Sustainability Groups Unite to Support Urban Transit, May 3 Millage

Fourteen Local Groups Formally Endorse May 3 Transit Millage

GRAND RAPIDS — April 27, 2011 — A coalition of local sustainability groups led by the West Michigan Environmental Action Council formally endorsed the May 3 Interurban Transit Millage during an event at WMEAC headquarters this morning.

West Michigan’s environmental and sustainability advocates believe that quality public transportation is necessary to make a city more vibrant, sustainable and ecologically friendly.  The coalition released a joint letter of support for The Rapid and the first round of improvements identified in its transit master plan, which will be funded by the pending millage request.  This letter is attached and excerpted below.

Originally scheduled to be held at the Center of the Universe transit island adjacent the building, the event was moved inside due to inclement weather.  Representatives were on hand from WMEAC, Michigan League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, Sierra Club West Michigan, Michigan Environmental Coalition, Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, Alliance for Environmental Sustainability, Aquinas College SIFE, United Growth for Kent County, Fulton Street Farmers Market, and John Ball Zoo Society.  Clean Water Action, Trout Unlimited Inc. and Grand Rapids Whitewater have also signed on for support, but were not in attendance.

“The need for improved public transportation in West Michigan is something that sustainability advocates can agree on,” said Rachel Hood, WMEAC Executive Director.  “We are happy to see such a diverse group of environmental and sustainability partners together in support of such an important cause.”

According to the letter of support, upgrading and expanding The Rapid’s service area, hours, route frequency and speed reduces congestion and decreases unhealthy emissions.  Smog, resulting from reactions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and sunlight, hurts people, pets, and plants. It inflames our airways and damages our lungs.  In plants, it destroys cell membranes, slowing photosynthesis and reducing crop yields.

“Upgrading public transportation will result in less oil and other chemicals from cars running off of our roads and parking lots into streams and rivers,” said Nichol De Mol, Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative Project Manager for Trout Unlimited. “This effort will help to protect the water resources that are important to our community.”

Sustainability groups want people out in the community and on the sidewalks, walking and biking, jogging and shopping.  Reducing particulate pollution in the air will make our communities healthier for pedestrians and all non-motorized activity.

Upgrading public transportation is also a step forward in decreasing our dependence on foreign oil – while providing a community hedge against rising oil costs.  Every additional Rapid rider represents dollars diffusing domestically instead of being sent abroad – sustaining local businesses and family trips to the zoo, generating West Michigan jobs instead of funding foreign autocrats.

“Just as our economy becomes stronger by diversifying its base, so does our transportation system,” said Hugh McDiarmid Jr, Communications Director for the Michigan Environmental Council. “Providing residents with an array of different options – buses, trains, bicycles, walkable downtowns and personal vehicles – is a recipe for vibrant cities and neighborhoods.”

“A diverse web of transportation alternatives is a smart economic recipe in the best of times. And in today’s era of economic challenges and skyrocketing gas prices it is more imperative than ever that we invest in the sort of transportation flexibility that doesn’t leave all our eggs in one, vulnerable, basket.”

Representatives from all of the agencies signing the letter are available for interviews upon request.  Photos are also available. Contact Daniel Schoonmaker at dschoonmaker@wmeac.org or 616.451.3051 for more information.

Read the Rapid Millage Statement of Support (PDF)