Hop On Board Transit Millage

October 13, 2003
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The Grand Rapids business community has long suffered direct impact from the lack of public transportation options, and certainly provided key assistance little more than three years ago when six metro areas supported ITP-The Rapid service extensions with millage backing. It was only the first step, however, and there are additional compelling reasons to support the proposal facing voters in just three weeks.

The issue of getting employees to work dates back to former Kentwood mayors Gerald DeRuiter and Bill Hardiman. It extends north, past county boundaries. ITP statistics show 58 percent of all rides connect people to their jobs. The service extensions and other improvements of three years ago provided a 36 percent increase in ridership, a tremendous gain not only for employers but also for those attempting to keep the number of parking lots at a minimum.

The Environmental Protection Agency has already designated this metro area out of compliance, and the penalties loom in the near-term days of spring. One need only be caught once in the backup on off-ramps to Grand Rapids Community College or Grand Valley State University’s Center for Health Sciences to understand the impact service can have for the student community. (The tremendous expense of more parking garages in the downtown sector to accommodate both campuses is not of sound financial planning.)

The proposal before voters would increase the tax 0.20 mills and provide far more gain than cost. Growth in this metropolitan community requires further service extensions, and new economy workers are among those who make conscious choices to park and ride.

ITP, like every business, finds itself caught in health insurance benefit increases as well as liability cost increases, which skyrocketed throughout the country after Sept. 11. That the ITP can provide service improvements and cover additional business costs with so little an increase speaks volumes for its director, Peter Varga.

The community also is challenged to put its vote in its open hand for state funding. West Michigan’s constant complaint relates to east-west state funding inequities. State Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids, notes that state transportation funding is matched; the more the local contribution, the more the state match. “That’s why Grand Rapids has received less and that’s why this enhancement millage is of particular importance,” Kooiman said.

Grand Rapids Business Journal supports the economies of scale at work in this proposal, and the business community’s continued viability in bringing the labor force to and from jobs. As the local economy continues to improve transportation services will continue to be its backbone. And we agree with GR Mayor John Logie: The metro area does not need another parking lot.    

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