Michigan’s first bus rapid transit system will be built in the Grand Rapids area. Bus rapid transit operates similar to light rail, but because less infrastructure is needed, bus rapid transit is much cheaper. Buses will arrive at stops every ten minutes. They’ll have designated lanes and be able to change traffic lights so they don’t have to slow down.
On Thursday federal, state and local officials gathered at The Rapid Central Station to officially sign the agreement. Peter Rogoff is with the Federal Transit Administration.
“It’s going to lower commute times by some 40-percent and even for folks that never take the bus, it’s going to take congestion off of US-131 and off of Division; in a way that’s going to be beneficial to everybody,” Rogoff said.
The new bus line, the Silver Line, won’t be complete until the summer of 2014, according to The Rapid CEO Peter Varga. It will run almost ten miles between the residential suburbs south of Grand Rapids up to major employers and the ‘medical mile’ in the downtown area.
According to a written statement:
The 9.6-mile route 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.
The federal government will pay for the majority of the $40 million dollar project. The State of Michigan will cover about $8 million.
Rogoff says other mid-sized cities with bus rapid transit like Kansas City and Eugene, Oregon have seen ridership on the lines exceed expectations.
“What you’ve seen in those communities is the corridor itself that you put the bus rapid transit in it comes alive with new retail new residential all around the stations because they see the permanence of the system,” Varga said.
“What I’m very excited about though is the example this sets for the southeast side of the state,” Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley told the crowd, “A place where a regional transit system is needed really more than anywhere else in the United States; a solution that has eluded us for the better part of forty years – I’ve been told, I’m only 35 years old.”