May 9, 2011

Michigan’s Ferris State U. to pilot bus service

In a special board meeting last week, the Ferris State University board of trustees approved contracting with The Rapid to provide bus transportation between its hub in downtown Grand Rapids and Ferris’ Big Rapids campus beginning next fall.

The agreement is contingent upon final approval by The Rapid board of trustees, which will consider the matter at its May 25 board meeting.

The primary purpose of providing bus service between Grand Rapids and Ferris’ main campus in Big Rapids is to make it easier for current and prospective students from the Grand Rapids area to enroll at Ferris’ Big Rapids campus, according to Vice President for Administration and Finance Jerry Scoby.

Scoby said that although the idea is not new, the university decided to move forward with bus service between the two cities after research recently conducted by a Ferris task force yielded sufficient interest by current and prospective students and faculty and staff, living in Kent County to proceed with piloting the initiative for at least two years.

The proposed bus service would run Monday through Friday on days classes are held during the fall and spring semesters, with no summer service. The bus would make two morning and two afternoon trips on a schedule that allows students traveling from Grand Rapids to arrive in time for 8 a.m. classes on the Big Rapids campus and depart at various intervals later in the day. Trips would originate from The Rapid’s central station in Grand Rapids, stopping near Grand Rapids Community College and Ferris’ Kendall College of Art and Design, as well as the park-and-ride public lot at the M-57 exit along US 131.

Although it is not known how many Ferris students would actually use the service, the university administration believes there should be sufficient capacity on the 40-seat commuter bus to accommodate faculty and staff, as well.

Annual costs to operate the bus service are estimated at $100,000 and would be covered by a combination of university funding and revenue from rider fares. Under the plan, Ferris would evaluate the ridership after two years of operation and determine whether it is feasible to continue the service.

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