INTRO: This morning, Grand Rapids will celebrate its new Amtrak Station. It’s a mile and a half away from the old station and right next to the expanded transit facility downtown. Riders will be able to catch a bus from the neighborhoods then hop on a train to Chicago. Transit advocates around the state are pointing to Grand Rapids as a model for transit. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus reports.
The Rapid is the transit authority in Kent County. A spokeswoman was giving a tour of the new bus line to a transportation planner from Illinois, as this reporter ran into her on the bus. Other folks are coming to town soon, like Senator Carl Levin who will be able to take some credit for delivering $6 million for the new Amtrak station. Jennifer Kalczuk is the spokeswoman for the Rapid.
“We’re going to have a grand opening Monday morning at 10a. You excited? I am.”
The new Amtrak station allows travelers to connect not only with Amtrak trains, but with the new bus rapid transit “Silver Line,” local bus transit routes, intercity buses, and taxis. But not every rider is happy. This is Gordon Clark.
“That’s that new system they put in. It’s a multi-billion dollar joke. They cut extra buses off of Division Street. That was supposed to help. Now the buses are double loaded because they run every half hour not every fifteen minutes. The stops are spread so far apart that you gotta walk a quarter or half mile to get to one of them. I’m a disabled veteran and I gotta walk a quarter mile to use the damn thing? That’s ridiculous.”
“What do you normally do throughout the day, (what routes do you take?)” McCarus asked.
“I normally take the 1 Bus,” said Clark. “It stops right where I’m at. Otherwise you gotta walk almost a quarter mile to get to one of the stops. They should of taken care of their infrastructure first. The buses are late all the time, the 1, the 9, the 7, the 13. I was just on the 13. It’s running fifteen minutes late. Take care of what you got. Then spend billions of dollars for something new.
Gordon Clark doesn’t have his zeros right. The new silver line bus rapid transit system didn’t cost billions with a b. But it has cost $40 million. I asked spokeswoman Jennifer Kalczuk to respond.
“It’s designed to be an express service. It stops fewer times so it can move more quickly along the route. We still do have all the local stops because route 1 is in existence and still serving people. Ridership in the first month of service was over 76,000. That’s a very strong start. When we’ve started other new routes we saw ridership in the hundreds per day. Now we’re seeing 2,500 per day.”
Transit and city officials are not apologetic about the new bus rapid transit system.
Dynasty and Destiny Haskins were waiting for the bus. They are 23 year old twins.
“I like it,”says Dynasty, of the ‘Silver Line’ rapid bus. “It’s more convenient, easier to get around. It’s much more faster.”
“They have a machine where you can swipe your card,” says sister Destiny. “That’s much easier than standing in line waiting to swipe your card on the bus.”
Metro Detroit got a regional transit authority two years ago. Governor Snyder has been touting the bus rapid transit system in and around Detroit. But BRT in Detroit is years away because officials won’t even be able to ask the public for money until election day 2016.