If you don't get the Grand Rapids Press (good for you), you may have missed Sunday's front page article on the proposed streetcar plan that will encircle downtown GR. This proposal copies Portland's MAX, and I can tell you from experience how handy the MAX is. You're probably sick of hearing me say that 'everything is better in Oregon,' but in this case it truly is.
Cost? The first phase of construction is estimated at $69 million, a third of the price of the Devos Convention Center monolith and roughly equivalent to the price of the new uber-Green, LEED certified GR Art Museum.
Portland's public transportation system is one of the best anywhere and we would do well to model ours on it. When I lived and worked in downtown Portland I rode the MAX several times a week. Parking in downtown Portland is a nightmare, much worse than GR. Not having to drive downtown was a blessing. Here in GR, the bus system seems to be reserved for those unable to afford a car. Out there in Pacific Northwest-blissville, it's difficult to afford parking unless your car is electric. There are a number of free parking spaces designated for electric cars.
Of course, Portland is also much more bicycle, tie-dye and dreadlock friendly, and users of the MAX are as well. A combination of streetcars, lightrail and BICYCLE TRAFFIC LANES make getting around Portland much easier than here. An easily affordable monthly pass which you can buy from automatic-teller-esque machines gets you anywhere in town, or you can pay cash when you get on and get a transfer to jump from one form of tranportation to another.
Grand Rapids is leading the country in green building projects and this improvement to our public transportation system will push GR even further to the head of the pack in green urban design. Nothing could be better tthan promoting GR as a green, environmentally conscious community that values its citizens enough to reduce their ingestion of smog by providing alternative transportation choices. Mayor Heartwell is on the right path.
For more information, check out Andy Guy's article on the Michigan Land Use Institute website or check out Andy's blog from Grand Rapids.
GrandRapids streetcar Portland