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City of Tomorrow Challenge: Crowdsourcing Mobility Solutions for Grand Rapids

City of Tomorrow Challenge

The City of Grand Rapids and Ford Motor Company recently announced the Grand Rapids City of Tomorrow Challenge – a crowdsourcing platform for residents, businesses and community groups to propose and pilot solutions that improve mobility in Grand Rapids.

The City of Tomorrow Challenge is focused on identifying opportunities to create immediate impact for residents in terms of improved mobility and support long-term enhancements to help people get around. The City and Ford, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation-PlanetM, The Right Place, AT&T, Dell Technologies and Microsoft will facilitate the sharing of information, collaborate with key public and private stakeholders and test ideas.

“As our city grows, we want to ensure we are working with our community to make getting around Grand Rapids easier,” Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “We also want to strengthen confidence in our existing transportation systems. We have joined the City of Tomorrow Challenge because we believe Grand Rapids is a place where innovative ideas can improve mobility in our city.”

The City of Tomorrow Challenge creates a more inclusive process for residents to express their ideas as they participate in working to ensure a future where people and businesses can thrive. By working with communities to crowdsource new mobility designs and innovations along with funding pilots to test the top solutions, the program’s goal is to help improve quality of life for Grand Rapids residents and visitors by providing dynamic mobility options that build on the existing transportation system.

Throughout the eight-month program, those who live, work and play in Grand Rapids are invited to explore dynamic mobility options, including making the city’s streets more walkable and bike-friendly, extending the use of and the information that transportation systems provide and enabling smart transportation choices. The Challenge includes a prize of up to $100,000 to fund pilots that test the top solutions in a real-world setting.

“Grand Rapids is already on the forefront of transportation with our vision for mobility,” said Josh Naramore, the City’s Mobile GR-Parking Services manager. “With the City of Tomorrow Challenge, we can create a place that is a beacon of growth for years to come – a place where everyone can thrive.”

Grand Rapids marks the third location for the City of Tomorrow Challenge, following announcements in Pittsburgh and Miami-Dade County earlier this month. Each challenge is tailored to a specific city or county and is focused on addressing its unique needs.

“What may work for one city might not work for another,” said John Kwant, vice president of Ford City Solutions. “Grand Rapids has its own unique needs, and it understands how seeking out new ideas to complement existing transportation systems can aid its effort to become a more accessible, walkable city. The City of Tomorrow Challenge will deliver that.”

By crowdsourcing ideas, the Challenge seeks to come up with ways for communities to employ technology to create the best mobility solutions that will underpin the city of tomorrow.

“The innovative mobility solutions deployed here in Grand Rapids will lead to real and meaningful improvements in the quality of life and access to transportation throughout the community,” said Trevor Pawl, vice president of PlanetM, a mobility-focused brand and business development program at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “We are proud to be a partner in this effort in Grand Rapids and look forward to the impact it will have in expanding Michigan’s mobility ecosystem.”

Individuals are encouraged to share their experiences, sign up for community working sessions and offer insight into the ways they move around Grand Rapids HERE. Information about the Challenge also will be shared via Twitter.

The week of July 23 marks the opening of the application period for participants to begin submitting ideas for new mobility solutions. Leading up to that, the City, Ford and their partners will combine insights from the online and offline communities with data analytics to help shape the challenge.

In September, semifinalists will be selected to attend a prototyping session and receive mentoring support to refine their ideas before submitting a final pilot proposal. At the concluding stage of the Challenge, $100,000 will be awarded to fund pilots to test the top proposed solutions in collaboration with the City, Ford and its corporate collaborators.

“The future of mobility and connecting people to jobs will be critical to our long-term economic growth potential,” said Tim Mroz, vice president of marketing and communications at The Right Place. “Working in partnership with the City of Grand Rapids and Ford will not only allow us to test state-of-the-art mobility technology but, more importantly, it will let the world know we are embracing innovation in mobility.”

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Free Events to Ride The Rapid to in July 2018

July Transit-Friendly events

Summer is here and there are so many free events taking place throughout the six cities served by The Rapid! Michigan summers are the perfect time for exploration, new activities and, most importantly, fun!

Movies on Monroe

Movies on Monroe, formerly Movies in the Park, is the free outdoor film series presented by Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. Visit 555 Monroe Ave NW on takes place on July 6th and July 20th to catch back-to-back movies. July’s feature movies include Major Payne, Saving Private Ryan, West Side Story and The Shape of Water. DASH right to the event and don’t forget your blanket, chairs and snacks! Check out the full lineup here for other movies playing this summer.

Ride DASH and Route 11 and 7 to get to this event.

Free First Friday at Blandford Nature Center

On July 6th, ride Route 7 to Blandford Nature Center to get an up-close view of animals and nature. From 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m., enjoy all that Blandford has to offer for free! Come to see the owls, hike the trails or visit the farm all without charge.

Route 7 can get you to the entrance of Blandford Nature Center.

Vintage Street Market

Shop the Vintage Street Market: Grand Rapids’ only monthly vintage market on July 8th at the Downtown Market. Whether you’re looking for that perfect couture vintage dress or a hand-painted vintage sideboard, the Vintage Street Market is where you’ll find that exciting treasure to complete your collection.

Ride Route 1, 2, 5, and the Silver Line to get you to the Downtown Market.

Wyoming Concerts in the Park

Don’t miss the popular summer concert series that takes place at Lamar Park. This month, you can groove to Delilah DeWylde and Adams Family in a free, fun, family-friendly setting. There will be themed nights, giveaways and a variety of activities to accompany these performances. All concerts start at 7 p.m. Learn more here.

Ride Route 24 to get to Lamar Park.

Kentwood Summer Concert Series

On July 12th, 19th and 26th ride Routes 2 and 44 to Kentwood City Hall for live music from 7 – 8:30 p.m for the Kentwood City Summer Entertainment Series. This month, listen to Big Dudee Roo, The Moxie Strings and The Crane Wives while enjoying dinner from food trucks. Grab your blanket or a chair for some Thursday evening fun.

Route 2, 44 can get you to Kentwood City Hall.

Free Community Fitness Classes

Every week, the City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department offers a variety of free fitnesses classes taking place throughout downtown Grand Rapids. This program is a joint effort through Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and the City of Grand Rapids Parks & Recreation Department. Free, no-registration classes include Zumba, Tai Chi, yoga and more. Classes take place at Rosa Parks Circle, the Blue Bridge, Sixth Street Bridge, Rapid Central Station and more! View all classes, dates and times here.

Routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6+ can get you to fitness classes throughout Grand Rapids.

Walker Standale Summer Concert Series

For those living in the Walker and Standale area, don’t miss the free evenings of fun at Walker Community Park on July 12th and July 26th. Check out Straight Shot and the Kari Lynch Band and grab some pizza. Music starts playing at 6:30 p.m. and the fun lasts until 8:30 p.m. Ride Routes 12 and 50 to get there, pack a picnic and enjoy a beautiful evening with local tunes!

Route 12, 50 can get you to Walker Community Park!

Maranda Park Party in Kentwood

Rock the park with Maranda at East Kentwood High School from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 19. This family-friendly free event is the perfect chance to get out and enjoy the beautiful July weather. There will be a variety of activities, games and prizes for kids to enjoy. The Rapid will have a bus there and coloring books for you to check out, as well!

Route 4 can get you to the park party.


Every Tuesday in July, visit Rosa Parks Circle for free lunchtime entertainment. This season, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. will once again be highlighting a diverse lineup of local bands and large games to play like chess, shuffleboard and Jenga. Upcoming musicians include Watching The Foxes, Phillip-Michael Scales, Avalon Cutts-Jones and Desmond Jones. The food trucks include Gettin’ Fresh, What The Truck and Daddy Pete’s BBQ.

Routes 6, 9, 11, 13 and the Silver Line can get you to Rosa Parks Circle. You can also hop on board a DASH route.

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Andrew Johnson named The Rapid’s new CEO

Andrew Johnson

At its meeting on June 27, The Rapid’s Board of Directors selected Andrew Johnson as the next CEO.  Johnson is expected to start in August 2018.

“Andrew is a seasoned transit professional with more than 20 years of CEO and executive-level management in public transportation combined with previous private sector experience,” said Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley, who chairs The Rapid board.

“We were impressed with his expertise, industry knowledge, and proven leadership. The Board is confident he shares our commitment to ensuring The Rapid is providing excellent service to its customers, is operating efficiently and effectively, and will take an innovative and collaborative approach to lead the organization,” Kepley added.

Johnson is a Wisconsin native who currently serves as the chief operating officer at the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) in Illinois.  Prior to that, he was the CEO of Connect Transit in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, which was recognized by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) as the best system in its class in 2015.  He is President of the Illinois Public Transit Association and holds a seat on the APTA Executive Committee.  Johnson earned a Bachelor of Science in finance and a Master of Business Administration from Marquette University.

Following the public interviews of Johnson and another finalist for the position, Board members said they were impressed by Johnson’s diverse achievements in contributing to public transportation system growth and redesign, rebranding, strategic initiatives, legislative and regulatory experience, and financial management expertise, and in particular, his successful track record of community engagement to build consensus.

“I have long-admired The Rapid and am thrilled to lead this team in serving the greater Grand Rapids community,” Johnson said. “There is a solid history of performance, great community support, and most importantly, a dedicated group of people, both employees and Board members, who believe as I do that accessibility and mobility are critical to a healthy, successful, and economically prosperous community.”

“I want to thank Peter Varga for his many years of service and his long list of accomplishments at The Rapid.  The system is well-positioned for future success due in large part to his leadership.  I know he is committed to a successful transition as he leaves The Rapid for his next adventure,” said Johnson.

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Bus Operator of the Month: May 2018

Andrew M.

Each month, we have the opportunity of honoring a Rapid Bus Operator who has gone above and beyond in their job to keep the community moving. These bus operators are nominated by their peers and awarded by the Transportation Department for their hard work and dedication.

Our Bus Operator of May 2018 is Andrew M.! Here’s what he had to share with us:


I have been a bus operator at The Rapid for 23 years!


I enjoy interacting with passengers and my coworkers.


I love spending time with my family, especially my grandson Yovanni. I also enjoy cooking, reading and researching history, especially my family history.

Congratulations, Andrew! Thank you for all you do.

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Second Round of Interviews Scheduled for CEO Candidates on June 27

Rapid Central Station

The Rapid’s CEO Search Committee will continue interviewing candidates on Wednesday, June 27 at 4:00 pm in The Rapid Central Station conference room located at 250 Grandville Ave SW.

The meeting is open to the public, and will feature a question and answer session with each of the following candidates:

Kimberly Dunham

The Executive Director for the Greater New Haven Transit District with 24 years of public transportation experience

Andrew Johnson

The Chief Operating Officer for the Champaign-Urbana Transit District with 20 years of senior-level management experience in public transportation and the for-profit sector


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The Rapid to conduct first round interviews with CEO candidates

The Rapid bus in Grand Rapids

The Rapid’s CEO Search Committee will be conducting first-round interviews on Wednesday, June 13 at 5:30pm and Thursday, June 14 at 8:00am in The Rapid conference room located at 300 Ellsworth Ave SW.

The June 13th format is a 20-minute presentation given by each candidate.  The first five minutes (or less), they will present a biographical sketch of their professional career and accomplishments.  In the remaining 15 minutes, they will present their short-term, 100-day plan, and also a long-term plan with a vision for The Rapid under their leadership as its next CEO.  The June 14th format will be a question and answer session with each of the candidates.

The following are the candidates for first-round interviews and their current positions:

Kimberly Dunham

The Executive Director for the Greater New Haven Transit District with 24 years of public transportation experience

Andrew Johnson

The Chief Operating Officer for the Champaign-Urbana Transit District with 20 years of senior-level management experience in public transportation and the for-profit sector

Brian Pouget

The Deputy Chief Executive Officer for The Rapid with 31 years of executive experience in public transportation

Gary Rosenfeld

The Chief Executive Officer for the Memphis Area Transit Authority with 35 years of experience as a transportation executive, strategist, and advisor

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Grand Rapids Commissioners Approve new Michigan Street Corridor transportation partnership

Route 19

On June 5, 2018, Grand Rapids Commissioners approved a new three-year pilot program partnership with The Rapid and Spectrum Health that will dramatically increase bus service to help reduce traffic and ease parking congestion along the Michigan Street corridor.

“This is a great example of a creative public-private partnership that helps Grand Rapids move closer to being a more sustainable, safe and prosperous city by providing a full range of attractive transportation options and offering incentives to change travel behaviors,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said.

“Enhanced transit operations along the Michigan Street corridor are critical to our efforts to accommodate the trend of increasing traffic, anticipate future land-use changes and support economic investment and new development in a vital business district.”

The pact approved today will significantly improve The Rapid’s Route 19 service that operates along the “Medical Mile” from Michigan Street as well as a section of the near West Side between Bridge and Leonard streets. The route includes stops near such anchor institutions as Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and the Bridge Street Market urban grocery store and cafe under construction by Meijer.

“Leaders of the City, Spectrum Health and The Rapid all have a vested interest in continuing the success of the Michigan Street corridor,” said Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid. “Together, we are committed to ensuring the Medical Mile flourishes as a great place that is an attractive, accessible and convenient destination.”

Highlights of the plan that begins Aug. 27 include:

  • Introducing Route 19 as a no-fare service – similar to the City’s existing no-fare DASH downtown-area shuttle service – by subsidizing the route with approximately $293,000 in annual funding support from each Spectrum Health and the City’s Mobile GR and Parking Services Department. The aim is to reduce traffic and parking congestion along Michigan Street by promoting fare-free ridership, including an awareness and education outreach effort that encourages Spectrum Health staff to use The Rapid to travel between offices and the medical center for meetings vs. driving personal vehicles.
  • Expanding the service to operate 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday to better meet the needs of employees and students. Estimates suggest Route 19 ridership will grow from approximately 54 daily passengers to as many as 800 during the workweek. No weekend service is currently proposed.
  • Increasing the frequency of The Rapid’s Route 19 service. Buses will arrive and depart at stops every 10 minutes during peak hours from 5:20 a.m. to 8:41 a.m. and then again from 3:21 p.m. to 5:41 p.m. During nonpeak hours, buses will stop every 15 minutes.
Maps of the new and proposed routes of The Rapid Michigan Street Route 19

“The Route 19 improvements will benefit the City’s parking customers,” said Josh Naramore, Mobile GR and Parking Services manager. “This proposal offers additional parking options to employees and residents by connecting existing facilities that have capacity on the west side of the river, such as the Scribner Lot and Lots 7, 8 and 9, which have available monthly permit parking for $48 or daily parking ranging from $2 to $4. It also allows us to explore additional park-and-ride investments along the corridor to provide more capacity and options.”

The City Commission’s decision aligns with recommendations in the Michigan Street Corridor Plan. The report notes that even with four lanes in each direction, the Michigan Street path can move about 4,000 cars per day – a volume of traffic that is routinely exceeded at certain times of the day and occasionally poses hazards to emergency vehicle drivers’ ability get through due to gridlock and congestion. Projected development by 2035 predicts the corridor will have 15,000 daytime employees arriving and then leaving over two peak hours, in addition to the creation of up to 10,000 new residential units.

“We are very enthusiastic about this partnership – for Spectrum Health, this plan supplements our long-standing, extensive employee shuttle service as our staff transportation needs continue to grow,” said Rick Redetzke, senior vice president at Spectrum Health. “We are confident this plan will touch people who have never previously considered public transportation and build acceptance of transit as a viable option. This plan also will help Grand Rapids develop lasting solutions to challenges, such as parking, while allowing for long-term growth along the entire Michigan Street corridor, creating jobs and reliable transportation for both workers and people who live along the route.”

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Walk, Roll and Ride Your Way to Bragging Rights for Grand Rapid Active Commute Week

Bus and Bike in Grand Rapids

Are you ready to challenge yourself to a healthier commute and win bragging rights?

Grand Rapids seventh annual Active Commute Week is geared up for another year of encouraging individuals and businesses to give active commuting a try. This year, more than 40 employers are currently enrolled in the 2018 event that kicks off Monday, June 11 running through Friday, June 15.

The goal of Active Commute Week is to raise awareness about the health, economic and environmental benefits of active travel. This week is a chance for individual participants and teams to earn points for using active transportation, including bicycling, walking, riding The Rapid, carpooling, running, long-boarding or inline skating.

The participating list of local employers planning to encourage their employees to walk, roll and ride during Active Commute Week include Brewery Vivant, Williams and Works, Grand Valley State University, Cascade Engineering, Spectrum Health and OST. There are also more than 200 individuals currently signed up to participate and log their commutes.

If you’re looking to get active and join in the healthy competition, it’s fast, easy and free to register! Simply complete the individual form and please note your organization when you sign up if it’s applicable. You will be notified by The Rapid when your account is ready. Participants can track trips on the West Michigan Rideshare website.

The deadline for logging trips is at 12:00 p.m. Friday, June 15, so we can tabulate results. Participants also have the opportunity to log their intended evening trips by noon Friday as well. Aside from logging your trips, don’t miss the events taking place on the final day of Active Commute Week:

Bike to Work Day Pit Stops: June 15th, 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Grab snacks, swag and add some fun to your commute on Friday, June 15! Organizations compete for best support station for those participating in an active morning commute. Check out the list of pit stops to visit for your Friday commute.

Handlebar Happy Hour: June 15th, 4:30p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at The Waldron Public House

Bike, bus, or walk to meet up with other active commuters to wrap up of Active Commute Week! Celebrate your activity and boast about your awesome commuting skills. Door prizes will be up for grabs and Active Commute Week Challenge and Pit Stop winners will be announced.

There’s more than just a pat on the back involved in your success as an Active Commute Week participant. Individuals and employer teams will be awarded for their active commutes based on who logs the highest number of total trips and the highest number of total miles for walking, cycling, riding the bus and carpooling. Prizes include $100 Meijer gift cards, bus passes, bike helmets, and more!

It’s not too late to sign up! Register here.

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Transit-Friendly Events in June 2018

Ride The Rapid to events in June

June is here! Get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. We’ll do the driving.

Free Friday at Blandford Nature Center

On June 1, ride Route 7 to Blandford Nature Center to get an up-close view of animals and nature. From 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m., enjoy all that Blandford has to offer for free! Come see the owls, hike the trails or visit the farm all without charge.

Route 7 can get you to the entrance of Blandford Nature Center.

Festival of the Arts

Festival of the Arts is a free three-day community event that takes place in downtown Grand Rapids from June 1-3. This event features several stages of performances, a juried Regional Arts Exhibition, and dozens of food booths run by non-profit organizations. Plus, creative activities for children and adults to enjoy making their own art as well as purchasing art from West Michigan artists. Every purchase at Festival from food to art to t-shirts and posters gives back to the West Michigan community!

Plan your trip to Downtown Grand Rapids here.

GR Asian-Pacific Week

The Grand Rapids Asian Festival is introducing GR Asian-Pacific Week from June 4 – 9! This is a week of special events and celebrations centered on the many Asian-pacific businesses and supporters in the Grand Rapids Area. The week’s events include the Asian Art Exhibition at DeVos Place, An Evening of Bangladeshi Dance and Music at the UICA and so much more. The conclusion of the week will be at Rosa Parks Circle on June 9 with the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival.

Plan your trip to Downtown Grand Rapids here.

Vintage Street Market        

Shop the Vintage Street Market: Grand Rapids’ only monthly vintage market. On the second Sunday of every month (June 10), visit the Downtown Market for some vintage shopping. Whether you are looking for that perfect couture vintage dress or a hand-painted vintage sideboard, the Vintage Street Market is where you’ll find that exciting treasure to complete your collection. This year’s Vintage Street Market is sure to be bigger and better than ever!

Routes 1, 2, the Silver Line and DASH West can get you to the Market.

Relax at Rosa

Every Tuesday in June, visit Rosa Parks Circle for free lunchtime entertainment. This season, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. will once again be highlighting a diverse lineup of local bands and large games to play like chess, shuffleboard and Jenga. Upcoming musicians include Kevin Michael Jones, The Crane Wives and Conrad Shock & the Noise. Participating food trucks include Gettin’ Fresh, What The Truck and Daddy Pete’s BBQ.

Routes 6, 9, 11, 13 and the Silver Line can get you to Rosa Parks Circle. You can also hop on board a DASH route.

Shrek the Musical

From June 1 – 17, visit the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre for a musical comedy. Based on William Steig’s book, Shrek!, and DreamWorks’ beloved 2001 movie, comes a musical adaption of the favorite adventure of Shrek and Donkey. In this mashup of classic fairy-tale characters, Shrek and Donkey begin a quest to save their swamp and confront the evil Lord Farquaad. Conquest, adventure, and love are combined to create a magical, new spin on the classic fairy tales of old. Tickets are $18-37.

Free Community Fitness Classes

Every Monday, enjoy free community yoga at Sixth Street Park! Get fit this spring and summer! The City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department is offering free community fitness classes from June 18 – August 25 throughout the city.  There’s no registration required and all you have to do is show up! Check out class offerings here.

Plan your trip.

Wyoming Concerts in the Park

Tuesdays in June, relax and enjoy music in Lamar Park for the Wyoming Concerts in the Park series! June’s performances include The Porters, Delilah DeWylde, Adams Family, Valentiger and Karie Lynch Band. These concerts are free and family friendly.

Ride Route 24 to get to Lamar Park for the concerts.


Ride The Rapid to Sigsbee Park on June 30 for a celebration of black culture with Black-owned businesses, organizations that are pillars within the African-American community, and performers.  Juneteenth creates an atmosphere of community support and celebration. Come out for food, fun, prizes and endless amounts of activities provided by the community, for the community! This is a free and family-friendly event.

Route 5 and 6 can get you to Sigsbee Park.