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Supporters rally to keep Grand Rapids suburb connected to metro bus sytem

Josh Leffingwell
Friends of Transit

People in the Grand Rapids suburb of Walker will vote this November on whether to withdraw from the regional bus system. Now transportation supporters are fighting back.

Supporters of the bus system in metro Grand Rapid held a kick-off rally in defense of the bus sytem, known as The Rapid.

Barbara Holt is a Walker City Commissioner and chairwoman of the regional transit authority. She and other business leaders at the rally said keeping Walker connected is vital to the overall community's economy.

“People can stay in Walker, go shopping someplace else, go working someplace else but we all come back. It’s so important that we do not isolate ourselves from the region,” Holt said.

“I use it for work, when I was working on my masters degree I used for school, medical appointments. I use it for everything,” Walker resident Tom Gilson said.

Gilson has been in a wheelchair all his life. He says The Rapid gives him personal freedom. “That’s important, and it’s not something to be taken for granted of trifled with,” Gilson said. He says he’d have to sell his house in Walker if voters decide to withdraw.

A taxpayer watchdog group is behind the petition to withdraw Walker. The Kent County Taxpayers Alliance says it's not against bus transportation in general, but feels the system is wasting tax dollars.

A little more than a year ago voters in Walker and Grandville voted against a tax hike to improve bus service. But voters in the larger region passed the increase… by less than a half of a percentage point.

If voters decide to withdraw Walker the change wouldn’t take effect for another five years; once that tax increase expires.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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