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The Rapid + The WGVU Morning Show: Moving Forward with E-Fare

E-fare Init Boarding the bus

“One of the big benefits of e-fare is the time savings. At some  stops, people boarding are fumbling with change or their tickets and it can take a long time for the bus to get going again. This should speed up the boarding process and allow for buses to run fasters and more on time. – Kevin Wisselinkg, Senior Planner at The Rapid”

On April 17, we sat down with Shelley Irwin on the WGVU Morning Show to talk transit and about our proposed fare structure changes and our upcoming transition to our new e-fare system.

Our e-fare system will consist of smart cards and mobile ticketing. You’ll be able to purchase fares or add funds to your e-fare account (linked to your smart card or mobile ticketing smartphone app) by visiting the e-fare website online via your smartphone or desktop, at ticket vending machines, or at the Information Center at Rapid Central Station. There will also be a retail network where smart cards will be sold at a variety of locations throughout our service area including supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies. You even had the option to set up auto-load to have your account add funds from a linked debit or credit card when funds are low!

Using e-fare will make riding The Rapid faster, easier and more convenient. Just tap your smart card or scan your mobile ticketing smartphone app as you board the bus to pay your fare. There will be a validator located near the farebox to do this.

However, to successfully transition to e-fare, we’re proposing a few changes to our current fare structure to fully utilize the new technology, expedite the boarding process and better accommodate passengers. We’re holding public meetings to in various locations through April 27 to gather feedback.

Proposed Changes

–  Elimination of 10-Ride Tickets

–  Implementation of a pay-as-you-go way to purchase a pass

–  Implementation of more convenient reloadable account options through e-fare

–  Elimination of the sale of tickets on the bus

–  Implementation of new 90-minute, paper-free transfer time frame with e-fare

–  Elimination of paper transfers with cash fare

–  Discontinuation of change cards

Learn more about e-fare by listening to our chat with Shelley here. If you have questions about e-fare, join us at one of our public meetings.

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Moving on After 20 Years at The Rapid

Peter Varga CEO of The Rapid

By now you’ve probably heard the news. I will be leaving The Rapid at the end of my current contract, which is in effect through September 30, 2018.

This decision was made with my wife, who recently retired, and my family. At this point in my life, I am looking for more flexibility in work commitments and want to explore new ways to use my skills and experience.

This is a bittersweet time for me, as I look back with pride on my years at The Rapid and also look to new opportunities, which, I hope, will keep me engaged in the work of public transportation.

Where it all Began

I started my transit career 36 years ago as a bus driver for Santa Cruz Metro in Santa Cruz, CA. At the time I took the job, a career in transit was not on my agenda. But as so often happens, we are led to the place we are supposed to be. I quickly grew to love the industry, primarily for the people, both those that I served and those who worked alongside me. I was also fascinated by the workings of transit–all of the pieces and parts that need to come together to provide safe, reliable, timely service on a daily basis. As I advanced and learned other aspects of the business, it was clear that transit was not just a career for me, but a calling.

In 1993, I started working for the Grand Rapids Area Transit Authority (GRATA) as the Director of Operations. In the fall of 1997, I was appointed as interim Executive Director before accepting the permanent position a few months later. Then-Board Chair George Heartwell and I made a pact to create a better transit authority to serve the people of the greater Grand Rapids area. With the passage of the millage in the six cities in April 2000, my contract with GRATA was transferred to The Rapid and I became CEO.

Transforming Transit in the Six Cities

Looking back over the many changes that have come about since 1997, I can’t help but be grateful for the opportunity to lead this organization, the many supports who have been instrumental in The Rapid’s success, and the outstanding staff who have work with me in this endeavor. We started with a system that stopped running at 6:15 p.m. on weekdays and had no Sunday service. most routes ran only once an hour and there were many places that had no service at all.

Today, ridership has more than tripled, growing from 3.4 million annual trips to 11.9 million annual trips. revenue service hours have grown 157 percent and we went from 17 routes to 23 routes, increasing coverage, access, and opportunity across the region. Service frequency has improved too, with more than half of the route at 15-minute peak service.

To accomplish this, we needed to expand and upgrade our equipment and facilities. We doubled the number of buses operating at peak service from 64 to 133, at the same time improving the average age of the fleet from 11.2 years to 6.1 years.

With the expansion of the number of buses and the construction and renovation of various facilities, we increased the assets more than fivefold from $27.5 million to $139.3 million, far outpacing the growth in the operating budget which doubled to $42 million.

With the launch of the Silver Line in 2014, we were able to open the first bus rapid transit (BRT) line in Michigan, on time and under budget. I admit this is among my favorite projects because it has shown what attractive, efficient, public transportation can do for a community’s economic vitality and sustainability, and quality of life. I am excited about the potential to build on this success with additional lines.


Over the next 18 months, I will be focused on working with staff to finish up projects are in the FY17 work plan, as well as developing and executing the FY18 work plan. I am committed to leave The Rapid well-positioned to meet the opportunities and challenges of the future. At the Board’s discretion, I will be available to assist in the search for a new CEO and develop a transition plan.

I have every confidence that the Board and employees share my commitment to the long-term success of The Rapid and are dedicated to continuing this work long after my time here.

Public transportation changes people’s live for the better. It has been my honor and privilege to do this work.

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Public Information Meetings to be held for Proposed Fare Structure Change

Ticket being used at farebox

Our new electronic fare (e-fare) system is coming soon!

E-fare, which features smart cards and a mobile ticketing smartphone app, will make riding the bus faster, easier, and more convenient. Features will include the ability to purchase fares or add funds online, at ticket vending machines or at Rapid Central Station. Using e-fare to ride is as simple as a “tap” of the smart card at the validator or a scan of the mobile ticketing smartphone app to pay your fare.

As we prepare to transition, we are proposing a few changes to our current fare structure to fully use the new e-fare technology, expedite the boarding process, and give you more options for fare payment.

This proposal does not include a fare increase.  If approved, changes to the fare structure will be in effect when the e-fare system launches in early 2018.

Proposed changes

  • Elimination of 10-Ride tickets
  • Implementation of a pay-as-you-go way to purchase a pass
  • Implementation of more convenient reloadable account options through e-fare
  • Elimination of the sale of tickets on the bus
  • Implementation of new 90-minute, paper-free transfer time frame with e-fare
  • Elimination of paper transfers with cash fare

Public Meetings

  • Fare Structure Change Meeting #1 at Rapid Central Station
    Tuesday, April 18, 2017
    3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    Central Station, Second Floor Community Room
    250 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • Fare Structure Change Meeting #2 at Rapid Central Station
    Wednesday, April 19, 2017
    7:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.
    Central Station, Second Floor Community Room
    250 Grandville Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
  • Fare Structure Change Meeting at Kentwood City Hall
    Thursday, April 20, 2017
    4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m..
    Kentwood City Hall, City Chamber
    4900 Breton Ave SE, Kentwood, MI 49508
  • Fare Structure Change Meeting at Grandville Library
    Monday, April 24, 2017
    7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
    Kent District Library – Grandville Branch
    4055 Maple St SW, Grandville, MI 49418
  • Fare Structure Change Meeting at Walker City Hall
    Tuesday, April 25, 2017
    10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
    Walker City Hall, Commission Chambers
    4243 Remembrance Rd NW, Walker, MI 49534
  • Fare Structure Change Meeting at Wyoming Library
    Wednesday, April 26, 2017
    6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
    Kent District Library – Wyoming Branch, Library Meeting Room B
    3350 Michael Ave SW, Wyoming, MI 49509
  • Fare Structure Change Meeting at East Grand Rapids Community Center
    Thursday, April 27, 2017
    1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    East Grand Rapids Community Center
    750 Lakeside Dr. SE, East Grand Rapids, MI 49506

Can’t make it to a meeting? Send us your feedback!

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How the Federal Transportation Administration Supports Public Transportation Across America

Silver Line in Grand Rapids

In 2016, 10.2 billion trips were taken on public transportation, connecting people to work, school, health care and activities that are vital to people’s lives. Public transportation provides a foundation for economic development — as well as better health and opportunity for all Americans. As transit ridership continues to go throughout the country, find out how the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) is working to improve and support transit in communities across the country.

The Rapid’s Silver Line, Michigan’s first bus rapid transit system, is featured as an important new piece of transit infrastructure. We’re honored to have the Silver Line highlighted in this video!

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Celebrate Easter with Egg Hunts, Brunch and more

Basket of Easter eggs

Nothing says Easter quite like a good old-fashioned egg hunt or a delicious meal with your family and friends. This year, Easter Sunday falls on April 16. Let us help you plan an extra special way for you to celebrate this holiday with your family. Get on board The Rapid to catch a ride to a number of family-friendly Easter events throughout the Grand Rapids area.

Kid-Friendly Fun

Hoppy Easter Toddle Time at Sky Zone

Friday, April 14, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Sky Zone, 3636 29th St SE, Kentwood, Michigan 49512
This Easter event for toddlers will feature the Easter Bunny, face painting and a coloring station! Bring your children ages five and under for a few hours of fun. Tickets are $10/toddler.

Route 17 & 28

Easter Bunny Painting Class at Wine and Canvas

Saturday, April 15, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Wine and Canvas, 2883 Sanford Ave SW, Grandville, MI 49418
Forget the wine. This Easter event features cookies! Cookies and Canvas are kid and teen-inspired classes recommended for ages five and up. Parents are welcome to register themselves to paint with their children or just come along to hang out.
Routes 24 & 28

Brunch Locations

Brunch with the Bunnies

Saturday, April 15, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Post Petals, 806 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Visit Posh Petals for fun and brunch with your little ones. The resident shop rabbits will be there to visit with. Attendees can also decorate bunny headbands, get photos taken and enjoy delicious baked goods from Little Lucy’s Café. The cost is $15 per person with no additional fees for activities.

Route 9

Easter Brunch Bites at the Downtown Market

Sunday, April 16, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Downtown Market, 435 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Visit the Downtown Market Market Hall to taste unique Easter menu items. Once you’re done eating, visit the greenhouse for a variety of fun activities for your kids.

Routes 1, 2 & the Silver Line

Easter Brunch at in the JW Marriott

Sunday, April 16, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., 235 Louis St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Looking for an upscale and locally inspired Easter brunch experience? Visit at the JW Marriott this Easter Sunday. They’re serving up an artisan brunch menu that includes sirloin, ham, leg of lamb, and other mouth-watering options. The price is $40 for adults and $15 for children ages four through 12.

The Silver Line, Routes 9 & 11

Easter Brunch at CityFlatsHotel

Sunday, April 16, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
CityFlatsHotel, 77 Monroe Center St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Love buffets? Don’t miss Easter Brunch at the Ballroom. Enjoy carving stations, a chef omelet station, delectable buffet items and much more. Seating times: 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Prices: adults (age 12-60): $29.95, seniors (age 60+): $24.95; kids (age 5-12): $12.95, age four and below: free.

Route 1, 4, 6, 13, 15

Easter Bunny Brunch at Wheelhouse

Sunday, April 16, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Wheelhouse Kitchen & Cocktails, 67 Ottawa Ave. SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
We invite you to join us for Easter Brunch! The Easter Bunny is hopping over to Wheelhouse for a tasty brunch special. There will be chef Features, kid’s activities and more to enjoy. The regular menu will be available, as well as special brunch features and $5 kids menus. Make your reservation now!

Routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 +; walking distance from Rapid Central Station.

Easter Egg Hunts

Midtown Egg Hunt

Saturday, April 8, 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Midtown Green, 753 Fountain St NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
Grab a basket and come over to the Green Park for a free Easter Egg hunt! It’s a great chance to meet your neighbors. All ages are welcome

Route 6 & 14

John Ball Park Easter Egg Hunt

Saturday, April 15, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
John Ball Park Zoo, 1300 Fulton St W, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Bring your children ages one-10 to this free Easter egg hunt. Donations toward next year’s event are encouraged.

Route 12 & 50

Kentwood Easter Egg Hunt

Saturday, April 15, 10 a.m.
Kentwood City Hall Lawn, 4900 Breton Rd SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508
Hunt for children ages 10 and younger. Bring a bag to collect eggs and get your photo taken with the Easter Bunny afterward.

Route 2 & 44

Walker Easter Egg Hunt

Saturday, April 8, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Walker Ice & Fitness Center, 4151 Remembrance Rd NW, Walker, MI 49534

There will be an egg and wrapped-candy hunt for children ages two through eight. The Easter Bunny will also be available for pictures.

Route 7

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Let The Rapid be your Ride to the Grand Rapids Coffee Crawl

Grand Rapids Coffee Crawl

Sip. Snack. Meet. Repeat. Are you ready for the first Grand Rapids Coffee Crawl?

On April 7-8, travel to coffee shops throughout Grand Rapids to try different blends of coffee, tea or an alternative beverage. GRNow is hosting the first–and let’s be honest, long overdue–coffee crawl in Grand Rapids. What’s even better about this event is that proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Heartside Gleaning Initiative. Coffee lovers, this is your excuse to give back and taste all that Grand Rapids has to offer! you’re there you can also snack on chocolate covered espresso beans, baked goods and other treats to fuel you in your travels.

While you’re visiting coffee shop locations, you can also snack on chocolate covered espresso beans, baked goods and other treats to fuel you in your travels. There will also be educational sessions, art and live entertainment to enjoy along the way. And if you begin to tire of coffee along the way, participating locations will also be featuring tea, hot chocolate and other non-coffee beverages to enjoy.

Here’s what your Grand Rapids Coffee Crawl ticket gets you:

–  One 4 oz. sample of coffee, tea, or alternative beverages at all participating coffee shop locations. Offerings vary depending on each location.
–  An electronic map (for your phone) of all participating shops.
–  Educational sessions, art and live entertainment taking place at shops.
–  Free bus rides on The Rapid with proof of ticket.

Participating coffee shops include both MadCap locations, both Ferris Coffee + Nut locations, Jam’n Bean Coffee Company, Lantern Coffee bar & Lounge, Mayan Buzz Cafe, Lightfast Coffee Bar + Art Collective, The Bitter End Coffeehouse, Squibb Coffee Bar, Roots Brew Shop, The Sparrows and Rowster Coffee.

Worried about drinking all of that coffee? Don’t be! The sample sizes provided on this crawl are fairly small and your intake is completely up to you. Rotate out your coffee sample for a tea or hot chocolate. You’re also not required to stop at each location, so don’t worry if you can’t visit them all.

Purchase your tickets here.

Ride The Rapid to explore Grand Rapids and get to Grand Rapids Coffee Crawl locations. Shops are located throughout our system. Routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 + can get you there.


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Happy Retirement to Rapid Bus Operator Fred C.

Fred C.

Recently, we wished our very own Fred C. a very happy retirement! He was a bus operator for 22.5 years. Please join us in thanking Fred for all of his hard work and dedication throughout the years.

We’ll miss you!

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Ride The Rapid to these April 2017 Events

Art Downtown

The arrival of April means spring has officially sprung. With more hours of daylight and warmer weather making an apperance on the weekly forecasts, this is the perfect time to get out and enjoy all that Greater Grand Rapids has to offer.

This month, we’ve got events for coffee lovers, children during spring break, art collectors and so much more!Grab your calendar and save these dates:

Grand Rapids Coffee Crawl

Calling all coffee lovers! This is the crawl for you. From April 7 to 8, explore local coffee shops and try different blends of coffee, tea or hot chocolate, all while benefiting the Heartside Gleaning Initiative. General tickets for this event are $15 and just $12 for students. All of the coffee shops are located within our bus service area, so just show your ticket to your bus operator and you can ride The Rapid at no cost! Get your ticket here.

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

Tuesdays on the Town

Stroll 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.

Spring Break at the Public Museum

Do something special during Spring Break! The week of April 3 – 8 is Spring Break for many in the area. Enjoy a day at the Grand Rapids Public Museum for a special visit to Whales Giants of the Deep and additional hands-on activities including watercolor printmaking, making origami whales and big games. Activities take place 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Monday – Saturday of Spring Break and from 2:30 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Learn more about admission here.

Route 7, 9, 12, 50 can get you there. 

DisArt Symposium

The 2017 DisArt Symposium: Disability Arts takes place from April 6 – 8 This is an international symposium designed to bring together academics, critics, artists, community organizers, designers, and arts organization professionals to consider the current state of disability arts and the current state of access making for cities around the world. Events include keynote presenters, a silent film screening, theater, dance, as well as an accessible event planning seminar. You can purchase your tickets here

Routes 1, 4, 14, 15 and the Silver Line can get you there.

Amazing Dinos

Plan a trip with your children and ride with us to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum to dig up fossils, examine dinosaur habitats, and even come face to face with your favorite dinos! The Amazing Dinosaurs exhibit is now open through June 25. You don’t want to miss this fun, interactive exhibit that’s sure to please dinosaur lovers of all ages. Museum admission is just $8.50 for ages 1-64 and free for children under one. EBT card holders can get in for just $1.75. 
Routes 1, 4, 6, 14, 15 and the Silver Line can get you there.

Art.Downtown 2017

On Saturday, April 8, from 12-9 p.m., art is taking over downtown. Expanding from the Avenue for the Arts corridor in the Heartside Neighborhood to Kendall College of Art and Design and Devos Place in central downtown, this one-night event features several hundred artists in dozens of galleries, businesses, and studio spaces around downtown Grand Rapids. This is a rain-or-shine, no-cost event! 

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

Grandville Art & Chocolate Walk

More than 20 different venues in downtown Grandville will feature artwork on Friday, April 21. There will also be a live statue performance, musical performances and interactive art exhibits. Visitors can also enjoy chocolate and beverage tasting stations with $3 “Sips & Bits” cards available for purchase at the event or for pre-purchase at Grandville City Hall. 

Route 8, 24, 28 can get you there. 

Early Childhood Resource Fair

Play, learn and explore! This free event takes place at Kent Career Techincal Center on Saturday, April 29. Bring your children to take part in fun activities, as well as access to many valuable programs, resources and organizations. There will be onsite signup for free preschool, free vision and hearing screenings for toddlers and a range of early childhood information.

 Route 15 can get you there.

Enjoy April!

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New Study: Who’s Riding Public Transit?

Public transit bus riders at Rapid Central Station

Work. Shopping. School. Recreation. Across the nation, these are the top reasons people board public transit every day.

Public transit riders are part of the engine that powers America’s economy, according to a new demographic study released by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The study Who Rides Public Transportation reveals that 87 percent of public transit trips directly impact the economy, either connecting people to employers needing workers and to retail and entertainment venues.  The study, authored by the CJI Research Corporation, is the most extensive demographic report of public transit riders ever, with nearly 700,000 passenger surveys.

“The data is clear: Public transit riders’ impact on the economy has grown tremendously over the last 10 years,” said APTA Acting President and CEO Richard White. “In addition to the work commute, Americans are taking transit to shop, dine, and attend entertainment venues more than ever before.  As the new Congress and Administration look to boost the economy, investing in America’s public transportation infrastructure should be a key element of that plan.”

One example of this economic impact, according to the data, is that the share of riders using public transit for shopping more than doubled from 2007 (8.5 percent) to 2017 (21 percent).  APTA officials note that there is a long-term trend of public transit riders having a greater impact on the economy while helping to sustain growth in local communities.

In fact, since 1995, ridership has increased by 37 percent– a growth rate higher than the 20percent  increase in the U.S. population and higher than the 23 percent growth in the use of the nation’s highways over the same period, according to APTA ridership data.

“These public transit trips impact communities of all sizes and a very diverse group of Americans ride public transit every day,” said White. “The facts speak for themselves. Investing in public transit is the obvious choice to help grow the economy.”

The Facts

Sixty-three percent of public transit riders use it at least five days a week, and 13 percent use it six or seven days a week. This is further evidence that commuting is the primary trip purpose for many users, but many also use public transit for shopping, dining and other activities that grow the economy.

Other important demographics highlighted in the study include:

  • –  Most riders are people in the most economically active years of their lives, from 20 to 64 years of age, according to the study. This accounts for 89% of transit passengers.
  • –  Of all riders, 71% are employed, while 7% are students. Thus, more than three-fourths of transit riders (78%) are either currently employed or preparing for employment.
  • –  Most transit user households (77%) include one or more working persons.
  • –  More than 51% of riders hold a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education.
  • –  In fact, 21% of U.S. households that make at least $100,000 per year ride public transportation.
  • –  Public transit is a lifeline for many Americans. Thirteen percent of U.S. households have incomes of less than $15,000, but among transit-using households, the comparable figure is 21%.
  • –  The majority of public transit users are women (55%). This is true for both bus and rail users.
  • –  Transit users are multi-modal. Sixty-five percent have a driver’s license.
  • –  Twenty-one percent use public transit for shopping and 17% for recreational spending in the local economy.
  • –  For smaller communities under 200,000, more riders (27%) use it for travel to school than in larger communities over 1 million (6%).

The Who Rides Public Transportation study is based on a total of 695,748 respondent questionnaires.  The surveys included were conducted during eight years from 2008 through 2015.  The public transit systems participating in the research carried 80% of the transit trips made in the U.S. during the study period.  To read the study in its entirety go to

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The Rapid + The WGVU Morning Show: Free Ride Fridays to Griffins Hockey Games

Griff on The Rapid bus

Each month we join Shelley Irwin on the WGVU Morning Show to talk transit. On March 20, Jennifer Kalczuk, The Rapid’s External Relations Manager, joined Irwin with Steve Ritsema of the Grand Rapids Griffins to talk about hockey, free bus rides and some other details about our partnership with Grand Rapid’s local hockey team.

Did you know you can ride The Rapid to and from Grand Rapids Griffins Friday home games for free? It’s as easy as showing your game ticket to the bus operator while you’re boarding the bus. It’s a great way to save money and avoid the hassle of parking, as well as being a safety choice if you’re enjoying a beer or two at the game. Griffin’s Friday home game also feature a $2 hot dog and $2 beer special that’s a great wallet-friendly option for getting the most out of game day.

Another fun promotion to keep an eye on is the weekly Griffin’s ticket giveaway! This one is especially good for the avid SnapChat user. Add griffinshockey on SnapChat and every Friday you’ll have a chance to find a 4-pack of tickets that will be placed at a Rapid bus stop. Watch the Griffin’s SnapChat Story to figure out the stop they’re located at and be the first get the tickets.

Griffins SnapChat

Check the Grand Rapids Griffins game schedule here. There are still a few Friday home games left this season.  You can plan your trip to Van Andel Arena by visiting and using our RapidConnect Trip Planning tools, as well as simply planning your trip on Google Maps (just choose the transit icon).