On Tuesday, May 8th, the Interurban Transit Partnership (f.k.a., the Grand Rapids Area Transit Authority) has a millage on the ballot to subsidize the local bus system. The requested millage renews not only the current ITP tax on homeowners but increases it by almost 18%. ITP says the new tax is needed to pay for new bus routes to accommodate over 7 million riders every year. Specifically, ITP wants to add a new route to the west side of Grand Rapids and increase the frequency of other routes.
What ITP is not telling voters is that about half of these riders are Grand Rapids Public School students who now ride its buses because the school district no longer transports high school students enrolled in schools outside of their neighborhood. In fact, the new route on the west side is from downtown to Union High School. So it is not enough that the city school district has so mismanaged the tax dollars it receives from us that it can't cover the tab for transporting students hither and yon to attend classes, we are now expected to fork over additional taxes to subsidize ITP to do this work. Meanwhile, we have to put up with thuggish students raising havoc at ITP's downtown station.
Opposition to the millage has been organized by Jeff Steinport, chairman of the "Rapid No" campaign. ("The Rapid" is ITP's branding strategy for its buses.) One unusual way Steinport's group has gotten their message out was by having an ITP bus carry a campaign ad reading "This Pig Stinks". Steinport's argument is that ITP should look to cutting costs on under-used routes, such as making better use of its van service.
ITP's argument for the millage is that they need more money. Perhaps, but that doesn't explain why the taxpayers should provide it. Why not the riders of the bus system? Why should the taxpayers let the Grand Rapids Public School District shift to another government entity the cost of (the mostly unnecessary) transportation of students to high schools outside of their neighborhoods?