Posted in Silver Line on

The Silver Line & Designated Lanes: 4 Questions Answered

The opening of the Silver Line on August 25 is just over a month away. As we get closer to the maiden voyage of Michigan’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) line, here’s what you need to know about the designated lanes that will be in place along much of the route.

1. Where will the designated lanes be located?

The Silver Line will run between 60th Street and Division and Rapid Central Station.  The route is primarily along Division, but will loop through downtown to serve key employment centers, educational institutions, health care facilities, and entertainment venues. On August 25, about two-thirds of the 9.6-mile route will be reserved for buses only during peak periods of travel, 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Bus-only lanes will be signed and marked running both directions of Division from Maplelawn Street, just north of 44th Street to Wealthy. The only exception regarding these designated lanes is about 500 feet north and south of the intersections at 36th, 28th, and Burton streets. There also will be a bus-only lane on Monroe Avenue NW between Michigan and Fulton streets.

Bus only lanes are a main stay in many cities around the world.

Bus-only lanes are a main stay in many cities around the world.

2. When will the designated lanes be in use?

The designated lanes will be reserved for buses from 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. weekdays. All other traffic — excluding emergency and public service vehicles — will be prohibited from right lanes during rush hours. During reserved times, individual motorists will only the lane to make a right turn.

3. How will the designated lanes impact traffic?

“Engineering models suggest the bus-only lanes will have a “minimal” effect on traffic flow,” said Conrad Venema, strategic planning manager for The Rapid. “In most cases, we were not downgrading the traffic. It’s also important to note that the bus-only lanes will not exist at many intersections. While the stretches of the route in between these intersections may have delays.

4. Who will enforce the use of these designated lanes?

City police would enforce the use bus-only lanes, issuing civil infraction tickets. Ordinances for lane restriction enforcement are currently being reviewed by Wyoming and Kentwood.

We’re excited to see the Silver Line come to life in our community. If you’re seeking to travel within this corridor, the Silver Line is a low-cost, convenient, and easy option for getting you where you need to go!

Do you have any other questions about the designated bus-only lanes? Please share them in our comment section!

Posted in News on

Bringing Nature To Central Station

Rapid Central Station recently became a little more green. But little maybe be an understatement, as our new foliage installation is actually one of the area’s largest outdoor living walls.

The 500 square foot planted wall was completed last week by a joint effort between LiveWall LLC and Summit Landscape Management of Grand Rapids. The green wall took approximately four days to install and plant with a selection of colorful, cold-hardy perennials. Better yet, the chosen flora was all grown locally in Spring Lake by LiveWall, LLC.

This living wall springing to life behind our Silver Line stop at Central Station isn’t our first venture into green or sustainable infrastructure. In fact, we’re proud to be recognized nationally for using hybrid buses and building two LEED certified buildings, both of which feature green roofs. Our green roofs help to protect water quality by reducing storm water runoff, restoring lost habitat, and save on cooling costs.

The living wall also helps to cool the building and restore lost habitat, but unlike the green roofs, it’s more visible to those who matter most (you!). “We’ve transformed a steel and concrete surface into a public garden, providing a more pleasant and relaxing experience for our customers,” said Jennifer Kalczuk, spokesperson for The Rapid.

The Rapid LiveWall Installation July 2 2014“We worked with a local contractor and a local supplier who uses western Michigan sources of plants, soil, plastics and aluminum, ensuring that this investment benefits the local economy,” said Steve Schipper, The Rapid’s manager of fleet and facilities.

LiveWall president Dave MacKenzie, who also owns LiveRoof, LLC, the company that supplied the living roofs atop Rapid Operations Center and Central Station buildings, is confident that the additional green space will have a positive impact on the community.

“When it comes to the social and environmental benefits of keeping people connected to nature, the evidence is piling up. From lasting positive impacts on mental health, to reduced vandalism and crime rates, to cooler and cleaner air, reintroducing plants lost to development is a very good move for the community. And, with a living wall, beautiful and functional gardens can thrive where no workable land is available.”

Our green wall will be the fourth publicly visible LiveWall System in Grand Rapids. Currently there are 1,400 square feet of vertical garden, mostly edible plants, installed at the B.O.B.; the Downtown Market contains an 800 square foot living wall on the south and west walls; and the John Ball Zoo has a green wall on the chimpanzee house.

Have you had a chance to see our new living wall?

Posted in News on

Celebrating The Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964

It’s time to celebrate the achievements of public transportation! Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964. To give you some background, the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This act created the program for federal investment in public transportation systems across the U.S. by providing grants and loans to assist local transportation systems. The federal, state, local and private partnership the act established was key to revitalizing public transit systems that were declining due to disinvestment. It also created an oversight agency, eventually evolving into the Federal Transit Administration.

Photo courtesy of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on FB

Photo courtesy of Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on FB

You can see why this is a big day in our history. This is why the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is calling on Congress to take action to address the urgency of the Highway Trust Fund shortfall and provide a solution to the nation’s long-term transportation investment needs.

“Fifty years ago today, Congress took a visionary step in authorizing federal funding for public transportation that has ushered in public transit services that now provide 10.7 billion trips annually and have spurred economic growth for our communities and nation,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “APTA calls on Congress to continue this legacy and take decisive action to address the Highway Trust Fund and Mass Transit Account shortfalls this month and work towards passage of a multi- year, well-funded transportation bill in the coming months.”

Just like 1964, it’s time for Congress to demonstrate leadership through a significant, sustained investment in public transportation so that future generations of Americans can rely on public transportation to provide mobility, build communities and power economic opportunity.”Under the current bill, transportation funding will expire at the end of September. Even before that, unless Congress acts, the Highway Trust Fund is in danger of insolvency this summer and the Mass Transit Account as early as October.

This spring, APTA announced its recommended plan for a $100.4 billion federal transit program over six years, which would create an additional 1.1 million jobs created or sustained annually, $66 billion in business sales generated yearly and $9.5 billion in local, state, and federal tax revenue generated each year.

To commemorate the anniversary and stress the importance of continued Congressional leadership on the issue of public transportation, APTA held a Transportation Tuesday program last night featuring Therese McMillan, acting administrator of the Federal Transportation Administration and Richard Sarles, general manager/CEO of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.  They highlighted the achievements of public transit throughout the last 50 years and discussed its exciting future.

Posted in Places to Go on

8 Farmers Markets We Can Get You To

Outdoor farmers markets are a destination we should never take for granted. And for many people, they’re a quintessential part of the summer agenda. Fortunately, here in the Grand Rapids area we have a number of fantastic farmers markets within walking distance from several bus routes.Overview-1024x584

So load up your tote bags, put on a pair of comfortable shoes, and get ready for a healthy and green shopping experience. For directions, check out our Trip Planner or you can plan your trip via Google Maps. Another noteworthy aspect of the markets on this list is that they all accept Bridge Cards this year. Don’t miss the chance to stop by these great markets this summer:

1. Aquinas College Farm Market

Located off of Route 6.

2. David D. Hunting YMCA Farmers Market

Located off of Route 50.

3. Fulton Street Farmers Market

Located off of Route 14 and Route 19.

4. Grandville Farmers Market

Located off of Route 8.

5. Grand Rapids Downtown Market

Since the Downtown Market is located within walking distance from Central Station, all routes but 44, 28, and 24 are accessible to this location.

6. GVSU Farmers Market

Located off of Route 50.

7. Metro Health Farm Market

Located off of Route 16.

8. Southeast Area Farmers’ Market

Located off of Route 1 and Route 2.

What is your favorite farmers market on this list?

Posted in Events on

Meet Our Dump The Pump Contest Winners

“Dump the pump. Save money. Ride transit.”

For most of our riders, this philosophy is a no-brainer. So for the 9th annual celebration of Dump The Pump Day on June 19, we decided a great way to celebrate would be to give back to those riders who regularly dump the pump for more active forms of transportation. Aside from celebrating on the platform at Central Station, we asked you (our riders and fans) to post a photo showing us how you avoid filling up a gas tank. We were thrilled to see such a wide variety of photos featuring everything from bus stop selfies to shots of tennis shoes.

While it’s clear that everyone who dumps the pump on a daily basis is a winner, we had a random drawing to choose three photo contest participants as our winners. Let us introduce you to them:

Grand Prize Winner: Josh C.

10470881_594543540855_6325142979039192818_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josh is a Rapid rider, as well as a RapidVanpooler for his daily commutes to his job in Muskegon. Josh received a $50 Meijer gift card and two 31-Day Passes as the grand prize winner.

First Runner-Up Winner: Mar’Quita M.

10300225_10204221174318341_3740772650579594585_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mar’Quita shared the following caption on her Dump The Pump photo: “Not only do we ride the bus, walk and occasionally run after the bus…We also piggyback when times are tough!”

Second Runner-Up Winner: Kiersten Q.

10494722_10103980445756613_7698695127843990113_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kiersten posted this caption with her photo: “A beautiful night to wait for the 14.”

Thank you to everyone who participated in our Dump The Pump celebration this year!

Posted in Events on

Show Us How You Dump The Pump

High gas prices are a pain. Thankfully there’s a solution that can not only save you money but also help the environment in the process. It’s time to dump the pump, park your car, and catch a ride on The Rapid! Fortunately there’s an honorary day every year for doing just this. The 9th annual Dump The Pump Day takes place this Thursday, June 19!

While many of you celebrate dumping the pump every day just by riding with us, we want you to go above and beyond this coming week. In honor of Dump The Pump Day, we want to see how you Dump The Pump. It’s easy! You’ll have from June 16 to June 20 to post a photo and caption on our Facebook page of you riding the bus, walking, biking, or any other type of active transportation. Make sure to use the hashtag #DumpThePumpGR along with your caption. Those who post photos will be entered to win one of three prize packages. We will choose three winners at random on Friday, June 20. dtp

Prize Packages

Grand Prize: $50 Meijer gift card, 2 31-Day Passes
First Runner-Up Prize: $25 Meijer gift card, 31-Day Pass
Second Runner-Up Prize: $25 Meijer gift card, 31-Day Pass

Photo Ideas

Get creative with your photo ideas and don’t be shy!
– Take a selfie (or a photo you asked someone else to take) of you at your bus stop or on the bus
– Take a photo of your bus stop or a bus
– photo of your bike, longboard, etc.
– A photo from a trip you took via the bus, walking, or another form of active transportation

Rules

– Only one photo entrance per person will be counted
– You have until noon on Friday, June 20 to post your entry
– Any offensive/vulgar photos will be promptly removed

Aside from our week-long Dump The Pump photo contest, we will also be hosting a Dump The Pump Celebration on the platform at Central Station on Thursday, June 19 from 1-3pm. Be sure to stop by for a chance to win prizes and get your picture taken. Now get out there and snap some photos with your camera or smartphone and show us how you Dump The Pump here in Grand Rapids!

Posted in Silver Line on

Have You Seen The Silver Line?

What’s silver, green, hybrid, and the first of it’s kind in Michigan? You guessed correct — the Silver Line! For those of you eagerly awaiting the August 25th launch of the Silver Line, you may already know that we recently received our fleet of Silver Line bus rapid transit (BRT) buses from the Gillig factory in California. But the first public appearance of our Silver Line buses happened this past Saturday at the Local First Street Party.

We were thrilled to meet a crowd of eager first-time viewers. Although we understand that not everyone had a chance to come to this exciting event. So we bring you our first digital presentation of one of our Silver Line buses:

14367443504_b635510c57_z (1)

Photo courtesy of John Eisenscenk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of John Eisenschenk

Photo courtesy of John Eisenschenk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14365016281_3de426545b_z

Photo courtesy of John Eisenschenk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
What do you think of the new Silver Line buses? Leave us your thoughts in the comments!

Posted in News on

The Rapid Is Now On Google Maps

Have you heard the good news? Our arsenal of rider tools is growing!

With our tech-savvy riders in mind, we’re happy to announce that Rapid routes and schedules are now fully integrated with Google Maps. You can now access our route data via your desktop, mobile, and tablet devices by using Google’s website or mobile apps.

“Aside from our website, Google Maps is another way to access our information,” Rapid spokeswoman Jennifer Kalczuk said.

downloadWhile you won’t be able to track the real-time location of Rapid buses on Google Maps, you can look up whether a bus is delayed or on time, as well as it’s estimated arrival. Here are some exciting aspects about using Google Maps to plan your next trip on The Rapid:

1. Route customization: Riders can simply enter the date and time that they hope to arrive at their destination (or depart for the trip) and the trip planner will provide 3 options, showing the amount of time and number of transfers for each option, letting you easily select the most convenient trip.

2. Walking directions: Google Maps provides walking directions for riders to find out how to get to the nearest transit stop or station, and how to get to your destination once you leave the bus.

3. Mobile accessible: Transit trip planning is also available on mobile phones (such as iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, S60, and other Java enabled phones). Transit information is now available at people’s fingertips no matter where they are, and can help get them out of a bind if they don’t know which lines/routes service a particular area or what the timetables are.

4. Using business names or place names instead of addresses: You don’t need to know which pizzeria you are going to or its address in order to get directions; with integrated local search results, this means that you don’t need to know exactly where you’re going — in the “to” and “from” fields, you can enter a business name or category instead of a specific street address.

5. Street View imagery of locations: Google Maps offers Street View ground-level images in hundreds of cities and towns across the country; this allows riders to preview a transit station or stop.

6. Fare calculation estimates: If you provide us with the necessary data, we indicate the price of the transit trip, and compare it to the cost of transit to the cost of driving.

7. Support for over 40 languages: Google Maps supports multiple languagesso it is very convenient for foreign language riders, whether residents or international tourists, to find directions and information in their native language.

8. Accessible for visually impaired users: Google Maps generates an output that is compatible with screen readers for visually impaired users (example).

9. Multi-modal friendly: Google Maps offers multi-modal directions linking users to walking, bicycling, driving, and transit direction in one trip. This feature allows Rapid riders to receive details directions on how to get to and from stops and stations.

10. Connects to community: Rich data integration allows for a closer connection to the community by featuring areal imagery, business listings, user reviews, and street-level views. It gives users a thorough understanding of the neighborhood before users set foot on it.

To create a route on your desktop, head to Google Maps, click on “Directions” then type their starting point and destination. Clicking the bus icon will take the user to transit mode, which shows the nearest bus stop and its distance.

“This is another big step forward for us at The Rapid. We have been working to make our service more digitally accessible, especially for mobile devices. The integration of our system on Google Maps makes it even more convenient to get instant access to everything from multi-modal route information to simply finding our website,” said Peter Varga CEO of The Rapid. “Our availability on Google Maps also allows those visiting our community to more easily access public transportation system information on a platform they are familiar with using in other cities.”

Have you planned a trip using Google Maps yet?

Posted in CEO Insight on

Why Millennials Are Shifting Commuter Trends

America’s future may be riding on public transportation, but the true keepers of public transit’s destiny are millennials. While they’re often stereotyped in daily news headlines, this tech-savvy civic-minded generation knows how to get around. In fact, nearly 70 percent of millennials use multiple modes of transportation to get around the city or suburbs, with public transit topping the list as a generational favorite due to its ability to connect all other modes.IMG_0548

This generation wants choices when it comes to transportation. Getting around should be low-cost, green, convenient, and much more. I commend this generation and believe we should welcome this trend. Increased public transportation — and active transportation use — improves the environment, saves money, and enhances commuters’ quality of life. As for communities, those who do not accommodate the millennial demand are at risk of losing millennials are other places altogether.

Yes, Americans have been driving less and only 49 percent of 17-year-olds are licensed to drive compared to 75 percent in 1978. So what explains this shift? I believe it starts with millennials’ worldview. More than other generations, they “appear to be more interested in living lives defined by meaning,” according to Stanford Professor Jennifer Aaker and Emily Esfahani Smith of the Hoover Institution.

Millennials act on that desire for meaning — to “make a difference” — even when deciding how to get from place to place. To give some reasoning behind their interest in meaning they have specifically cited ease of use, lower environmental impact, and the sense of community it fosters. This interest aligns directly with a recent University of Minnesota study, which found that living closer to light rail lines is associated with a higher degree of life satisfaction.

To learn more about why and how millennials are shifting commuter trends in America, read my entire column via USA Today.

– Peter Varga
CEO of The Rapid

Do you think cities are doing enough to cater to multimodal lifestyles?

Posted in News on

Moving Toward More Sustainable Transit

Vanner HBA UnitFrom being named the best mid-sized transit system in the country to hitting a new one-year record of 12.5 million rides, we’ve had a lot of milestones in the past year. Today we are happy to announce one more as we take an important step toward more sustainable public transit after receiving Vanner Incorporated’s 1,000th Hybrid Beltless Alternator (HBA®) on one of our new HBA® ready Gillig hybrid Silver Line BRT buses.

“Receiving this bus is very exciting for all of us at The Rapid,” explains Rapid CEO Peter Varga. “As the number one mid-sized transit system of the year we know other transit authorities are watching us and looking to see what we are doing right. I can say with confidence that our growing fleet of HBA® equipped hybrids is definitely one of those things we are doing right.”

Products like the HBA® are the result of healthy collaboration between Vanner and OEMs like Gillig. “Our goal is to produce the most reliable, durable and cost effective bus to maintain and operate and this advanced technology helps us do just that,” explains Joe Policarpio, Vice President for Sales and Marketing at Gillig. “We purchased the first HBA® in 2010 and we’re proud to have received the 1,000th HBA®. It is technology that works for Gillig and our customers. We’re also pleased to say it is American made.”

The Vanner Hybrid Beltless Alternator is an energy efficient solid state DC conversion alternative to traditional mechanical-drive alternator systems that reduces maintenance, fuel consumption and emissions. Running at 92-95 percent conversion efficiency, a single HBA® configuration can deliver up to 300 amps at idle (24 VDC) and with a Dual HBA® equipped bus up to 600 amps at idle (24VDC) are capable. An Electric Beltless Alternator (EBA®) configuration is available for electric, fuel cell and battery buses.IMG_3999

HBA® and EBA® equipped vehicles are currently in service in fifty seven transit authorities across North America and six countries worldwide including Spain, India, Turkey, Poland, Malaysia and Brazil. Made in Hilliard, Ohio, the Vanner HBA® is fully “Buy America” compliant.More than 120 HBAs® have been ordered since delivery of the 1,000th HBA® to Grand Rapids and the HBA® is quickly becoming the preferred DC-DC conversion system for Allison Hybrid buses due to its energy efficiency and fuel savings.

“Our hybrid bus fleet already receives a 20 percent savings in fuel consumption with the Gillig Hybrid,” continues Varga. “Integrating the Vanner HBA® will further those savings. The reduced maintenance and parts replacement costs over the life of the bus are additional benefits to our fleet. As stewards of our environment we find the Vanner HBA® equipped bus a natural fit because we know that we are not only putting a more efficient bus in service, we are also providing a greener transit ride for our community.”

Share your thoughts of the future of sustainable public transit below!