Friends of Transit: Getting There Together Weekly

February 27, 2009

The Warning of Redundancy Edition

Folks,

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: http://www.ridetherapid.org/about/great-transit.) And when the going gets tough, the tough have a meeting. That is, the clear thinking tough people get together and chart a course (http://rapidyes.org/informational-meeting.htm). 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: https://friendsoftransit.wordpress.com/. 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 www.westmichigantransitsurvey.info 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.

Dave
www.RapidYES.org

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

Folks,

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 rapidyes.org and download the support form, sign it and send it in: http://www.rapidyes.org/FOT-2009-support-form.pdf.  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.
 
Dave
RapidYes.org
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

Folks,

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: http://www.ridetherapid.org/about/great-transit.

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.

Dave
RapidYes.org

February 7, 2009

The Ice Fishing Edition

Folks,

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 (http://www.ridetherapid.org/ride/routes). (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: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/gov/SOS2009_265915_7.pdf), 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 (http://www.ridetherapid.org/about/great-transit) or see what’s been launched in Cleveland (http://www.rtahealthline.com/); and

(3) Book mark http://www.rapidyes.org/. 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.

Dave
RapidYes.org

January 29, 2009

The Game On Edition

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

Folks,

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: http://www.ridetherapid.org/about/great-transit

· The GR Press: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2009/01/the_rapid_proposes_new_south_d.html

· TV 8: http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/Rapid_board_to_vote_on_millage

· TV 17: http://www.wxmi.com/pages/news_landing_page/?UPDATE–Rapid-Board-Approves-Millage-Req=1&blockID=197847&feedID=296

· TV-13: http://www.wzzm13.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=104746&catid=48

So, first thing for you to do is bookmark this website: http://www.rapidyes.org/. 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 (http://www.apta.com/government_affairs/washrep/2009january28.cfm). 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: http://www.drivemi.org/news/bulletinDetail.php?x=221.)

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.

Dave
RapidYes.org

January 23, 2009

The Inauguration Edition

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

Folks,

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…

(APPLAUSE)

… 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: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/us/politics/20text-obama.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1)

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: http://www.detroittransit.org/cms.php?pageid=26). 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: http://www.rapidgrowthmedia.com/features/address012209.aspx?utm_campaign=The%20Great%20American%20City%20Edition&utm_medium=Email&utm_source=VerticalResponse&utm_term=read%26nbsp%3Bmore).

“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.

Dave
RapidYes.org

January 16, 2009

The Computer Virus Edition

Filed under: Economic Stimulus — friendsoftransit @ 8:20 pm

Folks,

Thanks to a small grant from a state level partner, Disability Advocates is able to send two staff members to a conference next week.  I swear one of them told me that she was flying via Northwest. And the e-mail looked so real.

Yes, this morning I received an e-mail confirming an e-ticket with NWA.  Since the company credit card is in my name, I thought this must be the airline ticket for next week.  My gut said check it out further, but my haste said it must be the ticket for Monday.

Wrong.

Long story short, two hours of productive time this morning was lost in the repair mode.  Thank goodness we have awesome computer support or the two hour switch over to a new computer (and all the necessary network connecting) could easily have lasted into two or more days.  Who would have ever thought that one simple click could do so much damage.

But it looked so real.

Earlier this morning, as the virus was beginning to take over my former computer, I read a few more details on the proposed stimulus package that was proposed in the House of Representatives.  Yikes, there’s a lot of money in there!  (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123202946622485595.html)  It looks so real.  Its promise to “jump start the economy” sounds so inviting.  How could we say no?

Well, the economist who spoke at the Econ Club on Monday of this week said we should be saying no.  Alan Beaulieu of The Institute for Trend Research (http://www.ecotrends.org/) said that, in his opinion, the stimulus package looks real enough but it will likely cause the eventually coming recovery to be not as long or as vibrant primarily because we’ll have all this borrowed money to pay back to ourselves.  His advice: weather the storm; recessions are a normal part of the economic world and recoveries will come.

But the stimulus looks so real.

Especially the part supporting increased transit spending.  The multitude of shovel ready projects have literally been years in the planning.  Why not move the projects forward?  I can’t speak to all the other parts of the stimulus plan, but I can tell you that it’s high time we get the shovels in the dirt for increased transit options.  The American Public Transportation Association (http://www.apta.com/) is a great place to start looking for additional support for the transit components of the plan.  Yes, they may be a bit self-interested on behalf of their members, but check out the many well thought out perspectives on the great benefits transit is providing today and the ones we could be taking advantage of tomorrow with just a few billion in stimulation.  In addition, if you’d like to keep posted on the federal level, sign up for APTA’s bi-weekly update, called Passenger Transport (http://www.apta.com/passenger_transport/thisweek/).  This excellent e-newsletter provides a great deal of timely information on the federal government’s efforts to support (or hinder) local efforts to expand transit.  See how real it looks to you.

My gut’s telling me to click on the fast forward button for transit.  Decades of positive evidence and thorough planning can’t be wrong.  All the other things in the stimulus package?  Now my gut is saying I best check it out a bit more before I click.

All for today.

Dave
RapidYes.org

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” http://www.freep.com/article/20090109/NEWS06/90109058/State+economists+predict+$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” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/05/opinion/05mon2.html?_r=2.

The American Public Transportation Association echoes these sentiments in its “Letter to President-Elect Obama on Economic Recovery Legislation” http://www.apta.com/government_affairs/letters/081211_obama.cfm.

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” http://www.apta.com/government_affairs/washrep/2009january07.cfm.

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.

Dave
RapidYes.org

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: http://www.freep.com/article/20081212/NEWS06/812120389). 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: http://house.michigan.gov/find_a_rep.asp; senators at: http://senate.michigan.gov/SenatorInfo/find-your-senator.htm.)

• Ask your members, constituents and other concerned citizens to call or email their legislators. You and they can visit www.FundMiTransit.com 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 (pulse@grpress.com) 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.

Dave
RapidYes.org

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. (http://www.phrases.org.uk//meanings/lame-duck.html)

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