national level, however, sadly, no politician who is seeking re-election would ever back up a large tax on fuel simply because it would be bad PR. Nonetheless these are issues that the automobile is causing and therefore should be taxed accordingly to pay for mass transit and the like. I would be all for it as higher fuel prices would spur not only mass transit but technological development in the automotive industry to increase fuel economy and alternatives to the combustion engine.

Europe seems to be more intelligent with there resources as they have had experience running out of resources such as when they deforested most of their land in Western Europe in the middle ages. Which is one of the reasons it is less frequent to see houses built from wood in Europe. We may be in the same case with oil on a global level as India and China are coming online with a population of 2 billion people...7 times the population of the US. The oil consumption rate is only increasing from here.

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Sales taxes calculated on a percentage basis, which is every sales tax I've seen, do keep up with inflation. As the price of things go up, so does the tax paid on those things. Do you mean to say it's more dependent on the broader economy?

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The problem is that the increased price of goods is taken with food and drugs as part of the rate of inflation. Take those two items out and the state has found out that it only goes up by an avg of .5% a year. Look at our school funding, it has nearly been flatlined and every year the healthcare costs go up and the schools are saying we need funding to go up by the rate of inflation. BTW those numbers were from the 2006 budget year after a decade of sales tax collection were looked at. The only other way to see an increase is to have more people buying stuff but the problem is that there is higher demand for service then which requires even more money. Its a vicious cycle IMHO. Right now with the number of taxes in the state we are just not competive to bring in new developements. And our cities are forced to look at two diffrent forms of revenue streams, one that is based on property that hits everybody but hits the poor harder IMHO, and income tax that can be good if setup properly. I just dont know if income tax would work for the ITP. I would need to know the amount of income given out by the county businesses and then look at how much the ITP needs to cover. On top of that is setting the amount of deductions per person. Another item is how much can the county tax but I still think a small tax like that if setup properly would work to create not only a transit system for Kent County but also a regional for the Tri Cities with a light rail.

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... Anyone know how much the Rapid gets from the advertisements placed on the buses now?

One of those ads brags on the price. $6/day.

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The problem is that the increased price of goods is taken with food and drugs as part of the rate of inflation. Take those two items out and the state has found out that it only goes up by an avg of .5% a year. Look at our school funding, it has nearly been flatlined and every year the healthcare costs go up and the schools are saying we need funding to go up by the rate of inflation. BTW those numbers were from the 2006 budget year after a decade of sales tax collection were looked at. The only other way to see an increase is to have more people buying stuff but the problem is that there is higher demand for service then which requires even more money. Its a vicious cycle IMHO. Right now with the number of taxes in the state we are just not competive to bring in new developements. And our cities are forced to look at two diffrent forms of revenue streams, one that is based on property that hits everybody but hits the poor harder IMHO, and income tax that can be good if setup properly. I just dont know if income tax would work for the ITP. I would need to know the amount of income given out by the county businesses and then look at how much the ITP needs to cover. On top of that is setting the amount of deductions per person. Another item is how much can the county tax but I still think a small tax like that if setup properly would work to create not only a transit system for Kent County but also a regional for the Tri Cities with a light rail.

The state's problem with sales tax revenue has more to do with population loss/stagnation than anything else. That's why sales tax revenue has not kept up with inflation. West Michigan has not experienced the same population loss. In fact, I would guess that retail sales in Kent County have grown in the last decade, at least with inflation if not better. I don't know if the stats are readily available, but you should take a look at how sales tax in other states have kept up with inflation. Take Southeast Michigan out of the picture and we'd have a different story.

Again, if Salt Lake City can build light rail, why can't we?

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The state's problem with sales tax revenue has more to do with population loss/stagnation than anything else. That's why sales tax revenue has not kept up with inflation. West Michigan has not experienced the same population loss. In fact, I would guess that retail sales in Kent County have grown in the last decade, at least with inflation if not better. I don't know if the stats are readily available, but you should take a look at how sales tax in other states have kept up with inflation. Take Southeast Michigan out of the picture and we'd have a different story.

Again, if Salt Lake City can build light rail, why can't we?

The Salt Lake City area is years ahead of this region in its planning. The people there have been educated on the ramifications of different growth patterns and what a continued conventional pattern will get them. They understand that they can not sustain the auto-centric system of development and as a result they have tried to make changes.

We just are not there yet. We are not thinking big enough. Many people just do not see this connection between sustainability and the current pattern of growth. If our economy had not tanked, we would still be going gangbusters on suburban sprawl, strip malls, and exurban housing pods.

But it is good to ask if Salt Lake can do it, why can't we or if Minneapolis can do it, why can't we. Minneapolis has a wonderful rail line running from the airport to the downtown and it is an excellent way to come into the city without a car. Far more civilized ...and I honestly believe that anyone who rides one of these systems could see the potential for GR.

I think we need to look at connections between cities first: Holland to GR, or connections from the airport to DT. Or connections between two someplaces. We do need to have two currently viable ends of the line, otherwise it is akin to building a bridge to nowhere. I don't see Division Ave necessarily in that way. Maybe someday.

Every great city has a form of transit. Transit that people ride everyday to work or to the store or to wherever. Transit that may be supported by buses, but has something more as a base component. A subway, light rail, or rail. It is used everyday by residents - not as a tourist attraction but as a way they live.

Everytime I go somewhere and ride the transit I come back here feeling liberated and then I have to come back to reality and ask why not here. Why do we have a substandard system, that is not efficient for me personally. I can walk home from work quicker than I can get there via bus.

If we want to become a great place and a sustainable place we need to have viable transit.

Edited by GR Town Planner

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I just dont know how sales tax can keep up with costs. I do think a sales tax is fine if you are paying for bonds. But for money where you need a steady increase in revenue I just do not think a sales tax will work in the long term. An income tax does have benifits but, I hate to say that, it can go up and down with recessions and we do not need to be told about that. As for property taxes, well we all pay them which is a problem because it hurts businesses.

The data I found for the US Core CPI which is the CPI that includes everything but food and energy was 1.8%. The rise in healthcare costs during the same time was 2.8%. If you take just food out the equation then the rate of inflation was actually deflation of 1.1%. On top of that is that just comodities minus food and beverages went down a staggering 8.9%. This was just from this year compared to last year. I would have to do some more searching to find a long term trend but I just dont see how an operations millage using sales tax is going to work.

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I think we need to look at connections between cities first: Holland to GR, or connections from the airport to DT. Or connections between two someplaces. We do need to have two currently viable ends of the line, otherwise it is akin to building a bridge to nowhere. I don't see Division Ave necessarily in that way. Maybe someday.

Would Woodland, Rivertown, and Knapp's Corner work as viable ends opposite downtown? The amount of retail that's sprouted up in those areas in such a short time is insane. They would have to be made more pedestrian friendly, I would think. Just a thought.

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Would Woodland, Rivertown, and Knapp's Corner work as viable ends opposite downtown? The amount of retail that's sprouted up in those areas in such a short time is insane. They would have to be made more pedestrian friendly, I would think. Just a thought.

I don't see why the would not work as viable terminals, linked to downtown. Woodland and Knapp Corner could be terminals or they could be stops on a link from DT to the airport. There is a large swath of ROW (the beltline) that could be commandeered for rail.

Besides just dreaming about that scenario, these make sense because there are a lot of people living in these general areas, some of who commute DT, so it could, in theory, connect people to services and goods and jobs while allowing us to get rid of all the parking infrastructure in our core.

The other thing to consider is trying to utilize existing ROW and infrastructure (where ever possible) for just plain old rail, rather than high speed or light rail which could fill in some of the blanks.

In any case, it is imperative that thinking along these lines start occuring locally, regionally, statewide and nationally if we expect to weather future issues and mitigate some of our climate change issues.

The US rail service was once the envy of the world, now it is at third-world standards. We need to change that. It is going to require sacrifice in regards to taxes or throwing away some of the misinvestments made in road construction, but we can not currently sustain what we have and we certainly can not go on the way we are indefinately, waiting for magic technology or the easy credit economy to return.

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Again, if Salt Lake City can build light rail, why can't we?

There's an need in Salt Lake City. I-15 is really congested because it's the only N-S freeway and Salt Lake City metro area is oriented n-s along I-15 between the mountains on one side and Salt Lake and the desert on the other.

GR is blessed or cursed depending on your viewpoint with freeways in all directions and the downtown is bisected w/ freeways. Currently there's only 1 congested corridor and that's US 131 north. (Sorry aowwt , 131 south isn't congested unless there's an accident or lane restrictions due to construction, Traffic runs at or near the speed limit most of the time even at "rush hour").

After Nashville's experience with rail on an existing corridor I have doubts that it would succeed in GR. Nashville used existing rail, refurbished "used" equipment and simple inexpensive "stations". Ridership isn't near projections and there was some talk about them having to repay the federal funds.

Until congestion increases and / or inexpensive parking disappears from downtown, I don't think we'll get enough folks out of their cars even w/ $5 gas.

IMHO, the defeat of the Silver Line isn't the end of the world. We have a pretty good mass transit system in The Rapid. The reasons and arguments for the BRT didn't convince me that it should be constructed even if it was supposed to cost me only a few $$ / month.

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Well all i can say to the aspect that US 131 when I have gone down to downtown has been at a crawl in the morning. I seen the numbers of cars per day and that number approaches 120k as you get into the S curve. It is near 100k at 28th St. So I think there is a bit of traffic but on the other hand is it faster at 7 or 8 am to use 131 versus the BRT I do not know. Thats why I proposed the challenge. From my perspective the few times I have gone down there in the past year is that it would be faster to take the BRT.

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