Friends of Transit: Getting There Together Weekly

March 23, 2009

The Nigerian Offer Edition

Have you ever thought about sending in the cash just on the chance that he’s telling the truth?  You know the guy I am talking about; the one sending millions of e-mails around the world offering you a handsome reward if you can only help him move $25 million of his family’s fortune out of Nigeria.  Your task–to send him $25,000, some paperwork or something like that and then, voila, his family’s stash is available and your very generous reward is in the mail to you!
Sound too good to be true?
What if I told you that there was $40 million locked up in a vault with your and my name on it?

Wait–it gets better–you only need to send in $12 (give or take a few bucks) to unlock the vault.

Wait one more minute–no need to get the check book out just yet–you don’t have to send in the money until 2012! You only need to commit to send the money in 2012 and then, voila, $40 million is on the way to you and me!

Our generous reward? A piece of 21st century infrastructure to support the development up on Michigan Street Hill and to drive the redevelopment along a forgotten corridor to the south.

This is no Nigerian offer. This is the Silver Line!

So, ready to help unlock the $40 million treasure? Just one piece of paper is needed and a little of your time.

As for the paper, endorse the Silver Line Millage today!

As for a bit of your time, come celebrate the official beginning of the Silver Line Campaign at the Kick Off Celebration at Tommy Brann’s on March 24th at 5:00pm!

If you’re really looking to make sure we get our reward, volunteer to help on the campaign!

All we need is a yes vote on May 5th which is our pledge to raise our local taxes in 2012 and then the $40 million to build the Silver Line is on its way to our community. No kidding.

All for today.


January 23, 2009

The Inauguration Edition

Filed under: Michigan Transportation, Transit Opportunities — Tags: , — friendsoftransit @ 3:47 pm


I hope you had a moment to take pride in our nation on Tuesday. Like or dislike the new president or his political views and principles, you can’t help but marvel at the peaceful transfer of power. Most every commentator noted the remarkable fact that we have been doing this for over 200 years from one president to the next.

But once the marveling was over, the critiques began to fly. What could have been said or done or the tone in which something was said or done, the substance or form of a pageant or the color of a dress—all topics are fair game and every person with a critical eye or cynical thought is ready to play the pundit for any who will listen.

And since my wife is already tired of my punditry, I will risk inflicting some on you and you could guess it may be about transit, or the lack thereof.

You see, in the midst of the Inaugural Address, President Obama said,

“The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality…


… and lower its costs.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.” (Full text at:

I listened to the speech as it was given and I surveyed the full text.

Where’s transit?

I understand giving roads and bridges their due—most transit vehicles use these as much as cars and trucks. But transit gets set aside for electrons and photons speeding through copper wires and fiber optic cables? Come on, Mr. President, will transit ever get its rightful place on the marquee with roads and bridges? The facts and figures clearly point out that transit is all about supporting the economy and is a critical piece of our economic infrastructure (check out: You don’t want to make me start quoting Rodney Dangerfield on behalf of transit!

I guess a new president can’t please all of the listeners.

In light of my displeasure in the lack of transit’s place in the inaugural address, I have hopes that it may get some love in the State of the Union address or an upcoming speech or two. And if Mr. Obama needs any other elected officials to look to for encouragement and advice, he need look no further than Grand Rapids’ mayor. Last Saturday, Mayor Heartwell delivered his State of the City Address and, boy, did he knock it out of the park for transit! (Full text at:

“Young people and empty-nesters are returning to cities. They find a multitude of affordable housing choices there. But more important they find walkable communities, efficiency of operation, good transit services, plentiful and varied entertainment, stimulating social networks and interesting neighborhoods, parks and streetscapes.

“Public transit is yet another way that we can both create a vital urban environment and improve the quality of the air we breathe. Our ground-breaking Master Plan and zoning ordinance intentionally focus on “transit-oriented development.” Since I stood before you here last year both the federal and state funding for capital investment in the Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Kentwood Bus Rapid Transit line have been approved. A local funding component will be required and the [Rapid] Board is exploring options at this time.”

You go, Mayor Heartwell! Now that’s the kind of respect I like to see for transit in a speech.

And speaking of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Line, you may be pleased to know that the Rapid board is getting ready to act on the options it has been exploring. At its next meeting, Wednesday, January 28th, the Rapid Board is likely to vote whether to take the next step towards making this new kind of transit service a reality. The board will be voting on whether to put the required millage increase on the ballot this May. As Mayor Heartwell noted, the feds and the state have committed $40 million in capital costs. Now it is time for us to secure the local operating support. So, if you are like me and want to see the BRT take off and begin to help spur development along South Division, join me at the Rapid board meeting next Wednesday, 4:00pm at the Rapid’s Administrative Offices (300 Ellsworth SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). We need to be there to speak in support of our community’s need for more transit and this new kind of service.

Transferring power peacefully is one marvel. Think how marvelous rapid transit in our community can and will be.

All for today.


January 10, 2009

The Deep Freeze Edition

Filed under: Michigan Transportation — friendsoftransit @ 8:10 pm

A happy, cold Saturday to you!  The new year is ten days old and it looks as if the economic news will mirror our weather news for the foreseeable future.  The deep freeze on tap for this coming week continues to grip the Michigan economy.  Yesterday morning, the Michigan House and Senate met with members of the administration to discuss our state’s economic outlook.  If you think below zero temperatures are scary, you may not want to read on.

“State economists predict $1.6-billion deficit in 2010”$1.6-billion+deficit+in+2010.  Yikes!  “The state budget is almost $200 million out of whack now and faces an estimated $1.6 billion deficit in 2010 unless spending is cut, according to state economists Friday.”

And the more one reads, the worse the news gets since the true deficit for this fiscal year is much worse than the $200 million noted above.  “The state will take in $917 million less in revenue this fiscal year . . ..  The drop in tax revenue is offset by more than $700 million left over from last year’s budget.”  So a little bit of savings ($700 million worth) will keep us out of deep trouble this year but how do we avoid cuts to transit next year when the state faces another massive deficits?  Since the Michigan recession began many years ago, transit funds have consistently been raided to balance the budget.  Well, we’re going to have to keep watch in these tough times to see what are proposed as “solutions.”

Of course, many are suggesting ways for Michigan and our nation to get out of the economic freezer and, which comes as little surprise, transit takes a prominent role in many of them.  Take one example: “A Pitch for Mass Transit”

The American Public Transportation Association echoes these sentiments in its “Letter to President-Elect Obama on Economic Recovery Legislation”

And Congress is getting the transit bug: “New Congress and President-elect Obama Begin Negotiations on Economic Recovery Legislation; Oberstar Proposes $12 billion for Public Transportation and $3.4 billion for High-Speed Rail”

So, as the new year and new congress and new presidency begins, time for us to take a deep breath, dress warm and getting ready to talk to our elected officials about transit and the role it can play in our economic sustainability.

All for today.


December 12, 2008

The Phone Call Edition

Filed under: Michigan Transportation — friendsoftransit @ 7:57 pm

Folks, Sounds of Jim Croce are filling my mind, “Operator, can you help me place this call?” Lillie Tomlin’s voice echoes in the background, “One ring-a-dingy. Two ring-a-dingy.” And how many times did you see the tried and true scene in which the main character fills in for the switch board operator and tries frantically to connect incoming calls to their intended recipient.

Well, it’s time for you to catch the phone craze and make a few calls. If you’re more in tune with the 21st century, e-mails or text messages are also acceptable vehicles for the message: Michigan’s transportation infrastructure, including public transportation, critically needs increased investment. Pass the MITA Plan!

As was discussed last week, the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association (MITA) put forward a plan to move the ball at least half way to the goal of a “good” level of transportation investment as found in the Transportation Funding Taskforce’s (TF2) recommendations. The Grand Rapids Press published an article this past Monday describing why transit advocates are supporting the MITA Plan — “Gas tax plan, higher registration fees have support of local transit advocates.”

Fast forward a few days, last night the Michigan House passed a series of “shell” bills over to the Senate on the MITA Plan (article at: Both the House and Senate are now scheduled to return to session next Thursday, December 18. This sets up the possibility that the two chambers may agree on a new funding package before adjourning for the year. However, as the article notes, this chance is slim at best and much work, debate and horse trading will be taking place between now and then.

So, pick up the phone or type out an e-mail to your House member and Senator to say thanks for their hard work and to ask them to Pass the MITA Plan! Action is needed now and until next Thursday, December 18th.

• When calling your legislators (especially state senators) and any other legislators that you know, again thank them for their hard work and urge them to support the MITA Plan. When you’re on the phone with your senator, also ask him or her to urge Senator Bishop (the Senate Majority Leader) to work on this so as to be able to bring the MITA Plan to a vote next Thursday. (House members at:; senators at:

• Ask your members, constituents and other concerned citizens to call or email their legislators. You and they can visit for an easy online email. Just follow the step by step instructions and you’re an activist in no time. And don’t forget to take a moment to personalize the e-mail message, especially the subject line. You don’t want your words discounted because they may think they are spam or something less.

• Write a letter to the editor of the GR Press ( or your local paper about the importance of funding transit and the need to pass the MITA Plan. (View Letter to the Editor Tips.)

• Then (did I say clearly enough?) urge your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and others across the state to do the same. We need everyone’s help to make this happen.

Now is the time to act. If this transportation funding package doesn’t pass in next week, we will need to wait until next Spring at the earliest before it is considered again. We don’t have that long to wait. The work ahs been done crafting a solid plan to take the first step towards the rebuilding of Michigan’s transportation infrastructure. Please make time to support this proposal!

All for today.


P.S. From the irony department, a couple people were asking about the origin of the phrase, “lame duck.” Well, because such things make me curious and the internet is such a wild assortment of such info, I discovered that its first recorded usage was in 1761 and it originally described folks who couldn’t pay their bills in the stock market. Ironic indeed. I guess once you leave office, you won’t be around when the bills become due. (

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