Street Talk

Street Talk: Is this a transit town? Let's hear the stories

Tutu much.

September 19, 2014
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Much has been made about the new Silver Line and The Rapid’s quest for a sister operation called the Laker Line.

It seems, however, that public confidence in the program’s success is split. Some see it as a boon to development along the Division Avenue corridor, while others see it as a waste of time and money.

Maybe a little PR involving real riders will help the cause.

Disability Advocates of Kent County, Tommy Allen Creative and Friends of Transit have launched “Bus Stop Stories,” a video series they describe as “lively, poignant and comic reflections” on the Silver Line’s debut.

Taking to the streets during the launch week, Tommy Allen and his crew set out to capture the thoughts of individuals who were either riding the new Silver Line or were on existing routes under study for future BRT service.

"Right from the start we acknowledged with DAKC that Bus Stop Stories’ first chapter had to be during the launch of the city's first rapid transit service — the Silver Line," said Allen of the Aug. 25 production start date.

“Having been a participating artist in the 2009 debut of ArtPrize, I knew that we would only have one shot at capturing a city suddenly experiencing something brand new and at the very same time in history. When the second or third BRT line arrives, it could be greeted with a shrug, so we had one moment to capture this energy."

After meeting with DAKC, The Rapid and Friends of Transit, Allen said Bus Stop Stories was able to carve out a set of guiding principles that would aid production of this “from-the-street” storytelling project.

Of course, when Allen is involved, humor is, too.

"The addition of the brightly colored flower was actually a last minute addition to my wardrobe choice for the video," said Allen, who can be seen wearing a bright pink flower on his powder blue sport coat procured for the occasion from Goodwill.

"At first I was nervous that the flower might be too much, but in the end it actually helped people relax as the brightness of the color seemed to lift the person's spirits as I approached with my microphone in hand, inducing an almost instant smile in most, curiosity in others."

The first chapter of Bus Stop Stories starts with a lighthearted look at three areas in which people commonly interact with public transportation: Live, Work and Play. The video series currently is featured on the Friends of Transit Facebook page.

"In the end, the video series’ timing is perfect since many folks will be considering their transportation options as ArtPrize opens in Grand Rapids on Sept. 24," said Allen, a resident of Grand Rapids.

"We wanted to present a fresh image to counter-balance the often stereotypical view of public transportation. Our goal still remains to invite people to listen to our community members' thoughts and decide for themselves if The Rapid is a smart choice for their transportation. These are their stories."

Go park yourself

Anytime a major event is held at an Amway venue downtown, parkers can count on wait times.

So it was during the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Athena Awards last week. Little more than an hour before event time, the chamber issued a warning that hotel guests had filled the Amway parking garage and suggested alternative parking.

Next time, it might be community minded to offer boarding points for Silver Line service or free rides from Dash parking areas. It is notable that The Rapid CEO Peter Varga was among the attendees.

The event honored Grand Rapids Community Foundation President Diana R. Sieger as the 2014 Athena recipient, and also saw OST marketing specialist Lizzie Williams receive the Young Athena Professional Award. The event drew a record 600 guests.

Sign here, please

Mayor George Heartwell officially launched his “To College, Through College” initiative last week during a formal ceremony at City Hall.

Hizzoner said the signing of a community compact by the city, Grand Rapids Public Schools and college and university presidents represents a unified effort to increase the rates of credential and college degree attainment for all, but particularly first-generation college students, low-income, minority and other historically underrepresented populations.

“We must give our all collectively to ensure equal opportunity for our city residents who want a college degree,” he said. “Our city’s economic vitality and future depends on it.”

Rhae-Ann Booker, Davenport University’s executive director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, chairs the initiative, which is a collaboration of business, higher education, nonprofits, the public schools, the city, foundations, Talent 2025 and K-Connect.

The work is funded by The Lumina Foundation, a national foundation dedicated to post-secondary success in America.

The Office of Our Community’s Children, a public-private partnership of the city of Grand Rapids and GRPS dedicated to improving the quality of life for children in the city, serves as grant manager and facilitator.

Bottoms up

Sometimes, it’s really hard to be a politician. And sometimes it’s not.

Tonight, Congressman Justin Amash and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will be in town for one of those times when it’s not all that difficult.

They will attend a Generation Opportunity event called “Free the Brews” at Founders Brewing Co. The meeting is part celebration of Michigan’s craft brewing industry and part dialogue surrounding what some see as the “unfair” regulations faced by the industry.

Amash plans to discuss efforts to promote more economic opportunities for young people, such as craft brewing, while Calley will weigh in with recent legislative efforts to enable brewers to cut through regulations that hinder their success.

John Gautraud, Founders’ education ambassador, will offer a perspective from the brewing side.

Generation Opportunity is a national, non-partisan organization advocating for economic opportunity for young people through less government and more freedom. GenOpp’s Kevin Gardner, state director for Michigan, is scheduled to give the opening remarks.

And, oh yeah, there will be free samples, food and swag!

Dress blues

It would seem that wearing a frilly costume would be somewhat counterproductive when participating in a challenging obstacle course/race.

But that’s what happens when you open your mouth and out comes: “Hey, I’ll wear a tutu in that race if you guys kick in 300 bucks for charity.”

Almost instantly, $400 was on the books for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and Jim Gadziemski, Columbian Logistics warehousing general manager and Warrior Dash team captain, was being fitted in Columbian black and yellow for his Saturday morning jaunt.

Abigail Orshal, HR specialist at Columbian, organized the team event to promote fitness at the company.

“We are really looking forward to our inaugural Warrior Dash Team outing. It’s a fun race, raises money and awareness for a great cause, and preparing for the race is in line with our company fitness goals,” she said.

The three-mile race, complete with obstacles featuring names like “Storming Normandy,” was Saturday at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids.

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