On June 5, 2018, Grand Rapids Commissioners approved a new three-year pilot program partnership with The Rapid and Spectrum Health that will dramatically increase bus service to help reduce traffic and ease parking congestion along the Michigan Street corridor.
“This is a great example of a creative public-private partnership that helps Grand Rapids move closer to being a more sustainable, safe and prosperous city by providing a full range of attractive transportation options and offering incentives to change travel behaviors,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said.
“Enhanced transit operations along the Michigan Street corridor are critical to our efforts to accommodate the trend of increasing traffic, anticipate future land-use changes and support economic investment and new development in a vital business district.”
The pact approved today will significantly improve The Rapid’s Route 19 service that operates along the “Medical Mile” from Michigan Street as well as a section of the near West Side between Bridge and Leonard streets. The route includes stops near such anchor institutions as Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and the Bridge Street Market urban grocery store and cafe under construction by Meijer.
“Leaders of the City, Spectrum Health and The Rapid all have a vested interest in continuing the success of the Michigan Street corridor,” said Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid. “Together, we are committed to ensuring the Medical Mile flourishes as a great place that is an attractive, accessible and convenient destination.”
Highlights of the plan that begins Aug. 27 include:
- Introducing Route 19 as a no-fare service – similar to the City’s existing no-fare DASH downtown-area shuttle service – by subsidizing the route with approximately $293,000 in annual funding support from each Spectrum Health and the City’s Mobile GR and Parking Services Department. The aim is to reduce traffic and parking congestion along Michigan Street by promoting fare-free ridership, including an awareness and education outreach effort that encourages Spectrum Health staff to use The Rapid to travel between offices and the medical center for meetings vs. driving personal vehicles.
- Expanding the service to operate 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday to better meet the needs of employees and students. Estimates suggest Route 19 ridership will grow from approximately 54 daily passengers to as many as 800 during the workweek. No weekend service is currently proposed.
- Increasing the frequency of The Rapid’s Route 19 service. Buses will arrive and depart at stops every 10 minutes during peak hours from 5:20 a.m. to 8:41 a.m. and then again from 3:21 p.m. to 5:41 p.m. During nonpeak hours, buses will stop every 15 minutes.
“The Route 19 improvements will benefit the City’s parking customers,” said Josh Naramore, Mobile GR and Parking Services manager. “This proposal offers additional parking options to employees and residents by connecting existing facilities that have capacity on the west side of the river, such as the Scribner Lot and Lots 7, 8 and 9, which have available monthly permit parking for $48 or daily parking ranging from $2 to $4. It also allows us to explore additional park-and-ride investments along the corridor to provide more capacity and options.”
The City Commission’s decision aligns with recommendations in the Michigan Street Corridor Plan. The report notes that even with four lanes in each direction, the Michigan Street path can move about 4,000 cars per day – a volume of traffic that is routinely exceeded at certain times of the day and occasionally poses hazards to emergency vehicle drivers’ ability get through due to gridlock and congestion. Projected development by 2035 predicts the corridor will have 15,000 daytime employees arriving and then leaving over two peak hours, in addition to the creation of up to 10,000 new residential units.
“We are very enthusiastic about this partnership – for Spectrum Health, this plan supplements our long-standing, extensive employee shuttle service as our staff transportation needs continue to grow,” said Rick Redetzke, senior vice president at Spectrum Health. “We are confident this plan will touch people who have never previously considered public transportation and build acceptance of transit as a viable option. This plan also will help Grand Rapids develop lasting solutions to challenges, such as parking, while allowing for long-term growth along the entire Michigan Street corridor, creating jobs and reliable transportation for both workers and people who live along the route.”