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Beat Rising Gas Prices With These Savvy Commuting Tips

Passenger waiting for the bus in downtown Grand Rapids.

Calling all car commuters! Gas prices are on the rise.

In a recent gas price forecast from GasBuddy.com, it’s predicted that U.S. households will spend more on gas than they did previously in 2017. GasBuddy expects prices at the pump nationwide to average out to about $2.57 per gallon of regular gas and $2.70 per gallon of diesel throughout the year. Analysts anticipate regular gas prices to peak in May, with most gas stations charging $2.57 to $2.88 per gallon.

Do you know exactly how much your commute is costing you? Use the handy West Michigan Rideshare Commute Cost Calculator to calculate just how much your miles, gas, maintenance and other aspects of your drive are really ringing up to.

If you’re hoping to stick to your budget this year, cutting down on how often you’re filling up your gas tank can be one way to stay in check. One of the best ways to combat car costs is by using alternative modes of transportation whenever possible.

Here are a few ways to save on gas in the year to come:

Walk and Bike Whenever Possible

Did you know that Americans spend more than 100 hours a year commuting to work? It is no secret that car commutes can not only be hard on your wallet but also straining on your mental and physical health. If your ability allows you, one way to ensure you’re utilizing your car less is by walking and biking to as many destinations as possible. While many of you may not live within a reasonable walking distance from your workplace, there’s a chance that many places you visit really are walkable. Consider choosing a destination and using the walking feature on Google Maps to see how long it would take you to walk there.

If you have a bike, dust it off and make a point to ride it more this year. You may not be brave enough to make use of it in the winter—a big salute winter bike commuters—but it doesn’t hurt to start planning for warmer weather. Grand Rapids metro area has made a significant investment in infrastructure such as bicycle lanes so you can ride even more safely to get where you need to go! Many of your favorite places likely have bike parking, too. Consider walking or rolling to the library, your favorite restaurant, coffee shop or local shop.  Don’t forget your helmet!

Ride the Bus More

According to the January 2018 Transit Savings Report by the American Public Transportation Association, taking public transportation and living with one less car can save an average of $825 per month. Using The Rapid as your main mode of transportation may not be possible for everyone but even if you’re riding a few times a week, you’re still going to be saving money in the long run. Using transit is also a way to incorporate more walking into your travel and get a little bit more personal time to enjoy a podcast or book instead of keeping your eyes on the road.

Use The Rapid’s Trip Planner tool (powered by Google Maps) to see what destinations you can ride the bus to and what bus stops are located near your home, workplace and other destinations you regularly visit.

Commute Smarter with Rideshare

If walking, biking or busing just aren’t possible for getting to your place of employment, West Michigan Rideshare may be perfect for you. Commuting alone can be a drag. This program through The Rapid offers Kent, Ottawa and Allegan counties solutions for connecting riders trying to find a better way to manage their commutes as well as the business community seeking solutions to improve travel for employees.

Whether this means joining a vanpool with people who have similar commuting patterns as you or finding someone to carpool with via the Online Rideshare Matching database, our ridesharing service could help you save money on gas and do the environment a favor in the process!

Commute smarter and savvier in 2018 with these tips!

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Motivational Mondays: New Destiny Pathways

New Destiny Pathways

In Grand Rapids, New Destiny Pathways is filling the gap for young women that have aged out of foster care. This organization provides necessary housing, life skills training and so much more to young women in need throughout the community.

Some children have bounced around in foster care their entire life. When they age out of the foster care system or residential services, there’s often the chance that these young adults may experience homelessness and joblessness. The wonderful women of New Destiny Pathways take young women who fall under this criteria and provide them with what they need to succeed.

If you’re seeking ways to get involved with New Desinty Pathways, they’re always in need of donations, mentors and have many opportunities for potential board members.

For more information on their services, visit their Facebook page.

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Laker Line Update: Awaiting Federal Funding

Laker Line Fulton Station

The Rapid’s second bus rapid transit line is in the hands of a federal agency. On Tuesday, January 8, 2018, The Grand Rapids Press reported shared an update on the Laker Line.

Funding for the 13-mile-long Laker Line was authorized in President Barack Obama’s last budget for fiscal 2017 – but The Rapid has yet to see any of the $56.4 million it was promised.

“We’re all scratching our heads,” said Michael Bulthuis, spokesman for The Rapid.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, recently asked the head of the Federal Transit Administration about the grant and has not yet received a response.

“Unfortunately, there has been a bureaucratic logjam that has delayed the money from being released,” said Brian Patrick, Huizenga’s communications director, noting that Huizenga believes the project ultimately will be funded.

The $70.5 million Laker Line, once built, will run 16 articulated buses from Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus along Lake Michigan Drive into Grand Rapids, stopping at the Pew Campus and ending at GVSU’s facility on the Medical Mile.

The bus rapid transit line will replace The Rapid’s existing Route 50. The project was formally introduced in 2013 as The Rapid launched its first bus rapid transit line, the Silver Line.

The Rapid applied for $56.8 million in funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program in August 2017 but has not heard back about the status. Bulthuis said formal approval of the grant application is needed before the money can be awarded.

In a letter dated Dec. 14, Huizenga asked K. Jane Williams, the acting administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, for a status update on the Laker Line grant.

“As you know, the Laker Line timetable has been carefully orchestrated in an effort to complete the project on schedule and within the budget,” Huizenga wrote. “Further delay in the receipt of the grant will have a negative chain reaction impacting schedule, cost, and development.”

Huizenga’s office has not yet received a response, according to his staff.

“We’re still very optimistic that we’ll get the grant very soon,” Bulthuis said.

The Rapid has been counting on the federal grant to pay for 80 percent of the $70 million project. The rest of the cost will be covered by the Michigan Department of Transportation, which has already allocated the $14 million it pledged.

Should The Rapid receive the federal grant in time, station construction would begin this spring and last throughout 2019, with a grand opening of the Laker Line in May 2020, Bulthuis said.

The Laker Line will offer bus service similar to what The Rapid offers on its existing Route 50. Buses will pick up passengers from stops every five to six minutes at peak times.

The travel time will largely be the same too, Bulthuis said.

What the Laker Line will be able to offer is larger buses that can carry more riders, making the route more efficient, Bulthuis said. The articulated buses can carry up to 60 passengers — about 20 more passengers than the 40-foot buses that run on Route 50 now.

Without the federal grant in hand, The Rapid is unable to start construction on the 20 platforms it needs to build for the stations, and cannot purchase the 16 articulated buses that will run the route.

Traffic signal priority technology will also be installed to extend green lights for buses to pass through, and to turn red lights back to green several seconds faster.

The Rapid is also waiting to build the turn-around for the Laker Line at Prospect Avenue on the Medical Mile. A turn signal will be installed to allow the buses to turn left off of Michigan Street into a small turn around – called a “loon” – at Prospect and Michigan.

GVSU will pay for the operation of the Laker Line as a part of its existing 10-year contract with The Rapid that began in July 2013.

The university pays $53 per revenue-hour to cover fuel, maintenance and driver staffing expenses for routes 50 and 85 – a rate that can be adjusted depending on costs to The Rapid.

The Laker Line will have 14 stops:

  • – GVSU’s Kirkhof Center
  • – GVSU’s Mackinac Hall
  • – Ferndale and Lake Michigan Drive
  • – Cummings and Lake Michigan Drive
  • – Standale Trail and Lake Michigan Drive
  • – Maynard and Lake Michigan Drive
  • – Covell and Lake Michigan Drive
  • – Fulton and Garfield
  • – Fulton and Straight
  • – GVSU’s Pew Campus
  • – Monroe and Louis (Silver Line stop)
  • – Monroe and DeVos Place (Silver Line stop)
  • – Michigan and Bostwick (Silver Line stop)
  • – Michigan and Lafayette

Recently the city closed the intersection of Fulton and Mt. Vernon at GVSU’s Pew Campus for five months to study the impact of the possible changes that could come as a station is added just east of the intersection.

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The Rapid’s 2017 Year In Review

2017 Year in Review

At The Rapid, we know there’s more to the ride. In 2017, there was more than ever before. What a year! We launched a new transit improvement study, introduced The Wave e-fare system, began our transition to a compressed natural gas (CNG) bus fleet and so much more.

Thank you for another great year!

Posted in Places to Go on

10 Events to Ride The Rapid to in January 2018

January 2018 Transit-Friendly Events

Hello, 2018! Avoid cabin fear and welcome in the new year by getting out and exploring.

Here are some events we can get you to this month:

Andy Warhol’s American Icons at the Grand Rapids Art Museum

Don’t miss this prestigious exhibition! Throughout January, visit the GRAM to take in Warhol’s celebration of America by bringing together a selection of unique paintings, prints, photographs and even film of iconic American products and symbols like Coca-Cola and the Empire State Building, of fictional characters like Superman, and of iconic Americans like Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, Muhammad Ali and Warhol himself. The exhibition is drawn from prestigious museum collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Andy Warhol Museum, GRAM, and other public and private sources.

Ride the Silver Line and Routes 6, 9, 11 and 13 to get to the GRAM.

Tuesdays on the Town

Bundle up and take a stroll through Downtown’s historic shopping districts until 8 p.m. every Tuesday. Get there via one of our fixed routes, the Silver Line (free within downtown Grand Rapids) or the free DASH buses!  Start your evening with dinner and then enjoy some late night shopping entertainment. Explore all the local boutique shops, sports apparel, kitchen gifts, clothing, specialty foods, and unique gifts, salon/spa services. Various shops will have specials and other features like trunk shows, refreshments, demos and music.

Routes 1, 2, 3,4, 5+ can get you there.

Ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle

Grab your ice skates and ride The Rapid to Downtown Grand Rapids for a skate around Rosa Parks Circle. You can even purchase a season pass for just $50 for adults and $20 for youth.

Routes 6, 9, 11, 13, 50 and the Silver Line can get you to Rosa Parks Circle.

Indie Flea Grand Rapids at Wealthy Theatre

Do you have some things still on your wishlist after the holidays? On Jan. 6, ride Route 5 to the Wealthy Theatre to shop local vendors and discover the best products in Grand Rapids. Grab your reusable shopping tote and get ready to shop!

Route 5 and 6 can get you to Wealthy Theatre.

New Urbanism Film Festival: Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids’ New Urbanism Film Festival is back on Jan. 11 at the Wealthy Theatre. Join ICCF & the Congress for New Urbanism: Michigan as we screen some of the award-winning films from the 2017 New Urbanism Film Festival in LA – including the highly anticipated feature-length film “Priced Out”. If conversations around urban planning, community building, gentrification, and/or city living fascinate you.

Route 5 and 6 can get you to Wealthy Theatre.

WinterWest

This family-friendly event takes place on Jan. 13 at Richmond Park and Jan 27 at Mulick Park. Dress in your warmest winter gear and come out to partake in ice skating, snowshoeing, sled races snowman building contest, fat tire biking, nature walk and food trucks.

This fun series that are free events in collaboration with the City of Grand Rapids Parks and Rec Department and neighborhood associations to encourage outdoor park engagement during the chilly winter months. See the full schedule of events here.

Plan your trip to Richmond or Mulich Park!

Winter Fort Building at Blandford Nature Center

Need an excuse to get outside? Ride with us to Blandford Nature Center for some kid-friendly fun on Jan. 13! Whether there is snow or not, come out with you family to see if you can build a fort or shelter that can withstand a chilly winter night. This event is $3 and requires pre-registration.

Ride Route 7 to get to Blandford Nature Center.

Nature Day at the Downtown Market

Visit the Downtown Market on Jan. 20 to experience the outdoors! Come get up close and personal with animals, learn interesting facts about their habitats and enjoy Greenhouse activities. This family-friendly event is free to attend and all ages are welcome.

Route 1, 2, and the Silver Line can get you there.

Winter Concert Series at Kentwood Library

Catch some tunes by Matt Gabriel at the Kentwood Library on Jan. 18. This singer/songwriter performs folk and blues tunes we know you will enjoy. Grab a bite at the Patty Matters Food Truck while you’re there. You can also bring your own beer or wine to enjoy at the show!

Get to the Kentwood Library via Route 2 or 44.

Kids & Family Expo at DeVos Place

Beat cabin fever by taking your family to DeVos Place on Jan. 27! There will be loads of crafts, games, play stations, costumed characters and even a zip line. This event is $7 to attend. Purchase your tickets at the door or online here.
Located near Routes 11, 15, 50 and the Silver Line.

Posted in News on

Top Posts of 2017

Top Posts of 2017

What a year! We can hardly believe 2017 is coming to a close. This year, we have had many important milestones including the addition of new compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles to our bus fixed-route bus fleet, the preparations for our transition to The Wave e-fare system and the successful passing of our operating millage. Take a look back at some of the top Get on Board blog posts from 2017.

We can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store for us!

6 TIPS FOR BUS RIDERS DURING COLD & FLU SEASON
OUTSTANDING RAPID EMPLOYEES OF 2016
WALKABLE NEIGHBORHOODS ARE TOP PRIORITY FOR MILLENNIALS & BABY BOOMERS
RIDER STORIES: EXPLORING THE BUS SYSTEM ONE ROUTE AT A TIME
MOVING ON AFTER 20 YEARS AT THE RAPID
LET THE RAPID BE YOUR RIDE TO THE GRAND RAPIDS COFFEE CRAWL
RIDER STORIES: I DIDN’T CHOOSE THE BIKE LIFE. THE BIKE LIFE CHOSE ME.
THE RAPID AND CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS ROLLING OUT MICHIGAN’S LARGEST FLEET OF CNG BUSES
INTRODUCING THE WAVE: THE RAPID’S NEW E-FARE SYSTEM
HOLLAND HOME RAYBROOK MANOR RESIDENTS LEARN TO RIDE THE BUS
ALIGNING TRANSIT FOR THE FUTURE
THE RAPID’S 2017 MILLAGE RENEWAL
THE SILVER LINE: MORE THAN A NAME
SMART TIPS FOR SAFER WINTER BUS RIDING
THE RAPID RATIFIES NEW LABOR AGREEMENT WITH BUS OPERATORS AND MAINTENANCE WORKERS
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Riding The Bus Can Help You Achieve Your New Year’s Resolution

Bus on Grandville Avenue

As 2017 comes to an end, many of you are likely setting goals for the year ahead. Whether you’re planning on a big resolution or smaller, more manageable ones, the feat of sticking to these intentions isn’t always easy. What if we told you that riding the bus could be the much-needed solution to sticking to your New Year’s resolutions?

OK—We may be a little biased, but hear us out. Are you trying to stay more active? What about saving money? Riding the bus can be your secret weapon to sticking to those resolutions. Riding the bus, even just once a week, is a simple and effective way to stick to your goals for 2018.

Here are some reasons to get on board to achieve a variety of resolutions:

For those resolved to better budgeting:

If you live and work within The Rapid’s service area, cut down on monthly car costs by riding The Rapid for your commute. Whether you choose to purchase a 7-Day Pass or 10-Ride Ticket, you’re going to save big on what you would typically spend in fuel costs.Find out just how much you could save by switching to public transit via the Transit Savings Calculator.

The Rapid partners with the City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. to offer a free downtown shuttle service called DASH. Riding the bus or DASH shuttles means you won’t have to deal with the cost–and hassle–of parking. Two DASH routes connect Downtown to the Westside and Monroe North. These circulator routes connect to parking lots to allow you to park once and ride for free to your destination.

For those who don’t live and work within The Rapid’s service area, don’t fret! We also offer carpool and bikepool matching services and a vanpooling program through West Michigan Rideshare. These ride-sharing options are a great way to save money, cut down on commuting stress and do the environment a favor.

For those ready to get active:

If getting in shape is in your plans for the new year, riding the bus is a simple way to increase your daily exercise. In fact, studies show that those who ride public transit get more than three times the amount of physical activity per day than non-riders.

Walking–or running, because we’ve all done it–to the bus stop is an easy way to sneak in extra steps every day. Start by using our “Nearest Stop” tool on ridetherapid.org to find the nearest bus stop to your home or workplace.

For those seeking to go green:

Looking to impact the environment in 2018? While you should add more walking and biking to your routine, riding the bus can still help you be more green. Every day, public transportation saves the equivalent of 900,000 tanks of gas every day. In the U.S., public transportation saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually. Aside from these benefits, taking the bus also means there’s one less car on the road and positively impacts congestion.

If you’re feeling extra green, cut out your car altogether or consider downgrading to just one car in your household. This will have a significant impact on the environment and big cost savings!

For those looking to explore their community:

Become a tourist in your own city. Riding the bus (literally) offers you a window to your community. While you’re traveling to your destination you have a chance to enjoy your surroundings, which often leads to finding new businesses and locations to visit. Rather than focusing on the road while you drive, you’re able to discover a new restaurant or cafe.

Aside from finding new local spots to check out, riding the bus may also mean meeting a new friend. Many riders say they feel more connected to their neighborhood and community through taking the bus.

For those planning on more personal time:

Stressed and busy? Let’s change that in 2018. Sometimes taking a little time for yourself can be just what you need in your day. When you ride the bus you have time to enjoy a podcast, listen to your favorite music, knit or even reflect on the day ahead. Passengers continually share how much their extra downtime on the bus means to them.

Happy New Year and happy riding! We can’t wait to see you on board.

Posted in News on

2017 Holiday Service Schedule

Decorated bus

Happy Holidays! We are wishing a safe and joyous journey to all of you celebrating this season.

We wanted to remind you all of the following holiday service changes:

College & University Holiday Schedules

Grand Valley State University
Monday, December 18, 2017
through
Friday, December 22, 2017
Break Service 
Saturday, December 23, 2017
through
Monday, January 1, 2018
No Service
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
through
Sunday, January 7, 2018
Break Service
Grand Rapids Community College
Monday, December 18, 2017
through
Sunday, January 7, 2018
No Service
Ferris State University
Monday, December 18, 2017
through
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
No Service
Resume regular service on Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Grand Rapids Public Schools
Friday, December 22, 2017 Half Day
Monday, December 25, 2017
through Friday, January 5, 2018
No School

The Rapid will not run service on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. All service will run as normal on December 24 and December 31 prior to these holidays. To view our full list of holidays without service, visit https://www.ridetherapid.org/schedules-maps/holiday-service.

Posted in In The Community on

Motivational Monday: Kids’ Food Basket

Kids' Food Basket

Did you know? One in five Michigan kids is affected by hunger. Kent County alone has 28,700 children that are considered “food insecure.” Kids’ Food Basket is leading the way to ensure that kids in our community don’t miss any meals.

Each and every weekday Kids’ Food Basket and their many volunteers are serving children across West Michigan with healthy sack suppers.

In fact, this non-profit is poised for growth and doing so much good that they’ve recently purchased land for a move to a larger facility. One crucial factor that impacted the location is public transportation access. On average, Kids’ Food Basket’s has about 175 volunteers per day and many of them ride the bus to get to their shifts.

Find out how Kids’ Food Basket and their wonderful team of volunteers are making a difference in a child’s life.

Feeling motivated to help make a difference in your community?  Kids’ Food Basket has locations in Grand Rapids, Holland and Muskegon. For more information on volunteer opportunists and more, visit kidsfoodbasket.org.

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The Rapid Ratifies New Labor Agreement with Bus Operators and Maintenance Workers

Rapid Central Station

On December 9, 2017, The Rapid Board announced it had reached agreement on a new three-year contract with the labor union representing the public transportation system’s bus operators and maintenance workers.

The Rapid Board of Directors ratified the agreement during their monthly meeting on Saturday morning. That ratification followed the acceptance of the proposed agreement by voting members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 836 (ATUGR) on Thursday, December 7.

“This is a positive outcome for our workers and the taxpayers in our partner communities,” said Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid. “We have worked hard to craft a contract that is beneficial to our employees, maintains an outstanding level of service to our customers and continues The Rapid’s legacy of responsible fiscal stewardship.”

The contract includes a three percent pay raise for all bus operators and a three and a half percent raise for all maintenance employees in the first year of the agreement. Both groups will receive annual increases of two percent in the following two years of the contract. The Rapid will also pay 80 percent of all health insurance premiums for union workers and will establish a new defined contribution retirement plan. The retirement plan will replace the existing pension plan and will establish a sustainable fiscal approach for the workers’ retirement fund and the transit organization.

“We are very pleased that our dedicated employees will receive these increased wage and benefit contributions and have the peace of mind that comes with having a ratified contract,” said The Rapid’s Board Chair Barbara Holt. “We value their hard work and recognize the important role these workers play in the delivery of public transportation services to the Grand Rapids area.”

The previous labor agreement expired in July 2015. The new contract will take effect upon final execution of the agreement between both parties.

You can review the full Rapid Board Agenda here.