Plowing Ahead In 02

June 11, 2002
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The New Year always is a time to look ahead with a renewed sense of optimism. It’s also a time to change behaviors, resolve to get better and just generally try something new.

To that end, here is a suggestion that will make Grand Rapids better.

Put snowplows on the front of ITP buses. And while that’s being done, put saltboxes and spreaders on the back, too.

To everyone who wished for a white Christmas, thank you very much. Now stop it.

Thirty-plus inches of snow is a significant amount for a month. It’s overwhelming for a week.

But day in and day out, the city buses kept running. And, for the most part, they were on time.

So why not take this reliable service that traverses the city’s main thoroughfares anyway and slap blades on the front of them?

The move would serve many purposes. It would free up time for the city’s regular plows to work on those troublesome side streets where most of the city’s population actually lives. It would give some of the streets outside the core downtown area (we’re talking south of Michigan) a chance to be plowed sooner than four days after a blizzard, thereby offering employees a chance to park somewhere within shouting distance of the buildings in which they toil. It would shoot down the argument that public transportation doesn’t help everyone, only those who use it. It would give bus drivers that much more leverage when changing traffic lanes.

The saltboxes could be refilled each time a bus pulls into the Ionia Avenue transit center. They usually wait in line for 10 minutes anyway, so this way the time could be spent more wisely. Also, a few new jobs would be created (salt shakers at the transit center), which is always a bonus in a down economy.

ITP Executive Director PeterVarga, coincidentally the subject of last week’s Inside Track feature, would do well to consider the wisdom of the plows-on-buses scheme. Every little bit helps when it comes to moving snow.

  • If the bus/plows plan doesn’t work, maybe the West Michigan Strategic Alliance can get a huge tarp to put over Lake Michigan. That should stop some of what the meteorologists coyly refer to as “lake effect flurries.” The lake seems to be about the only thing not affected by them.

JayPeters could defray a portion of the alliance’s cost by selling advertising on the tarp. Or maybe Michigan Economic Development Corp. CEO DougRothwell could slap the state’s emblem on it with the slogan, “Michigan: The Top IT State In The Nation.”

  • The Grand Rapids Hoops are starting off the New Year with a bang, too. The local CBA team owned by commercial real estate baron Joel Langlois is introducing a new promotion in conjunction with HRH Insurance called the HRH Insurance Big Shot.

The promotion will take place at halftime of each home game and features a fan shooting a free throw, three-pointer and half-court shot.

Make all three within the 20-second time period and go home with $5,000.

The promotion starts with Thursday’s game, which also is when anyone named Gary gets in for $3. The Hoops’ opponent, of course, is the Gary Steelheads. Guests of honor for the evening will be Gary Bond, sportswriter for The Grand Rapids Press, and Gary Allen, morning personality for WOOD Radio. The Gary promo will be offered each time the Hoops play the Steelheads.

  • Believe it or not, filing taxes has become a more favorable experience for Americans than flying on commercial airlines, according to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

In its annual report on how satisfied Americans are with federal government agencies, the ACSI shows that the score for the Internal Revenue Service has improved 11 percent from last year and 22 percent since 1999. While still relatively low, the IRS score of 62 (out of a possible 100) is still higher than the airlines’ recent score of 61, which was measured by the ACSI in the first quarter of this year, well before the Sept. 11 attacks and the subsequent impact on air travel.

“These would be noteworthy improvements for any organization in any industry, but they are even more notable in view of the ‘business’ of the IRS,” said ClaesFornell, professor of business and director of the University of Michigan Business School’s National Quality Research Center, which compiles and analyzes the ACSI data. “It is difficult to imagine a society in which people would be more satisfied with tax collection than with competing companies from which purchases are neither mandatory nor without alternatives of choice.”

Fornell said that high satisfaction among individuals filing tax returns electronically — who largely view the process as simple and efficient and who receive tax refunds faster — is a major reason for the IRS’s better score.

While the IRS showed the biggest improvement among the government agencies measured by the ACSI, almost all agencies included in both this year’s and last year’s reports improved in customer satisfaction. The exceptions were the Food & Drug Administration, which showed no change in its score of 68, and the Social Security Administration, which slipped from 84 to 82 — still among the highest agency scores.

The overall ACSI score for government agencies is up from 68.6 a year ago to a current mark of 71.

With all that’s happened in 2001, including just about everything Americans know turning upside down, the ACSI figures really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Here’s looking to a more prosperous and happy 2002!           

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