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!

Posted in News on

U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx Recommends $2.5 Billion To Expand Transit Options

Improving access to jobs and other opportunities starts with more transit options. On March 5, 2014, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx highlighted $2.5 billion recommended in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget to advance the construction or completion of 26 rail, bus rapid transit (BRT), and streetcar projects in 16 states. These projects will do far more than simply increase mobility options around the nation. They will also create or sustain thousands of good construction-related jobs, as well as helping communities expand transportation choices offering  new opportunities for hard-working  families.

MBTA Green LineSecretary Foxx pointed out that this step highlights the nation’s commitment to ensuring that every American has access to the ladders of opportunity that lead to success – and access to public transportation is essential to making that happen. Foxx also shared that President Obama’s bold vision for investment in 21st century transportation infrastructure doesn’t just remove barriers to success for millions of Americans, it also strengthens our nation’s economy today and in the future.

“Transit ridership across the United States is at its highest level in five decades, thanks in part to FTA’s successful partnerships with communities committed to expanding local transportation choices that help to revitalize neighborhoods, reduce congestion, and connect residents with jobs, education, health care, and other vital services,” said Deputy Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan. “We must continue investing, together, in our nation’s public transportation infrastructure, so future generations have the mobility they will need to succeed.”

Read the full press release from the Federal Transit Administration here.

Posted in News on

How Are Rapid Routes Designed?

Have you ever looked at our system map and wondered how we come up with new routes? You’re in luck! In this video, Rapid Senior Planner Kevin Wisselink shares some insight behind ideal route designs.

What other questions do you have about your routing or service in general? Leave us a comment!

Posted in News on

Welcome Aboard: What To Expect From Get On Board

Whether you’re a frequent rider, avid supporter, public transportation expert, or just curious about what’s going on at The Rapid, consider this blog the digital version of Rapid Central Station.

What To ExpectWelcome
Here at The Rapid, we’re dedicated to keeping you up to date on what’s going on both inside and outside of our organization. From the latest technology we’re utilizing to community, we want to make staying tuned into Rapid happenings easier and more convenient. This blog website acts as a long-form sister to Here you can find the latest news, direct insight from our Chief Executive Officer Peter Varga, community-focused stories, and events.

Your Voice Matters
We’re not here to do all of the talking. Conversation is powerful and we’re focused on generating chatter about our services, the community, and public transportation as a whole. We encourage you to post your thoughts, feedback, or insight in the “Leave A Comment” section of each post. Here you can engage with The Rapid staff and other readers.

We also want to hear your very own Rapid stories. Do you have a compelling story about how public transportation has impacted your life? What about a tale of finding your significant other or your favorite restaurant in town while riding with us? On the right side of our blog, you will find a link where you can submit a story of your own.

Do you want to know when we post something new? We’ll inform you if you decide to subscribe. Similar to our services, we hope you get on board regularly to stay up to date with us.

What types of information are you looking forward to learning about the most from us?

Posted in Rider Stories on

Real Rider Stories – Luisa Shumacher

1337360292_luisathumbPublic transportation connects people to their community. It gets Luisa Shumacher to work, business meetings, community events, and the store. And with ongoing improvements, many routes operate more frequently and later at night.

“It really is important to me to feel connected to what’s happening in Grand Rapids. The Rapid helps me do that.”

Excerpts from Luisa’s interview…

“I’ve been using public transportation probably since I was about 10 years old. Traveling to cities was a big part of growing up in my family and we went Washington DC often and I’ll never forget how cool it was riding the bus and wishing that it would be like that for me in the city where I decided to live growing up. I have been a regular Rapid rider for 2 years.”

“I ride it to work, that’s really kind of where I started off, deciding that I was going to ride the rapid one day a week to work and now I’m up to two days a week and on weekends when I’m running errands around town or just going shopping.”

“I use public transportation for a variety of reasons. The first one is it’s really a quality of life issue for me. I like riding the bus. I enjoy the ease of getting from place to place. I like being able to catch up on my work emails on my drive in to work because it’s the only place where you can text while riding so I really, really enjoy that luxury. But I also ride because it’s good for our community. It’s a way for me to see the people who are in my neighborhood. I often times don’t go to community events, I don’t have children in the school, so this is the chance that I have to interact with people who live in my community.”

“Transit is important in my daily life because it’s the thing that helps me have a sense of community. When I ride on the rapid I get to see the people who live in my neighborhood, it gets me to where I’m going whether it’s a business meeting, a community event, a store, it’s really is important to me to feel connected to what’s happening in Grand Rapids and The Rapid helps me do that.”

“In December of this last year I did an employee challenge encouraging the employees at WMCAT to ride the bus and providing them each with a Rapid 10-pass and saying that if you rode the bus, there could be some long-term benefits besides just getting a free bus pass. But it was a challenge to encourage our employees to get accustomed to public transportation and really overtime incentivize riding The Rapid, because as an employer it’s very expensive to pay for downtown parking. It’s about $1,000 to $1,500 dollars per parking space and I think that most employees would agree that they would rather have that pad their salary than have it be something that their employer pays for.”

“I choose bus transportation because it’s convenient, frankly. I am able to walk one block away from my home and get dropped off two blocks away from my office. I am from my house to downtown Grand Rapids in 11 minutes. And now that the frequency of The Rapid has increased, I’m able to choose when I go to the office, really, it can be anytime at this point because I can just walk a block away, hop on within ten minutes there’s a bus there, at least, and I’m downtown. So it really is about convenience and that’s why I do it.”

Posted in Rider Stories on

Real Rider Stories – Sean Dailey

1337360634_seanthumbWhen his car died, Sean decided to see how long he could go riding The Rapid. That was four years ago. He’s still riding because it’s affordable, effective and doing something good for the environment too. He takes the bus to work, to the mall, and out to the movie theater.

“I could be spending tons of money on a car to get me places. Now I’m spending that money at those places I was trying to get to by taking The Rapid.”

Excerpts from Sean’s interview…

“Since the summer of 2008, my old car that I had been driving since high school finally gave out on me, and I decided “Well, let’s see how long I can just ride The Rapid and just use public transportation.” And it’s almost four years later…”

“It just made sense logically, it’s $1.50 a ride, and there’s routes that go right by my house, right to work, right to everywhere that I need to go, so it’s kind of a no-brainer.”

“I take the Rapid to work, I take the Rapid to the mall, I take it out to the movie theater, I take it downtown to shows and bars, pretty much anywhere.”

“I think that especially people in the younger generation are becoming less and less dependent on cars, and wanting to live in a city where they don’t have to own a car, where they can get by on a bike, in a combination of a bike and public transit.”

“I think everybody should try it once. I think there’s a lot of people who think “Oh that’s just for poor people.” or “That’s just for people who don’t have a car. I don’t need that, I drive.” And I think a lot of people would be surprised about how easy it is to take, how convenient it is, how cheap it is, I mean I could be spending tons of money on a car to get me places and now I’m spending that money at those places I was trying to get to, by taking The Rapid.”

Posted in Rider Stories on

Real Rider Stories – Lisa Walkendorf


Lisa Walkendorf has used The Rapid for years so taking her daughter downtown was a natural next step. It’s easy, affordable and eliminates the hassles of finding parking. They use The Rapid to take classes, go ice skating, and even attend Zumba classes. It makes it easy to take Laura’s friends too.

“We get dropped off in front of the children’s museum or the main library.”

Excerpts from Lisa’s interview…

“We like to take the bus downtown especially because it’s easy, it’s less costly and it’s no hassle with traffic or parking.”

“We live in Grand Rapids, can just ride the bus from our house right downtown and get dropped off in front of the Children’s Museum or the Main Library and we’re good to go.”

“I think it benefits the community tremendously to have bus service because you have an availability to get downtown or to get where you need to go.”

“Riders need to know that it is easy to take the bus, that it’s safe, that it’s cost-effective especially when you’re coming downtown then you don’t have to deal with parking.”

“I think that public transportation is not only a necessity for many of the people that live in Grand Rapids, but it could grow to be a lot more convenient and save both on the environment, on the pocket book and then on the travel time.”

“I ride The Rapid because it’s convenient and it’s fun for my daughter to come. It’s an easy way to transport kids downtown, it’s fun to do different activities downtown; it makes it more convenient to get here.”

Posted in Rider Stories on

Real Rider Stories – Bill DeVries

1337360726_billthumbRetirement is not a reason for Bill DeVries to slow down. He relies on a combination of his bike and The Rapid to participate in local events, volunteer, explore his surroundings – even visit his granddaughters. Bill loves to ride because it’s affordable, green and allows him to live an active life.

“It gives you a chance to go different places.”

Excerpts from Bill’s interview…

“I use a bus to go to downtown and for Festival and ArtPrize and things like, this one is very nice so I can go to the January Series on the bus even riding my bike in the winter time.”

“After I retired I looked for inexpensive and ways to get around and I’m also an environmentalist so I look for the least carbon footprint I can make and I have more time now so I can take the bicycle and the bus together.”

“It gives you a chance to see the different parts of city and go different places that you wouldn’t otherwise go because of either parking or costs too much.”

“I like to explore the world around me and I use it to the bus to get there.”

“I like to see different areas and take different rides every once in a while and explore my surroundings.”

“I’m Dutch, so I try to save as much money as I can.”

Posted in Rider Stories on

Real Rider Stories – Stan Greene

1337360757_stanthumbStan Greene has made intentional adjustments in his life to ‘live more gently’ on our planet. With that in mind, he starts and ends his day riding The Rapid as a reliable resource for getting around town. But he also gets the benefit of connecting to the people and the places that are a part of the community.

“I’d rather read my Fast Company magazine than worry about my turn signal.”

Excerpts from Stan’s interview…

“It’s a way of really having a connection to the daily flow and rhythm of the place that I live.”

“I made the intentional decision to move back in to the city of Grand Rapids about—it’s going to be almost 3 years ago with this fall. And one of the factors was the desire to have the opportunity to use public transit on a more regular basis.”

“For me, riding The Rapid is definitely a choice. It’s a personal choice to live differently.”

“With the expansion of services and the extension of hours in the last couple of months, that’s become even a greater benefit because now there’s a lot more flexibility in terms of the times and opportunities to use public transportation.”

“I ride the bus because having the opportunity to interact with people as part of my daily activities is an important life element for me. I ride the bus because I appreciate not driving 30 minutes in the morning to work. I ride the bus because I’d like to be able to read my Fast Company magazine rather than worry about my turn signal during my commute. I ride the bus because that’s what people do when they live in a cool city.”

Posted in Rider Stories on

Real Rider Stories – Emily Martin


For 10 years, Emily Martin has relied on The Rapid as a transportation option for work, school and entertainment. It helps her reduce the cost – and the hassle – of car ownership. More importantly, she loves its role in building a better community. It gives everyone the freedom to go the places they need to go in their lives. The Rapid is going places. It’s time to get on board.

Emily Martin sees more than just savings when she rides The Rapid. She sees a community she’s proud to live in.

“You feel more a part of the community when you’re
riding the bus.”

Excerpts from Emily’s interview…

“I’ve been riding The Rapid for 10 years, ever since I’ve moved to Grand Rapids.”

“Driving your car is a very solitary thing. But when you’re on the bus, you’re with other people. You feel more part of a community when you’re riding the bus as transportation versus driving your car because then it’s usually just you.”

“I ride the bus because I think good public transportation is part of what builds a strong community.”