M live published their usual fawning review of the Silver Line’s first year, but appended some more trenchant remarks by my friend Jeff Steinport. He is, as usual, charitable, but I think that he didn’t put the peddle to the metal, and really raise hell. Maybe he lost his guardian angel in the maze. I made the following comments on the article.
Accounting statements of public bodies are notoriously slippery. The web site for the rapid is labelled as operating expenses in very small print; it ignores capital expenditures altogether, “because the federal and state governments pay for them.” So let me assign the 40 million construction costs to the 685k riders (ignore the cannibalization from Rt. 1), and the cost per ride is north of 60 dollars per trip. And that does not include the 30 million for the repair garage and the defined benefit pension plan that they will never be able to pay.
The other issue has to do with “resurrection” of So. Division. The model is a rail line in Cleveland; their Silver Line was luckily sited near several thriving businesses. Possibly, there were 5.8 billion of new construction there, but none was due to that streetcar. The one business that I know well is the Cleveland Clinic. It has had the good luck of being the destination for tens of thousands of desperate, monied Canadians seeking medical care after their government stopped funding hospital infrastructure up there about 20 years ago. The Clinic built a 350 million dollar radiation unit. Folks who stick around for the 6 week treatment stay in the new hotels and eat at the restaurants that were developed around that facility.
The Cleveland Clinic isn’t even known for its oncology unit. It does cardiology and I don’t know how much those operations expanded. Meanwhile, the Cleveland population lost over 13 percent of its population from 2000-13, the folks leaving for Texas where they won’t have to waste money on streetcars. Where is the gain for the taxpayers and residents?
In Kentwood’s 2 mile half of So Division, there has been no interest in real estate, prices and sales are stagnant even after we in Kentwood have spent 2 million of poor people’s taxes annualy for four years now. But markets should move in anticipation of future values, and the fact that they haven’t changed indicates the glum prospects for that stretch of highway, especially after the Urban planners have managed to foul things up.
Our Kentwood city commission has entertained 3 proposals for businesses in the last 2 years. One was for a marijuana clinic which was discouraged by Planning (bad choice on their part.) Another, last month, for a drug rehab unit was angrily kicked over the side by the neighbors and local public schools. I see a proposal for a food pantry/day care center/church in the pipeline. At this pace, we will have Asian groceries, Salvation Army and sweaty gymnasiums in a few decades. These are all valuable ventures, but hardly the stuff of “vibrant communities” pictured so airily by the used car salesmen who promoted the Silver Line. Varga addressed our city commission last fall and pulled his punches; So. Division would be prosper only after 10 years. The present value of something political to “help business” in 10 years is nil.
Our mayor has labored mightily to bring new businesses to Kentwood, and succeeded twice. Dave and Buster, and Trader Joes both sited themselves on a busy stretch of 28th street. The mayor didn’t advance South Division for these new and exciting ventures. Why would he? The plans for this stretch are for strangling automotive traffic, bike lanes and outdoor cafes for a Michigan January, and replicating the rotting tourist traps that empty out after labor day. No one with money and business smarts would invest in such a scam, and none do.