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Ride Casual for Casual Commute Day on Friday, May 5

Casual Commute Day

Everyone loves casual Friday. So why not take it a step further with Casual Commute Day?

Make a plan for next Friday, May 5, take a day off from driving alone. Pledge to hop on board a bus, carpool, walk or bike to work and reduce your carbon footprint! By signing up, you’ll be registered to win one of many great prizes from local sponsors.

Joining in your Casual Commute Day is your chance to tray a new way to get around! Who knows, you may fall in love with biking to work. It also helps reduce ozone pollution in our region. Some other benefits include reducing your stress level by commuting with other people and getting more exercising, as well as saving money. If that isn’t enough to win you over, take a look at the awesome prizes:

Prizes

  • –   1 winner –  Four (4) tickets to a Grand Rapids Griffins game of your choosing
  • –   2 winners – Admission for two (2) to the Great Escape Room
  • –   26 winners – $10 Biggby Coffee gift card
  • –   Go the extra mile and log your casual commute on West Michigan Rideshare to be entered into a separate drawing for a $100 gift card!

Environmental Benefits of Public Transit

  • –   In the U.S., public transportation saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually
  • –   Public transportation saves the equivalent of 900,000 tanks of gas every day
  • –   Public transportation is reducing emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) by nearly 745,000 tons annually. This equals nearly 75 percent of the CO emissions by all U.S. chemical manufacturers.

Sign up for Casual Commute Day! 

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Make the Most of Spring and Ride The Rapid to the John Ball Zoo

John Ball Zoo Tigers

Don’t miss a chance to enjoy the beautiful spring weather! Ride Routes 12 and 50 to get to the John Ball Zoo and explore new exhibits and shows.

The John Ball Zoo opened in March for its 126th season. This year, visitors will be able to see the zoo’s more than 1,500 animals including tigers, chimpanzees, bobcats, grizzly bears and penguins. And thanks to the recently approved zoo and museum millage, new features are coming to life!

Beginning on Memorial Day, John Ball Zoo will launch their new bird show called Realm of Flight. There will be three shows a day with professional handlers showing off 10 exotic birds from around the world. Some other new additions include a beautiful tiger habitat that features two different exhibits connected by a trail through the woods. There are also a continuously changing variety of classes, events and programs for children to participate in.

Before Memorial Day, get in for a reduced price due to the season. Non-member adults can get in for just $7 and children for $6. Since the weather is cooler during spring months, the animals are more active and there are also fewer visitors to compete with for the perfect view of your favorite animals. Spring hours are from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. every day.

Zoo memberships start at $80. With a membership, members get free admission and discounts at the gift shop and on food. Members can also get discounted admission at 150 other zoos across the country.

Thanks to Fox 17 Morning Mix from allowing us to bring you awesome deals every week!

Posted in Rider Stories on

Rider Stories: Exploring the Bus System One Route at a Time

Routes moving along the system map

The following is written by Anthony Wilder Puzzuoli, a Grand Rapids citizen and Rapid rider.

Hi, I’m Anthony Wilder Puzzuoli. In the last few years, my wife and I have done a lot of traveling around the United States. While it’s always fun to visit the major attractions, I’ve found myself more drawn the mundane places. The places where people live their daily lives. The streets they walk down to work, the restaurants they stop at for lunch, and the shops where they buy their groceries. I like to imagine what it would be like to really live there.

Even when we return home to Grand Rapids, I enjoy visiting neighborhoods and walking down streets I’m not familiar with, exploring the city that we live in with fresh eyes and getting a feel for the different neighborhoods.  Sometimes it’s easy to stay within our Heritage Hill neighborhood and hang out in our favorite nearby places. For me, it helps build a sense of community and connection to a place but, it’s important to get outside that bubble. There is so much more to our city to explore!Anthony

While I’ve lived in Grand Rapids for 15 years, I haven’t really utilized the bus system. I’ve taken the Route 50 out to Grand Valley State University a few times, and I used to take the bus to work in the mornings when it was cold and then bike home in the warmer afternoons. That was it. I realized that there was an entire system of transportation I had never explored in my own city! Routes I’d never been on. Ways to see the city I’d never experienced.

So, I made it a goal for 2017 to ride every route of the Rapid, at least once. I wanted to be able to understand our transit system and to use it effectively. I thought it would make me a better citizen, and enable me to see our city from a different perspective. I also thought it would be a fun way to see different neighborhoods and businesses I’m not as familiar with! I work at Local First, a non-profit organization here in town. Through my work there I came into contact with some representatives at the Rapid and they asked me to write a little bit about my experiences. I hope you enjoy it, and if you see me on the bus, please feel free to say hello!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anthony Wilder Puzzuoli has lived in Grand Rapids since 2002 when he moved here to attend Aquinas College. He’s worked at Local First as Membership Coordinator for the last few years and has recently started riding The Rapid as a way to explore the city. One of his favorite things about living in Grand Rapids is being so close to the lakeshore. 
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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.

Posted in News on

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.

Transitioning

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.

Posted in News on

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!

Posted in News on

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!

Posted in Events on

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 six.one.six in the JW Marriott

Sunday, April 16, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
six.one.six, 235 Louis St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Looking for an upscale and locally inspired Easter brunch experience? Visit six.one.six 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

Posted in Events on

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!