Deborah Johnson Wood | Rapid Growth

Light rail, bus rapid transit, and streetcars are chalking up huge rises in property values along Cleveland, Ohio’s Euclid Corridor, the Phoenix Tempe Metro Light Rail, and Eugene, Oregon’s Emerald Express. Smart transit has the potential to create jobs, ignite development, and connect a city. But is West Michigan ready for the possibilities – and the challenges – that lie ahead?

The projected possibilities are staggering:

  • $1 billion in development along the route of the Silver Line, Michigan’s first bus rapid transit (BRT).
  • Increases in property values of 30 to 130 percent along the BRT route , three to four blocks deep.
    (US Government Accountability Office Report to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate)
  • Thousands of new jobs in Kentwood, Wyoming, and Grand Rapids.
    (APTA Economic Recovery Promoting Growth – The Benefits of Public Transportation)
  • An $80 million streetcar line in Grand Rapids’ downtown core that could generate millions more in development.
    (2008 Grand Rapids Streetcar Feasibility Report — most recent study to-date)
  • Tens of thousands of people relocating to the urban core, attracted by efficient, fast, reliable transit that gets them to work, to entertainment, and to shopping.
    (Policy Brief: Locating Affordable Housing Near Transit – A Strategic Decision — Reconnecting America)

Construction of the Silver Line’s 34 stations is nearly 80 percent complete, says The Rapid’s Conrad Venema, project manager for the $40 million BRT that launches in August. Amazingly, the high-ticket budget, funded entirely by Federal Transit Administration Very Small Starts and Michigan Department of Transportation monies, involves no local dollars — unless you consider that it’s tax dollars coming back to West Michigan. This is money earmarked for transit; it does not come out of the pot allocated to fix our roads.

The BRT, an express transit service, will run with eight hybrid electric buses, dedicated bus lanes, and technology that will “hold” green lights to reduce stoppages. The route runs mostly along S. Division Avenue from 60th St. in Wyoming, north through Kentwood into Grand Rapids. {….}