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Peter Varga: Stand With Me For Transportation

Peter Varga rides the Silver Line on opening day.

Today on Stand Up for Transportation day,  The Rapid is joining with local partners, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and transportation systems, businesses, and supporters across the country to call attention to the importance of infrastructure investment and the need for a long-term surface transportation authorization bill.  MAP-21, which is the federal surface transportation legislation, expires on May 31.

The return on federal investment in public transportation in our community is evident.  In its first 14 years, The Rapid has seen ridership nearly triple from 4.5 million in 2000 to 12.5 million in 2014.  That would not have happened without adding 65 new buses to the fleet to meet growing demand for service. Eighty percent of funding for buses comes from federal grants.  Passenger amenities such as adding new shelters, bike racks, and benches are primarily funded with federal investment, as is our intelligent transportation system, which allows for real-time rider information, trip planning, and other tools that give riders system information delivered to their smartphones. Grants also pay for facilities improvements, such as the construction of Rapid Central Station, the first LEED-certified transit facility in the country, and the Rapid Operations Center, which was significantly expanded in 2013 to meet growing demand, take advantage of technology advancements, and increase maintenance efficiency.

Rapid Central StationSince its opening, the Silver Line, Michigan’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) line, is off to a very successful start, with nearly a quarter of a million rides provided between August 25, 2014 and December 31, 2014.  Trips in the Division corridor are up 40 percent on weekdays; weekends are even higher.  The Silver Line is attracting new riders, easing traffic congestion, and providing efficient connections between Grand Rapids, Kentwood, and Wyoming.  We are studying a second BRT to replace Route 50 to provide better connections and improve travel efficiency between GVSU’s Allendale campus, Grand Rapids’ West Side, and Medical Mile.  But the Laker Line, as it is called, won’t happen without federal investment.  Infrastructure has always been a bi-partisan issue and has been supported for our safety, mobility, and economic strength.  We need a long-term, sustainable federal infrastructure investment program to keep our country moving.

I hope you will join me in standing up for transportation infrastructure!

– Peter Varga
CEO of The Rapid

Written by Peter Varga

CEO of The Rapid and Chair of the American Public Transportation Association.