Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rapid Silver Line: They Almost Got to Take Credit

An important article appeared in the Grand Rapids Press last week that highlights several issues regarding the failed Silver Line bus system and the false claims of economic development that are touted by the Silver Line's supporters.

The Grand Valley Metro Council (very much pro-Silver Line) won $400,000 in federal grants to clean up several abandoned sites along Division avenue, in the hopes that this will attract more development. You can almost hear how this would have been announced if the Silver Line had passed. It would have been touted as the first in a series of positive developments because of the Silver Line. Of course, the Silver Line had nothing to do with this grant award, but it underlines the claims that these sorts of transportation projects somehow spur development. However, as this news item shows, the development is largely spurred by government subsidy, not the appearance of a fancy silver-colored bus line. The Rapid supporters confuse correlation with causation. It goes against logic that replacing the current buses with buses that are painted silver will someone convince people and business to move to Division Avenue.

As we have previously pointed out, the development in Portland around mass transit, as the pro-Rapid supporters love to point to, only occurred after government subsidies were enacted. The development did not occur due to the mass transit system. This is the heart of the pro-Silver Line argument; that the Silver Line "would have" spurred several dollars' worth of development for each dollar spent. This is simply not the case. The only evidence the Rapid points to in support of their argument is a thinly-documented three page article, as we pointed out here.

However, this Press article also points out that they haven't given up on the Silver Line boondoggle. The article states, "Although [The Rapid] expects the Silver Line route eventually to win the voters' blessing, plenty of other properties could be helped in the meantime . . ." Clearly they aren't done with trying to sell this mess to the voters. Based on the negative Silver Line feedback both in the Press and on other online sources, it seems unlikely that they can salvage this project without significant changes. Even the pro-transit people weren't convinced about the need for the Silver Line.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rapid Silver Line Goes Down

It's fantastic news for taxpayers and for fiscal sanity in the Grand Rapids area. Last night the expensive and redundant Rapid "Silver Line" tax increase request went down in flames. The overall vote total was 52% against and 48% in favor, but when looking at the six cities in the Rapid service district, we see that a majority of the cities rejected the request:

Grand Rapids - 53% yes, 47% no

East Grand Rapids - 64% yes, 36% no

Grandville - 36% yes, 64% no

Kentwood - 46% yes, 54% no

Walker - 32% yes, 68% no

Wyoming - 36% yes, 64% no

As you can see, Walker, Wyoming, Kentwood, and Grandville all soundly rejected the tax increase request and even Grand Rapids was closer than expected.

The pro-Silver Line people are predictably dour. The comments of Peter Varga, executive director of the ITP (Rapid), sum up their attitude perfectly. He said it was rejected simply because voters didn't understand the request. Right. Voters heard from this blog as well as other groups who exposed the bad plan of the Silver Line. The Rapid folks tried their hardest to limit the information available on this request, but active citizens exposed the Rapid and let voters know the facts. This web site alone received thousands of visits from people searching for more information.

The message was clear:

  • This new Silver Line was a duplicate of already-existing bus services

  • The Silver Line would cost tens of millions of dollars (just for buses)

  • The Silver Line would have cut off traffic on Division by shutting down lanes and dramatically increasing congestion

  • The Silver Line was slower than existing bus services (see our previous posts on the issue)

  • The claims of spurred development and "new jobs" were based on speculation and conjecture

In summary, bravo for the voters of the four cities who rejected this request. Make no mistake, they will be back, asking for more. Their next request will be for more than $100 million for an even more inefficient light rail line.