Since initiating a contract with Grand Rapids, Mich.'s transit agency, The Rapid, in 2000, Allendale's Grand Valley State University (GVSU) has seen its ridership grow every year of this decade going from an average of 770 students each day in 2000 to an average of 21,478 students this year.
"Our enrollment has grown over the last ten years as well, and we've grown with it," said Erin Babson, operations manager for Pew Campus and Regional Centers. "We've worked really hard to pay attention to the students' needs and grow with them."
Babson explained that the GVSU began the partnership with The Rapid when it expanded and created a separate campus.
"We always had one building that was 14 miles away in a downtown area. In 2000, we built more of a complex, added a housing building and a 300,000-square-foot building with a student union, so we really created a new presence," she said. "We were starting to require students to get back and forth, so the university investigated and contracted with the city to get the buses to go out there."
This year's ridership numbers, overall, are up 13.2 percent from fall 2008 to fall 2009, and yearly ridership has increased from 684,746 riders in 2005-06 to a total of 2,411,631 riders in 2008-09.
Babson says this growth is the result of efforts by the university to make transit a priority.
"We've worked very hard to create a culture of transit. It took a couple of years but, after a while, it's just what you do if you're a student," she says. "We have also have an extensive marketing program that helps to show that riding the bus can be fun."
A total of 20 buses run five separate routes, every six minutes to seven minutes, both within and around the Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses seven days a week.
Recently, the university received the highest "green" rating among Michigan's colleges and universities in an annual report by The Princeton Review and is the only Michigan school cited in Kaplan College Guide 2009's list of "cutting-edge green" colleges and universities.
The university was also the recipient of the U.S. Green Building Council's 2008 Recognition Award and the Sustainable Endowments Institute's 2008 National Sustainability Innovator Award.
"We are so excited to experience record ridership for the 10th consecutive year," says Babson. "We are proud that the bus system has become part of the Grand Valley culture. This shows that our students are part of a generation that believes in the value and importance of public transportation."