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The Rapid’s Silver Line attracts new riders in its first year

Posted at 12:23 PM, Sep 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-01 14:23:46-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As Rapid bus drivers continue to fight for changes to their pension plan, the state’s first Bus Rapid Transit system marks one year of service.

Promising a faster, more efficient way to get from Division Avenue to downtown Grand Rapids, officials with the Rapid say its year-old Silver Line system is living up to their expectations. This, despite running in conjunction with the traditional Rapids bus route known as Route 1.

“We saw some shift from the Route 1 to the Silver Line which is a slight decrease in Route 1 which we expected,” explained Michael Bulthuis, Public Outreach Coordinator and Community Engagement for the Rapid.  “But, the growth in the Silver Line is outpacing that shift.”

The $39 million bus system launched just before ArtPrize in 2014, giving about 3,000 rides per day.

One year later, Rapid officials say that number has dropped to an average of 2,300 rides per day, but expects another spike with this year’s ArtPrize.

“We are attracting new riders. Some of them are GRCC students, Spectrum Health employees who have found that parking at the 60th Street Park and Ride and taking the Silver Line into town has worked very well.”

The Silver Line connects six cities in and around Grand Rapids metro to the Medical Mile and other popular venues via Division Avenue. It uses designated lanes and has the ability to keep traffic lights green.

Beginning Oct. 1, riders will notice the cash fare increase to $1.75. Bulthuis encourages drivers to buy period passes as a more cost-efficient option.

With one year down and an estimated 675,000 riders, Rapid officials are optimistic about the future.

“Looking more long-term, the Silver Line is an asset for the community to build around.”

Bulthuis said construction along Division Avenue has slightly affected the Silver Line’s on-time performance. And Grand Rapids police add they’ve only ticketed a few people for driving in the designated bus lanes.