Posted in News on

Say Hello To Three-Position Bike Racks

With warm, sunny weather finally arriving here in West Michigan, more people are choosing to hop on their bikes. For those who enjoy taking the bus and biking to get to work, accessing local bike trails, and much more, we have some great news: We’re beginning to transition our fixed-route buses from two-bike racks to three-position racks.

Coming this spring we will have three-position racks on 100 of our 150 fixed-route vehicles. Future Silver Line riders can also look forward to all 10 bus rapid transit vehicles being equipped with three-position racks. The new Sportworks Apex 3 three-position racks are just as simple to use as our two-position racks. Apex 3 Position Bike Racks

How To Use The Bike Racks

– Before loading your bike, be sure all loose items are secured or removed.
– When the bus stops, walk your bike to the front of the bus. Keep toward the curb-side of the street — stay out of the way of traffic.
– Lift the handle to release the rack and lower it into the down position. Listen for the click to make sure it locks in place.
– Place the front tire of your bike in the position marked appropriately and slip your rear tire into the back slot.
– Lift the spring-loaded arm over the front tire — your bike is now loaded.
– Removing your bike is easy since all bike positions are completely independent of each other, making it simple to unload with others already loaded in the rack.

For more information on bicycles and The Rapid, please visit our website.

How often do you use the bus and your bike to travel to a destination?

Posted in In The Community on

4 Reasons To Love Public Transportation

We admit we’re a little biased when it comes to public transportation—we can name many things to be excited about. And with Americans using public transportation more today than any other time since 1956, it’s safe to say we’re not the only ones who enjoy it. Bus Love

But there’s a lot more to love about public transportation than simply having a safe and inexpensive way to get around. In fact, there are reasons to support public transportation even if you’ve never boarded a bus.  Here are four reasons to fall in love—maybe even all over again:

1. Public transportation grows communities. When public transit thrives, so do communities. It positively impacts businesses and real estate property values. For every dollar communities invest in public transportation, approximately $4 is generated in economic returns. As for businesses, every $10 million in capital investment in public transit yields $30 million in increased business sales. Individuals benefit too—residential properties located near public transportation perform 42 percent better that those lacking this local benefit. It’s an economic win all around.

2. Public transportation creates jobs. The bus doesn’t just get you to and from work. Simply ensuring public transportation options are available can impact the workforce. In fact, every $1 billion invested in the U.S. transportation infrastructure supports and creates some 47,500 jobs. Businesses located near public transit services see improved productivity through better employee reliability and less absenteeism and turnover. It’s also important to note that public transit allows for better access to more jobs, which ensures employers have larger, more diverse talent pools to hire from.

3. Public transportation helps the environment. If you’re looking for ways to live a more “green” lifestyle, then developing a crush on public transportation can help. A private auto produces 0.96 pounds of carbon dioxide per passenger-mile, while public transit (averaged out among bus, heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, and van pools) yields 0.45 pounds per passenger-mile. It’s been estimated that public transit saves America 37 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, while also saving the U.S. 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline every year.

4. Public transportation contributes to improved health. The time you spend in your car may be detrimental your health. According to a recent study, long commutes are linked to obesity, depression, and even divorce. Riding the bus or train also helps to increase physical activity. Public transit users take 30 percent more steps per day than non-transit users. This helps to fights obesity and even saves you money in obesity-related medical costs. Plus fewer emissions make for cleaner air for all of us to breathe, specifically those with asthma or other respiratory challenges.

Are you feeling the love yet? Before you run out to your nearest bus stop, remember that reaping and increasing the benefits of public transportation depends on the investment we are willing to make. Spread the word about how much you love public transportation.

What do you love most about public transportation? 

Posted in CEO Insight on

Watching Public Transportation Grow In Grand Rapids

This December marks my 20th year at The Rapid. During my time here, we’ve seen a lot of changes. To name a few, there have been new routes and better frequencies to the planning and implementation of Michigan’s very first bus rapid transit line. And more service has brought more riders. In fact, I’m proud to say ridership has increased nearly four times since I arrived. We hit just under 3.5 million rides in 1994 and today we’re at 12.5 million rides.

My first job in public transportation came when I was a bus driver many years ago in California. You could say I’m a life-long lover of public transportation. This is why I’m happy to share that it’s an exciting time for transit. Ridership is up and new technologies are being introduced almost every day as millennials are relying more on public transportation — not just across the nation, but also in the Great Grand Rapids area. The region has been growing and the urban centers have become more dynamic. Through this, it’s been great to be able to be part of the development of a transit system that’s meeting the challenges and excitement of a growing community.Peter Varga at Central Station

One aspect we’re focused on meeting for our growing community is making the public transportation experience easier and smarter. As a comparatively small public transit system, we know our resources may not be on par with more technologically advanced transit systems in San Francisco and Boston. But our intent is to be able to get there. Right now we’re looking forward to getting on Google Transit (it won’t be long before our data is vetted and available), investigating our future ticketing options including smart cards, and improving our rider tools for the tech-savvy millennial generation.

My work and passion for public transportation spans beyond the Greater Grand Rapids area. I’m currently the Chair of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) where I work with other passionate transportation leaders around the country to improve the mobility choices of people throughout the nation. Since we’re at the beginning of a public transit renaissance in the U.S., I’m currently focused on articulating our vision for public transportation infrastructure.

Over the years, one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to excellent customer service. I hope that our new Get on Board blog creates an added level of communication. If you have any on-topic questions for me, please feel free to comment on this blog post.

– Peter Varga
CEO of The Rapid

Posted in Silver Line on

How ArtPrize 2014 Plans To Use The Silver Line

In 2013, we counted 158,000 Rapid riders with ArtPrize wristbands during the event. This number was up 18 percent from ArtPrize 2012. As the Grand Rapids’s international art competition grows in popularity, so does the need for effective transportation options during the event. Never fear, bus rapid transit is coming to the rescue.Mayor Heartwell ArtPrize

With the Silver Line set to open on August 25, 2014, ArtPrize 2014 has chosen to use the bus rapid transit stations as stepping-off points for walking routes. The 2014 event is scheduled from Sept. 24 to Oct. 12. During this time you’ll be able to more easily access ArtPrize venues via walking paths that start and end at stations along the Silver Line bus rapid transit route.

And for those traveling into Grand Rapids looking to avoid downtown parking and traffic, the Silver Line route will also feature a free park-and-ride lot. Located near 60th and Division this free parking lot will feature about 200 spaces. We have no doubt it will be a valuable commodity during ArtPrize and other events moving forward.

Read the full Grand Rapids Press article about transportation options available during ArtPrize here.

Posted in Rider Stories on

Real Rider – Dan K. Uses His Travel Skills

Are you a Real Rider of The Rapid? If you’re interested in being featured as a part of our series, we’d love to hear from you. Submit your story for consideration by clicking the link on the right side of this blog. 

 “Give The Rapid a try! Riding the bus helped me learn how to travel independently, so now I can fly to Florida.”

Believe it or not, riding the bus here in Grand Rapids (yes, even just once in a blue moon) gives you the skills you need to travel globally. Whether it’s trying out a new public transportation system in another city like Chicago, traveling by airplane, or even riding the streetcars in Budapest, you’ll have the attitude of a pro. Sure, not all public transportation systems are identical, but learning the “ins and outs” of one makes you sharper when it comes to others. Don’t believe us? Let Dan. K win you over.

Dan K. has been riding The Rapid for nearly 20 years!

Meet Dan K.! He’s been a loyal Rapid rider for 20 years. We could all take notes from his years of public transportation experience. After participating successfully in our Travel Training program, Dan was able to independently ride the bus wherever his heart desired. Being public transportation-savvy even transferred over to flying. Dan’s traveled to Florida and Hawaii. Here’s what Dan had to say about riding The Rapid:

Why do you ride The Rapid?:
It takes me where I need to go — to work, the YMCA, and to visit family.

What do you like about riding The Rapid?:
Getting where I want to go without having to wait for someone to drive me. It’s great for spur-of-the-moment travel.

What do you like best about Grand Rapids?:
There’s always something to do here. I like the Whitecaps, seeing shows at Van Andel Arena, ArtPrize, and fireworks.

What’s your favorite thing to do while riding the bus?:
I use my cell phone when I’m traveling.

Do you have any advice to share with your fellow Rapid riders or your community?:
Give The Rapid a try! Riding the bus helped me learn how to travel independently, so now I can fly to Florida.

Do you think you’ve gained transferable travel skills thanks to riding The Rapid?

Posted in News on

Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows

We know that sitting through a commercial isn’t on the top of many people’s to-do list, but we’re certain we’ve got one worth watching. Have you seen our latest commercials on TV yet? If not, they’re worth a watch. Whether you’re a frequent or casual rider, you understand the importance of public transportation to our community. By connecting us to the places we need to go, public transportation isn’t just bringing the community together, it’s also helping the Greater Grand Rapids area bloom into something even greater than ever before. Enjoy!

Can you name the locations featured in our commercial? Share the locations you spotted in our comments section and we’ll send you a FREE 4-day pass!

Posted in Silver Line on

The Silver Line And The Impact Of Transit Oriented Development

As the construction of the Silver Line’s 34 stations nears completion and we begin planning to open in August, the time has come to think about the impact of transit oriented development.  Michigan’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) line rang in at $40 million dollars and was funded entirely by Federal Transit Administration Very Small Starts and Michigan Department of Transportations.

In case you haven’t been following the exciting news surrounding this decade-long bus rapid transit project, the Silver Line will run with eight hybrid electric buses, dedicated bus lanes, and traffic signal priority technology to boost efficiency and holds green lights to reduce stoppages. The route acts as a connecting point for local municipalities running mostly along S. Division Avenue from 60th St. in Wyoming, north through Kentwood into Grand Rapids. 

But there’s more to this bus rapid transit line than new stations boasting level-boarding platforms and snow-melting mechanisms. The short list of possibilities to note include the following:

  • Development along the Silver Line route
  • Increasing property values
  • Increased economic generation due to improved transportation options
  • Relocation of individuals and families into city’s core to be closer to more transportation options
  • The uniting of Wyoming, Kentwood, and Grand Rapids via transit oriented development near the route

The Silver Line BRTWith new development comes new jobs. And while real numbers aren’t available for the impact of bus rapid transit in Grand Rapids yet,  in 2012 the Federal Transit Administration’s Peter Rogoff predicted the BRT route would see “some 30,000 jobs in the central business district,” as it’s just one-quarter mile off the Silver Line’s route. Significant job impact is highly dependent on the type of development that’s generated.

Read more about the potential for transit oriented development, as well as a look into the added value of street cars in Grand Rapids here.

Where public transportation goes, community grows. What’s your vision for the Division Ave. corridor in five years due to the impact of the Silver Line?

Posted in News on

How Often Do You Show Gratitude For Your Driver?

Every day, bus drivers move our community. They ensure we get to work, appointments, the grocery store, and so much more. For hours on end they manage a schedule, check fares, give directions, all while maneuvering us safely through weather and traffic conditions. Being a transit driver isn’t an easy job, your driver just makes it look that way.

Transit Driver Appreciation DayOn Tuesday, March 18th, please join us in celebrating the contributions of our hardworking bus drivers for Transit Driver Appreciation Day. The way you show your gratitude is truly up to you. Whether you  smile and wave when you get on the bus or shout “thank you” as you leave, you’re sure to make your driver’s day. If you’re looking to go above and beyond, you can even print out and personalize a thank-you card for your favorite driver. You can even do your part to spread the word about Transit Driver Appreciation Day by sharing this post on your favorite social media platforms.

While this isn’t an official holiday yet, we’re happy to participate with a number of other transportation authorities across the nation to ensure it’s established as such. We think it’s a great way to honor the women and men who do their part to keep us moving every day.

Have you thanked your bus driver lately?

Posted in In The Community on

Let The Rapid Be Your Designated Driver

Catch A Sober Ride With The RapidFrom St. Patrick’s Day to March Madness or even just the much-needed temperature increase, there’s a lot to celebrate this spring. But there’s no excuse for drinking and driving. This is why we’ve teamed up with the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning to spread the word about the spring drunk driving crackdown taking place in our community until April 7th. The campaign encourages people to make smarter decisions and catch a sober ride.

To spread the word about the cost of drunk driving — not just this spring, but all year long — we’re featuring signs in our buses: “A DUI costs you a lot of green. Catch a sober ride.” This is our way of reminding you to let us be your designated driver.

This spring drunk driving crackdown also has Kent County police agencies, including those in Grandville, Kentwood, Rockford, Wyoming and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, putting additional officers on local roadways. The Michigan State Police will also assist Grand Rapids officers.

You may be wondering why this crackdown is taking place. A five-year review of crash data indicates both alcohol use and lack of seat belts play a significant role in fatal and serious injury crashes in March and early April. This time period includes the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, high school and college spring break periods, and St. Patrick’s Day. 

“We believe in a safer community, and anything we can do to help local law enforcement have a better control of the situation, we’ll help — it’s better people make wise choices,” said Rapid CEO Peter Varga in an interview with the Grand Rapids Press.

We’re happy to be your designated driver this season and throughout the rest of the year.

Do you think public transportation is a crucial element in decreasing impaired driving in our community?

Posted in News on

Breaking The Record: 10.7 Billion Public Transportation Trips

12.5 Million Rides on The Rapid Public Transportation ServiceThe numbers are in and it’s safe to say 2013 was a fantastic year for public transportation. If you’re one of the many (and we really do mean many) people who rode a bus, train, trolleybus, or subway in the past year, then it’s time to celebrate.

Recently, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) shared that at 10.7 billion trips reported in 2013, public transportation ridership has reached the highest level since 1956. This was the eighth year in a row that more than 10 billion trips were taken on public transportation systems nationwide. While vehicle miles traveled on roads (VMT) went up 0.3 percent, public transportation use in 2013 increased by 1.1 percent.

“Last year people took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation.  As the highest annual ridership number since 1956, Americans in growing numbers want to have more public transit services in their communities,” said Peter Varga, APTA Chair and CEO of The Rapid. “Public transportation systems nationwide – in small, medium, and large communities – saw ridership increases. Some reported all-time high ridership numbers.”

Aside from our one-year ridership record, some of the other public transit agencies reporting record ridership system-wide or on specific lines were located in the following cities:  Ann Arbor, MI; Cleveland, OH; Denver, CO; Espanola, NM; Flagstaff, AZ; Fort Myers, FL; and Indianapolis, IN.

To add some perspective, public transit ridership is up 37.2 percent since 1995, outpacing population growth, which is up 20.3 percent, and vehicle miles traveled (VMT), which is up 22.7 percent.

“There is a fundamental shift going on in the way we move about our communities. People in record numbers are demanding more public transit services and communities are benefiting with strong economic growth,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.

There are likely a number of factors in play when it comes to growing ridership across the nation. Economic recovery,  increasingly carless households, and the improvement in employment rates are all valid areas to note. In fact, 60 percent of the trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes.

 Read the full press release from APTA to find the entire ridership report and other insight here.

What do you think are some of the major factors accounting for public transit ridership growth across the U.S.? Share your thoughts in the comments!