The Rapid as Corporate Welfare

corporate greedYou may not be aware that the RAPID offers a shuttle service to and from the Gerald Ford Airport. If you’re not familiar with the Air Porter service, here are the details. The shuttle goes between the airport and three downtown hotels: The Amway, the Courtyard by Marriott, and the Days Inn. Sounds like a good idea, right?

Well, there’s a snag. The shuttle operates 24 hours a day on a set schedule, leaving the airport every half hour. The one-way fare is $15 and a round trip is $25. The problem is that the shuttle actually loses money. How much? It is estimated to lose $103,000 in fiscal year 2007. Guess who pays the difference. That’s right, you and I, the taxpayers.

This is called corporate welfare. The taxpayers of the Grand Rapids area are subsidizing shuttle service for three private downtown hotels. Do you really think that Amway needs tax dollars to get customers to stay at their hotel? Doubtful. But somehow they convinced the board members of the unelected Interurban Transit Authority (The Rapid) to foot the bill. Taxpayers get soaked again.

Even more interesting is the fact that an average of only about 1 person per hour uses this service. Any business operating like this would be bankrupt faster than you could say “Enron.” However, because the RAPID is just another government bureaucracy, we, the taxpayers, get to pay for their poor financial decisions.