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: 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.
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.