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.

1 comment:

  1. Have you ever lived in a city with dedicated mass transit infrastructure? I live in Washington, DC (grew up in GR) and I can assure you that when they opened up a new metro subway line a few years ago it spurred (and is still spurring) tons of development near several of the new metro stops. I doubt BRT would have had quite as dramatic an effect but transit stops can and do spur development.