The Rapid has received a $696,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as part of a new $945,000 effort to plan for development along the Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit line, focusing on the Division Avenue corridor from Wealthy to 60th streets.
The FTA grant, combined with a new $174,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation and $25,000 in grants from each Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming, is funding a $945,000 study that will identify strategies to spur economic development along the Silver Line route, which opened in 2014 and connects the three communities.
“We recognize that in Greater Grand Rapids, business grows where The Rapid goes,” said Andrew Johnson, president and CEO of The Rapid. “These grants reflect the understanding that quality, reliable public transportation boosts property values near transit corridors, encourages real estate and economic development, promotes diverse and inclusive communities, and helps make the region stronger and more competitive.”
The Silver Line is Michigan’s first bus rapid transit route, a 9.6-mile system stretching north-south along the Division Avenue corridor. It runs into the core of Grand Rapids, where about $2 billion in investments has occurred in the city’s Medical Mile. The Division Avenue corridor at the southern end of the line has the highest total population, greatest density and most transit-dependent residents compared with other routes, offering significant potential development opportunities.
Average weekday ridership along the corridor has increased by 37 percent since the Silver Line’s launch, including a 34 percent increase in Saturday ridership, a 45 percent increase in Sunday ridership and a total annual ridership increase of 39 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the most recent data available.
“We look forward to continuing to partner with leaders of The Rapid and from each of our respective neighboring communities,” said Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington. “Our goal is to develop a shared vision that promotes economic vibrancy along the Silver Line route and builds an even stronger transportation network that includes bus, bicycle and pedestrian connections and alternative transportation options.”
Key deliverables from the FTA grant include:
- — Assessing the current market conditions on the corridor, including housing and employment.
- — Identifying barriers and opportunities for driving economic development along the corridor, prioritizing equitable development.
- — Formulating planning policies, educational tools and initiatives that coordinate with economic development strategies along the corridor.
“We welcome the planning assistance of the FTA and look forward to recommendations that could improve the economic growth and redevelopment of the corridor that links our communities,” said Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley.
Business, civic and local government leaders agree attracting talent to Greater Grand Rapids is a critical element to the region’s future economic success and that easy access to public transit is an important quality-of-life consideration, especially among millennials.
“We are grateful for the FTA’s confidence in our communities as we seek to leverage the assets that are inherent in the Division Avenue corridor,” said Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll. “We are excited to build upon the great work that has already taken place, and we look forward to identifying strategies that will serve to benefit our residents and businesses.”
The Rapid grant for the Silver Line is among a total of $16.6 million awarded to 20 organizations around the country that will support comprehensive planning projects to improve access to public transportation. The funds are made available through FTA’s Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning, which assists communities that are developing new or expanded mass transit systems.
“Convenient and safe access to public transportation can improve mobility,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams.
The Pilot Program for TOD Planning provides funding to project sponsors that will integrate land use and transportation planning efforts with eligible transit projects. The grants fund comprehensive planning to support transit ridership, multimodal connectivity and mixed-use development near transit stations. In fiscal year 2018, FTA has awarded more than $15 billion in funding through both formula and competitive grant programs to support public transportation.