The Grand Rapids Challenge ask us how might we create a seamless transportation system to improve quality of life for residents and visitors of Grand Rapids. Thinking outside the box, and observing the activity in the downtown Grand Rapids area made me wonder if there was a better way to handle traffic after an event. From an observers perspective It can be chaotic and monopolize the resources of the police department.
Grand Rapids is growing, especially our downtown area.
If you have spent time downtown, I am betting you would agree our venues are bringing in a record number of people. Some of the contributors to this include The Convention Center, The Arena, The Performance Venues, The Resturant & Bar Crowds, and the Festivals & Special Events. These are all significant factors in bringing people into our City and to downtown Grand Rapids. They are an excellent source of revenue, and it is terrific to see our city so alive. However, they all have one thing in common; they bring a mass of people and cars in and out of the area at the same time.
In many cases, traffic flow is at a standstill without the assistance of the Grand Rapids Police Department to direct and control traffic flow because of the sheer volume.
The police spend several hours for each significant event blocking streets and directing traffic. While I am not in charge of the police departments budget, this does not seem to be the most efficient way to utilize their talents and services, and I believe there is a better way to control traffic flow than using Grand Rapids Finest Men and Women.
I propose we create a new business or department in Grand Rapids that provides the same uniform system of traffic control for events. We would hire individuals at a lower wage then Police Officers, perhaps college-aged Men and Women to work as Crossing Guards or Traffic Officers, and train them on how to handle foot and vehicle traffic. We would bill the venues for their safety service rather than charging for city police services. Just as they do now, the events and venues could pass the expense on to performers and activities making it a very sustainable department or business.
Those that plan the events could work directly with our new business or department for coordinating and scheduling traffic control and this reallocating of traffic control would free up the Grand Rapids Police Department to focus on other issues.
As a side note, the police department would maintain control of traffic control for emergency events.