Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rapid Silver Line - Bus "Slow" Transit

The supporters of the proposed $70 million Silver Line bus system in Grand Rapids tout it as a "Bus Rapid Transit" line. The proposed route of the Silver Line is up Division from 60th Street, a jog around the hospitals around Michigan street, and back to the Rapid station. The total route, according to Rapid, is 9.8 miles. It will take 35 minutes for the new "Silver Line" to travel this route. An important note here is that, as we've previously pointed out, Division will be turned into an effective two lane road (one lane each way) so that these Silver Line buses can have their own dedicated lanes. This supposedly will speed these buses up because they won't have to share these lanes with regular cars.

But wait, the Rapid already has a bus, route #1, that travels from the Clyde Park Meijer, down to 68th Street, up Division, and around to the Rapid station. The total distance for the current buses on this route is 12 miles, according to Google Maps. In addition, according to the Rapid's web site, the buses on this route take about 33 minutes.

Let's do the math. The Silver Line is supposed to take 35 minutes to travel 9.8 miles, with dedicated lanes on Division. The current #1 bus, traveling 12 miles, takes 33 minutes, sharing the lanes like every other vehicle on the road. The Silver Line factors out to be traveling at around 16.8 miles per hour. The current bus factors out to 20.57 miles per hour.

Huh? How do they call this Bus Rapid Transit? It's Bus Slow Transit. It's slower than the regular buses that take the same route now!

Don't forget that these dedicated Silver Line lanes on Division will squeeze all current traffic on Division down to one lane in each direction. Traffic jam, anyone?

Be sure to cast your vote on this idea on Tuesday, May 5th, if you live in Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Walker, Kentwood, or Grandville.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Rapid Silver Line - More Concealment and Deceit

Grand Rapids Pundit has received one of the pro-Silver Line post cards in the mail, as I'm sure many residents of the ITP service district have (Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Walker, Wyoming, Kentwood, and Grandville). This post card, which you can view here, exemplifies the continued contempt that the ITP/Rapid has for the taxpayers. The post card says virtually nothing about the reason for the tax increase. In fact, they bank on voters knowing as little as possible about this tax increase. The more voters know, the more likely it is that they will vote no.

The only detail the post card has on the Silver Line is as follows:
Silver Line is more like a light rail system than a traditional bus. A proven solution in other communities, it will maximize ridership opportunities, economic development, and travel-time savings. Silver Line vehicles will use:

  • Dedicated lanes during peak times

  • In-station fare collection to speed boarding

  • Intelligent transportation system applications such as signal priority, allowing quick travel between stations

That's it? Yes, that's it. As previously stated, they don't want you to understand all the details.

What is the Silver Line really? As we've previously reported, it is a Bus Rapid Transit line that will dedicate one lane each way on Division Avenue from 60th street to the Rapid Station for use only by these new buses. This means that Division will be limited to one lane each way for regular vehicular traffic during peak traffic hours (rush hour). You heard that right. Division will turn into a traffic nightmare, likely pushing traffic to side streets to find better ways to get where they are going.

They say that this new "traffic priority" system will allow for these buses to travel much faster than current buses (which already travel the same exact route as the proposed Silver Line). How much faster? Well, we don't really see any improvement. The Silver Line's route would be 9.8 miles long and would take the new buses 36 minutes to travel. Huh? Yes, that's right, 16 miles per hour. We don't honestly understand how they can call this a Bus Rapid Transit line.

But wait, it gets better! This whole project is a $70 million tax increase - all so that they can duplicate the bus route they already have. No kidding: they already have a bus that travels this route. There's no reason to raise taxes by $70 million just to duplicate what's already there.

If you are a resident of East Grand Rapids, Grandville, or Walker, you will see no benefit from this line at all. If you are in Kentwood or Wyoming and happen to live near Division street, you might be able to use this new line conveniently, but as said before, there already is a bus line on this route. Basically, very few residents of any of the six ITP cities will see any benefit, yet will be expected to pay for it.

In the same vein as the near-informationless post card, the Rapid's pro-Silver Line web site lists one source for their claim that the "investment" in the Silver Line will create jobs and produce a return on investment through new development. They reference an article named "Bus Rapid Transit: A Powerful Real Estate Development Tool" by William Kaplowitz. They don't provide a link to this article, nor the text of it. So we did a simple Google search and came up with the text of the article. Read it for yourself here. The article makes a couple of simple, poorly-documented claims about development, and that's it. That's what they use to try and get residents to raise their own taxes by $70 million.

What they don't discuss is that most of the time this "new" development was already happening or happened only because government created tax incentives to do so. In other words, they confuse correlation with causation. Just because development occurred around same time as the bus system's implementation, it doesn't mean that the buses caused the development. For example: there already is a lot of development going on along Division. It is likely that the Silver Line people would say that the Silver Line caused that development if they try and tout the "benefits." But once again, since there already is a bus line along Division, it's hard to understand how new buses would suddenly spring up more development.

But this is how the ITP/Rapid works. They don't release their budgets. They don't make true ridership numbers (by route, etc.) easily available. They don't release the true operational statistics of their system. They don't release the minutes of their board meetings, as the City of Grand Rapids does. They operate as though they don't need to be accountable. But they're a publicly-funded body and they need to operate transparently. The Rapid operates secretively so that you don't understand how they operate. It's all part of their contempt for taxpayers and efficient operations.

Don't forget for vote on Tuesday, May 5th if you live in Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Kentwood, Walker, or Grandville.

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