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Local Priest Champions Public Transportation in Grand Rapids

Father Mark smiling on the bus.

It wasn’t exactly divine providence that The Rapid bus service was there to serve the Rev. Mark Przybysz in his time of need.

Rather, Przybysz himself was integral to ensuring that the Grand Rapids area’s mass transit system had expanded over the years — and therefore could conveniently get him to wherever he had to go when he was temporarily unable to drive after suffering a concussion in March 2015.

“The Rapid helped me to continue to function, to live an independent life,” said the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Community in Grand Rapids, who over the years has advocated for financial and other support of the Interurban Transit Partnership, operator of The Rapid. “I did not lose a beat on my ministry life, on my social life, on my health care life — I was able to do everything that I used to be able to do.”

Przybysz’s sudden reliance on The Rapid did not go unnoticed by his parishioners, who were accustomed to hearing him speak in favor of mass transit. Some church members even followed in his footsteps, Przybysz said.

“Some of them actually started to take The Rapid themselves,” he said. “It really is a great service, and it’s great to have it handy for so many people.”

“The Rapid is a friend”

Przybysz’s injury occurred when he was walking his dog and passed out for some reason, hitting his head. He was able to get back to his house and receive medical assistance but was told he shouldn’t drive for six months.

Plenty of people offered to chauffer him while he recovered, but Przybysz opted to turn to The Rapid for his transportation needs. For example, he rode the bus to meetings of the Aquinas College Board of Directors — on which he serves — as well as to get to follow-up medical appointments and to visit parishioners in the hospital.

“The Rapid is a friend,” Przybysz said. “It’s there for you in your time of need and it will help build our community because this is a community of friendships. I think that really sums up what The Rapid is about. Maybe you don’t use it all the time, or even ever, but if you need it, it’s there and you know that it’s a friend that’s not only there for you but that the friend is also helping make our community even stronger. It just reflects who we are as Grand Rapidians.”

Przybysz applauds the evolution of the mass transit system from the original Grand Rapids Area Transit Authority, which offered service mainly in Grand Rapids, into today’s regional Interurban Transit Partnership.

Today, The Rapid serves Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Walker and Wyoming, with some fixed routes extending into nearby townships, and has buses that run until 11 p.m. It also operates on-demand service for people with disabilities, and car- and vanpooling programs for people living outside the fixed-route service area.

As a result, the transit system has played an important role in Grand Rapids’ transformation into the bustling, thriving community that it is today, Przybysz said.

“It makes our community closer, and it makes our community more alive,” he said. “We get to know each other better. It opens our community to everybody who still doesn’t have a car, which is a lot of people. It helps us to see the different dimensions of our community.”

A robust mass transit system also is integral to economic development, ensuring that workers can get to jobs and helping to attract young professionals, said Przybysz, whose ultimate vision is for The Rapid to become a countywide system.

“It’s a fantastic offering to a new generation,” he said. “The younger generation wants a system where they can use alternative methods to get around.”

Written by The Rapid

The Rapid (Interurban Transit Partnership) is the authority that provides a variety of public transportation services for the Grand Rapids metro area and beyond. It is organized and operates under Michigan Public Act 196 of 1986.