Equity PAC, a local organization working to increase the number of equity-minded policies, practices and officials in West Michigan, enthusiastically endorses the Rapid Millage renewal on the ballot in November.
“Public transportation is essential to equity in Grand Rapids. We know that areas with the highest unemployment rates have the highest transit usage, and that these areas are predominantly people of color in historically segregated parts of Grand Rapids. Children riding to school, people with disabilities and seniors would also be severely impacted by the loss of transportation access. Failure to pass this millage would hinder growth in our region, but it would be an especially severe blow to those that need it most,” said Equity PAC board member Janay Brower.
The Rapid provides an average of 1 million rides per month, with 80% of riders using it to get to and from work and 67% of riders using The Rapids 5 days a week. It serves the cities of Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming, Walker and Grandville. It is a unique transit system because in that it reaches out to suburban communities who have the fastest growing poverty rates. Losing transit for our suburban communities will further alienate people who need access to economic opportunity the most.
The Rapid has been operating public transit services for seven years under the current millage rate of 1.47, which is 34.6% of The Rapid budget. The Rapid is asking the public to renew the rate for an additional 12 years. Without the renewal approval, most of the public transit services would cease in the six city region. There is no additional taxpayer cost for the renewal.
Equity PAC also strongly feels that it is important for The Rapid and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) to come together in agreement on a contract. The assurance of seniority and proper compensation is vitally important for those employed by The Rapid. However, it is more important above everything else that we support the interests of low income people, seniors and people with disabilities, and others in the need for this service.
“For too long we have allowed people to prosper, benefit and make money off the backs of minorities – and people in poverty in general. The latest move by the transit union, and its supporters to use the endorsement of the upcoming millage hostage until the ATU contract is negotiated is consistent with that unfortunate history. What is inconsistent is the amount of ‘allies’ who sit silent or agree to the tactic,” says Darel Ross, Equity PAC board member.
People in the minority, who are marginalized or vulnerable, are too important to have their interests on the bargaining table without their consent. If this millage fails our region’s public transportation system will be dismantled. We absolutely encourage you to vote YES on the Rapid Operating Millage on November 7.