With a history of successful public support, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Interurban Transit Partnership’s (The Rapid) ridership grew from 4.5 million to 11.9 million from 2000 to 2012, which is just one reason why it has been named APTA’s “Outstanding Public Transit System,” carrying more than four million but less than 20 million.
One major contributor for The Rapid’s ridership growth has been expansion as a result of four successful referendums to raise the property millage that is used to partially fund its operations since 2000.
“Back in 2000 before we passed the first millage, we had no evening service at all, very little Saturday service and no Sunday service,” explains Jennifer Kalczuk, spokesperson for The Rapid. “A big part of what we have been doing with each millage is building a system that is convenient and gets people to where they want to go, when they want to get there.”
With that in mind, The Rapid is currently focusing on work-related trips by adding more frequent service during commuter hours and more routes running into the evening to provide access to second- and third-shift jobs, as well as steadily increasing weekend service.
The most recent millage raise in 2011 will be used to fund the first phase of the Transit Master Plan approved by The Rapid’s board in 2010, which will aim to reduce the weekday wait for most buses to 15 minutes as well as add new crosstown routes to avoid downtown transfers, enable all routes to run on Sunday and create the first bus rapid transit (BRT) line in the state, which will be known as the Silver Line.
The 9.6-mile BRT system, set to open in August 2014, will serve major employers, including St. Mary’s Medical campus, the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and the Cook-DeVos School of Nursing, which together employ about 29,000 area residents.
In October 2012, the Federal Transit Administration pledged $19 million through its Capital Investment (Small Starts) Program and $13 million through its Bus and Bus Facilities grant program to help fund the project.