Transit Vote Set May 8

March 30, 2007
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Voters in the six KentCounty communities comprising the Interurban Transit Partnership will vote May 8 on funding for The Rapid transit system. The Rapid is seeking a renewal of its existing 0.95 operating millage, plus a 0.17 mill tax increase to support additional services, which would result in an overall millage rate of 1.12 mills for a period of five years.

The service enhancements proposed for The Rapid bus system are geared to expanding mass transit service in the metropolitan area. The improvements were identified through a recent comprehensive operational analysis and were recommended by the Public Transportation Tomorrow Task Force. The analysis resulted in a two-phased recommendation for improving operational efficiency, route connectivity and transfer opportunities.

The first phase of improvements is covered under the current budget and will get underway two weeks after the May 8 election, according to Peter Varga, executive director of The Rapid. Phase I includes bundles of improvements that have to be undertaken simultaneously, including simplifying service patterns on routes, eliminating large one-direction patterns on routes, creating greater efficiency by tying together different routes, frequency improvements, expanded transfer opportunities and expanded weekday evening and weekend transit offerings.

But Phase II requires $2.2 million in additional funding to implement, which is why voters in Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Walker and Wyoming are being asked to approve the tax hike.

Improvements in Phase II would include the extension of evening and weekend service, the addition of a new route to the northwest area of Grand Rapids, and increased frequency of service on five existing routes. A 1.12 millage rate would generate $12.21 million in 2008, Varga said.

The May 8 millage request is heavily endorsed by public transit advocate groups, including Friends of Transit, Faith In Motion, Concerned Citizens for Improved Transit, Disability Advocates of Kent County and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, all of whom have been working to raise voter support for the measure.

Last fall, The Rapid commissioned a public opinion survey of 400 likely voters in the six-city area it serves to gauge support for public transit. Some 40 percent of the respondents indicated they use or have used the transit system, and 74 percent of all respondents rated public transportation as “very important.” Asked whether they would support a transit millage renewal or increase, 76 percent said they would support a transit millage renewal and 52 percent said they would support a millage renewal in addition to a millage increase.    

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