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.


February 27, 2009

The Warning of Redundancy Edition


We are about 60 days from the Silver Line millage election which is scheduled for Tuesday, May 5. And I’m starting to get a little nervous. So, I must warn you now that I may be repeating myself often over the next nine weeks.

Yikes! Only nine weeks to election day! So much to do and so little time. On paper, the task is easy – get a majority of voters to say, “Yes” to the Silver Line Millage. But that’s on paper and I’m getting nervous.

Unfortunately, we’re all a bit nervous these days.  Times are tough.  There is no doubt about that.  The daily doses of economic statistics often make me wonder when the end will be in sight.  Some economists say the 3rd quarter of this year; others point with more hope to 2010.  But these are national economists.  The Michigan folks are looking for a little relief after the national rebound.  So, no matter which prognosticator you prefer, the economy will not be our friend on May 5.
How can any one seek a tax increase in this climate?
Of course, you know the answer to that question–we are seeking a tax increase this year because we have an awesome opportunity to capture $40 million in federal and state dollars in order to build the first rapid transit line in Michigan.
But while the economy may not be our friend this time around, that does not mean the economic arguments have failed us as well.  Rather, most sets of facts and figures I look at are clearly in our corner.

Some might even label this election, “New Opportunities for Community Growth.”
Jobs.  The Silver Line will create 405 new and permanent jobs (direct and indirect) with an average annual wage of $37,000.
Economic Impact.  The economic return on investment is projected to be 400%; similar systems have seen returns as high as 1000%.
Connectivity.  Located along South Division and wrapping around St. Mary’s, GRCC and the Medical Mile back through downtown by the convention center and arena, the Silver Line will link residents with medical facilities, college campuses and neighborhood commerce centers.  
Development.  Areas along the route have already seen private and public interest toward growth in housing, commercial development and parks.
Convenience.  The estimated time travel from 60th Street to the Medical Mile is 27 minutes-factor in the circuitous travel around a parking ramp, then the walk to the front door and the Silver Line will clearly be competitive with driving yourself.
Fund Availability.  The Silver Line is the first project of its kind in Michigan.  As noted above, there is money in Washington and Lansing with our names on it.  A “Yes” vote on May 5th secures this funding and opens the door to future transit opportunities.

So, there’s good news to be spread about the Silver Line in spite of these tough times! (More details at: And when the going gets tough, the tough have a meeting. That is, the clear thinking tough people get together and chart a course ( That’s what we’re planning on doing on Tuesday, March 10 at noon. Come join the other Friends of Transit at LaGrave Church (107 LaGrave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503) to (1) learn more about the Silver Line, (2) learn that it’s legal for all types of organizations and churches to be involved in this type of campaign and (3) learn what Friends of Transit has in store by way of activities and how you can help to get a majority YES vote on May 5. We promise we’ll have you out in an hour or less!

In addition to attending this informational meeting, mark your calendar for Tuesday, March 24 at 5:00pm at Tommy Brann’s Restaurant. Come on out along the Silver Line route in Wyoming for the kick off celebration for the Silver Line millage. (I’ll be repeating more details as the date draws nearer.)

Finally, as far as the redundant campaign items go, don’t forget to complete an endorsement form  and then forward this message to every one in your address book.

As for a couple new items, first, did you notice that this piece now gets uploaded to a blog? Check out: You too now have a forum for comments, critiques and random thoughts that pop into your consciousness about transit after reading through these weekly e-newsletters or any other time.

Second, if the thought of blogging has you looking for a more concrete way to let your opinion be known, head to the survey being conducted by the West Michigan Transit Linkages Study. The news of this study is redundant, but the survey is new. Head to and let your opinions on West Michigan connectivity be known! And it might even be profitable–The Macatawa Area Coordinating Council has graciously offered several $25 gift certificates as an incentive for respondents to make it all the way to the end of this brief survey.

All for today.


P.S. Thanks to all from Friends of Transit for their help in the drafting of the “New Opportunities for Community Growth” section above.

February 20, 2009

The Ego Edition


Repeat after me: “I, (state your name), am the most critical person working on the Silver Line Millage.”

One more time in case you were slightly distracted by the responsibility that comes with such a phrase:

“I, (state your name), am the most critical person working on the Silver Line Millage.”

The truth of this statement cannot be underestimated. Every “me” who is reading this must grasp a hold of this reality and act with the urgency and import that the current situation warrants. I know you are well aware of the economic situation of our community, state, nation and world. This dismal backdrop will make our work over the next two months even harder as we work to convince voters to say, “Yes,” to the next generation of public transportation service on our streets. And we only have two months(!) to convince our friends and neighbors that a “Yes” vote is really in our economic self interest.

But, today, it’s not about “our friends and family,” it’s about “me.”

So the first thing you, err, the “me” reading this needs to do is ENDORSE the Silver Line Millage.  Just head to the and download the support form, sign it and send it in:  Think how cool it will be to have your name on the campaign website and on our materials which will be mailed out.  Check out what fine company you will be joining (list of endorsers).  I think your ego will respond positively to seeing your name in print!

Next, all of us “me’s” need to LEARN more about the Silver Line and we have a great opportunity for you.  Mark your calendar for Tuesday, March 10, 12:00 to 12:50pm at LaGrave Christian Reformed Church (107 LaGrave SE).  We held a similar session two years ago and folks found the time well spent.  Our agenda will give “me” the opportunity to:

  • Learn about the Silver Line – what’s “bus rapid transit” and how will it impact our community.
  • Learn how it’s legal for your non-profit organization or corporation to be actively involved in the campaign.
  • Learn how to be involved in the campaign.

Finally, VOLUNTEER!  As you fill out your endorsement form, make sure you are checking the various boxes on that form to offer your time and energy on behalf of the campaign.  Do not think your contribution would be too small and dismiss it.  Remember, “I (state your name), am the most critical person working on the Silver Line Millage.”

To continue the subliminal Animal House theme, “Let’s do it!”
All for today.
P.S.  Don’t forget to check out the Silver Line and Friends of Transit Facebook fan sites!

February 13, 2009

The One Small Step Edition


Isn’t the 21st century just grand? Well, Wednesday, on behalf of moving public transportation forward in Kent County and West Michigan, I took one small step further into this century. I put aside my 19th century sensibilities and asked my thirteen-year-old daughter to help me sign up on Facebook.

Talk about making a young woman’s evening. “Really?” she asked with excitement. “Yes,” I said, apprehensive of the move into totally unknown territory. Before I could change my mind, she was instantly at the computer, signed on to Facebook and away we went! Next thing I knew, she had asked a few dozen people to “be my friend” and she was ready to start showing me other wonders of this new world. I had to put an end to that evening’s lessons. I can only time travel so much on a February evening.

And there it is. I’m on Facebook. I don’t know what this means for certain, but tomorrow will bring the next lessons from my daughter. I guess I can ask you to be my friend, too. (If I knew how to send you to the place in Facebook to accomplish this, I would. I hope that secret is in tomorrow’s lesson.)

If you’re already out on Facebook, you should head to a couple of fan sites that are there as well.

First, Friends of Transit has a Facebook page. View the Friends of Transit Facebook page.
Right now, there are only 6 friends linked to this page so sign up today if you’re on Facebook.

Second, the Silver Line has a Facebook page as well. The line itself is proving to be way more popular with 59 friends. Why not take a moment to link to this one as well?

If you are still back in the 20th centuries where I want to be, you can still get all the information you need from the Friends of Transit website. Slowly we are working to get this updated and I’ll be pointing out the milestones in that effort as they occur. For today, you should at least take your own small step and head to the endorsement form and sign on as an endorser of the Silver Line millage: . If you would like a less complicated version (i.e. non PDF file), I can send along a Word copy of this form. Just send a request this way.

As you’re thinking about the Silver Line and Bus Rapid Transit, in general, here are a couple more websites for your review. Both of these feature real live, Bus Rapid Transit lines operating not too far from here. The first takes us to the shore of Lake Erie and Cleveland’s Healthline. The second sends us just north of Lake Ontario and York’s viva system. Seems like a Great Lakes theme. Info on the system coming to a few cities near Lake Michigan at:

Finally, one last small step for today. Please mark your calendar for Tuesday, March 10, 12:00 to 12:50pm. This is the time for Friends of Transit’s non-profit and faith community training on the legalities of these types of organizations being involved in the millage campaign (it is legal) and a more in-depth presentation on the Silver Line will also occur that day. We’re still working to nail down the location; more on that in the coming week.

One small step into the 21st century. I fear where this journey may lead me.

All for today.


February 7, 2009

The Ice Fishing Edition


Sorry for the delay in getting this edition to you on a Saturday. I’ve been off Thursday and Friday hanging out with about 60 third-graders and a handful of parents and teachers. We were on the annual camp overnight for this C.A. Frost class and, boy, did we have fun. You’ve got to love walking through the woods, sitting around a campfire and sliding down a snowy hill in a homemade cardboard, plastic and duct tape sled! And, yes, ice fishing! I will spare you my true feelings with you about ice fishing. Suffice it to say that sitting on a block of ice staring into a six inch hole hoping that a near frozen fish grabs a hold of your insect larva on a hook may not be in my top ten things to do on a February morning. But this day is not about me. It’s about the kids and their outdoor education.

Which brings me back to transit. You see, as we debriefed the ice fishing foray onto Little Bostwick Lake, Mr. Peterson, the awesome Environmental Lab teacher, spoke with excitement about the upcoming fifth grade excursion to Reeds Lake to try their luck at some ice fishing. My contribution to this conversation was that a couple ice fishing poles and a five-gallon pail was all a kid needed to get out to a day of ice fishing fun at Reeds Lake. They don’t even need their parents to drive. All they need is the know-how to grab a Route 6 bus. “That’s right,” another parent quickly chimed in, “They need to learn how to ride the city bus.” “Yes, the bus can get them there,” another added.

Can you see it now? Packs of third-graders roaming through Rapid Central Station carrying ice fishing gear in five gallon pails! Hours and hours of outdoor fun await out on Reeds Lake and it’s only the price of a bus ticket away! And, as the kids get older, they can move up to bigger fish and head to the Fourth Street Dam and try their luck while pursuing steelhead when they’re running. Route 7 or 11 will get you pretty close depending on what side of the river you want to wander into ( (Before you know it, there will be a kayak run on the Grand River downtown and then The Rapid will have to put kayak racks on the back of the buses!)

As for more direct transit news, nothing too exciting to report from Washington or Lansing. The governor did mention transit in her State of the State Address on Tuesday evening (full text at:, but this was only a teaser for things to come: “Soon, I also will recommend long-term reforms to achieve affordable but stable funding for maintenance and repairs to our roads, bridges and transit systems.” In the U.S. Senate, the fight continues on the Stimulus Plan. We’ll see what the weekend brings. (Maybe the congressional leaders need to head out to an ice shanty and work this out.)

On the local scene, plans for the upcoming Friends of Transit campaign are starting to get into focus. I hope you’ve been doing your work to get ready for May 5. Remember:

(1) Mark your calendar for 8:00pm, May 5, “party to celebrate our hard work;”

(2) Read up on Bus Rapid Transit and what we’re planning to do in The Rapid service area ( or see what’s been launched in Cleveland (; and

(3) Book mark This still is the “thank you” page from the last campaign, but you won’t want to be unprepared when the new, “Vote Yes for the Silver Line” page goes live!

So, grab your five gallon pail and enjoy the ice fishing while we have it. Soon enough spring will be here and we’ll all be too busy campaigning to enjoy any leisurely day of fishing until May 6. That’s good since trout season kicks off the last Saturday of April and then bass season at the end of May.

All for today.


January 29, 2009

The Game On Edition

Filed under: Silver Line Rapid Transit System — friendsoftransit @ 9:16 pm


I hope you have been enjoying the quiet days in the world of transit advocacy in January, because this is about to change and in a big way.

Don’t know if you saw the local news yesterday but The Rapid Board voted unanimously to place the Bus Rapid Transit millage on the May 5 ballot. In addition, they gave the service its name: The Silver Line. For more information on this, check out:

· The Rapid’s website:

· The GR Press:

· TV 8:

· TV 17:–Rapid-Board-Approves-Millage-Req=1&blockID=197847&feedID=296

· TV-13:

So, first thing for you to do is bookmark this website: If you head there now, you’ll see the wrap up page from the millage back in 2007. Suffice it to say, Friends of Transit has already been busy doing some pre-planning in preparation for the vote of The Rapid Board. Their vote yesterday makes it official. Game on. You’ll see a new front page very soon for the May 5 election. As in the past, your support and efforts will make all the difference come election day. I won’t share all the campaign information with you today, but definitely check out one or two of the articles above and pay close attention to how some of the early responders are reacting to the news of a proposed tax increase (these are located at the end of the various articles on line). I, of course, think many of these folks are missing the full picture and we will be telling the story “early and often” over the next three months. But the economy will make our job tougher and the clocks running.

The second thing to do is to mark your calendar for May 5. There will be a party some where that evening celebrating all of our hard work. Oh, yeah, if you live in The Rapid service area, you may also want to make a note to vote before the polls close that day.

If it wasn’t enough to have to worry about The Rapid’s tax question on May 5, we can’t forget the transit issues still unresolved in Washington and Lansing. First, the potential good news.

If you’ve been boycotting the news over the past several weeks or on an extended silent retreat at a Trappist monastery, you may have missed the fact that we have a new president and, together with Congress, he is trying to get the U.S. economy stimulated. In last week’s edition, I had a small critique of his Inaugural Address and its lack of a call out for transit. Well, he quickly righted that wrong in his first weekly address which was focused on the proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan: “Finally, we will rebuild and retrofit America to meet the demands of the 21st century. That means repairing and modernizing thousands of miles of America’s roadways and providing new mass transit options for millions of Americans.” There you go, equal billing for roads and new transit options.

So, Congress took this charge and got serious. The initial $9 billion for transit in this bill was increased to $12 billion on the House floor. Setting aside what I think about all the other parts of the package, I really like what the House did yesterday for transit ( Of course, this just means more work for us if the Senate goes along with the plans. Now we have to watch our transit authorities and MDOT to make sure they spend the money well and in ways that will have a lasting impact on our community.

So one half of Congress has ponied up for transit. Et tu, Senate?

Now, for the bad news. Remember last December when the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA) proposed a $1.5 billion plan to expand Michigan’s resources for all modes of transportation? Remember that this issue was not resolved during the lame duck session of the Michigan legislature? Well, Michigan still has a lot of work to do to get our transportation funding sources in order. While the federal stimulus package may result in dollars to build new transit options for Michiganders, I don’t see any operating dollars. And if we have to rely on the current $160 million or so in the bus operating line item, we may be in a world of hurt. Wouldn’t it be ironic if we got all these new buses and new capital expenditures but there isn’t enough state money to pay its share of local operating costs, that is to say, we won’t have the money to pay the drivers or the gas man. Ironic or just plan sad, either way, we need to get back in touch with our state legislators and ask what they are doing to move Michigan forward. If you’re looking for some really good insight into this issue, check out these dire words:

“I suggest that because our roads, bridges, rails and airports are the omnipresent symbol of the community’s solicitude for its own economy, an untended transportation infrastructure signals a community’s abandonment of hope for its economic future.” That is just a taste from a piece by David Honigman entitled: “The Signaling Function of Transportation Infrastructure: the Theory of the Broken Window.” Give it a read and then you’ll want to implore our legislators and your neighbors to care a bit more. (Full text at:

So, the game is on. In DC, Lansing and a city near you! Maybe even in a country, state or city under you right now.

All for today.


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