Transit in Michigan

By Andrew Justus | 1/12/12 12:13am

While we were away from ‘The Valley’ over break, a lot happened in the world of public transportation for Michigan. In the land of the Dutch, West Michigan, things are looking good. Grand Rapids got federal money to press ahead on its bus rapid transit line along Division and the Rapid will be improving services throughout the system. In the motor city, things are not looking quite so well. Detroit nixed the idea of light rail along Woodward and the suburb of Troy turned away $8.4 million in federal money to build a bus/train station because the mayor worried about the cost of keeping the lights on.

Good work Grand Rapids, you figured out that helping people move around without having to drive everywhere is important. You’ve figured out that young people like many of us at Grand Valley State University would rather battle Angry Birds on our iPhones while riding the 50 than fend off angry drivers on Lake Michigan Drive in our Fords and Chevys. You understand that improving transit means providing people with options in how they get around, instead of dictating that everyone drive everywhere.

Our community needs to keep up this momentum toward reducing dependence on the automobile as a means of improving the local economy. Gas will not be any cheaper in the future, and if the cost of driving continues to jump up and down as it has the past few years it will be handy to have viable public transit options even for those who usually drive. With more people saving on gas by taking transit more often, Rapidians will have more disposable income to spend at local businesses.

Aside from dollars and cents, continued improvement at The Rapid will also be good for our region’s health. Since even the best designed bus routes never end up right at our front doors, public transit use typically involves regular walking to and from bus stops. According to the Mayo Clinic, 10 to 15 minutes of daily walking can lower cholesterol and blood pressure while reducing the risk of type two diabetes.

Maintaining our area’s investment in transit will make Grand Rapids and its environs attractive to businesses and residents from other areas who are enticed by efficient and healthy mobility, while building on our emerging reputation as a thoroughly modern and sophisticated metropolis.

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