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Grand Rapids Lifts Michigan Into New Era of Rapid TransitPrint

Thriving Communities | April 17, 2013 | By James Bruckbauer

New retail, housing, and office projects are springing up along the road that will soon become a bus rapid transit line.

Last week in Grand Rapids, Gov. Snyder joined a group of state officials, business owners, and community leaders to break ground on a $40 million new bus line that’s expected to spur millions in new development and connect suburban commuters to downtown.

As the rain poured outside, the ground-breaking ceremony moved to a restaurant where the audience got a preview of new boarding platforms that will soon cover riders from the elements.

The almost 10-mile long bus line will enjoy its own dedicated street lanes, intersection lights will stay green for the bus, and riders will board on a platform instead of on a curb, cutting down on wait times to board the bus and ultimately shaving off 40 percent off a normal commute. It’s expected to open in August 2014.

It’s the first bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Michigan, and Gov. Snyder praised the city’s transit agency, the Rapid.

“Grand Rapids should be proud that it’s a role model for the rest of the state,” he said at the ceremony. “This is a really big day.”

As I noted last week, the new BRT represents a “modal shift” that is taking place all over Michigan.

In the southeast, the Regional Transit Authority board met for the first time to begin the difficult task of coordinating transit service in Metro Detroit. The RTA will connect suburban commuters to the city center and lay the groundwork for urban rail and rapid transit.

Last year, many people around the state told the Transportation for Michigan coalition that they wanted more ways to get around. And here in Traverse City, a Northwestern Michigan College survey found that many people feel very strongly that transportation options be a top priority.

Not only is transit becoming the new choice ride for commuters, there are new civic champions fueling the modal shift: hospitals, universities, and large corporations.

Spectrum Health's Steve Heacock said West Michigan’s largest hospital is strongly supportive of the new suburb-to-downtown transit link.

“Spectrum is preparing for the next generation of workers who would rather walk, bike, or take transit to work," he said.

Munson Healthcare in Traverse City also is leading the way to provide employees with more transportation choices. The hospital staff recently conducted a survey asking employees to share information about their commutes. Now they’re working with Benzie county transportation officials to figure out the best way to connect Benzie County workers to Traverse City.

For a more detailed description of the Grand Rapid bus rapid transit project and its history, check out Zane McMillin's MLive article here.