Feds: Silver Line Will Increase Bus Ridership

Metropolitan Planning CouncilBarack Obama

A new, faster bus line is headed to Greater Grand Rapids, called the Silver Lane.

It's supposed to go from Downtown Grand Rapids, all the way to Kentwood down Division Avenue. The project comes with a high price tag.

"Today, on behalf of President Obama and Secretary LaHood, I`m thrilled to be here to commit an additional 32 million dollars in federal funds for the Silver Line bus rapid transit system here in Grand Rapids,” Peter Rogoff, federal administration official addressed a crowd.

He praised Grand Rapids' proposal for silver line funding. “Grand Rapids has really been a success story as far as bus service. They`ve been boosting ridership even without adding frequencies and I think importantly, they`re doing bus rapid transit right here,” he said.

Under the plan, the bus will have it's own lane during rush hour, for about half of the route. The bus will also be able to turn a red light to green as it approaches the intersection.

However, will a new line designed to cut bus travel by 40% attract more riders?

"People will ride it. We have great confidence in the ridership numbers and when you see BRT systems like this set up in very dense employment, often the ridership exceeds everyone's expectations,” Rogoff said.

According to the Rapid, 11.9 million people rode the Rapid during fiscal year 2012. That's up by more than a million riders from 2011(10.8 million).

Jennifer Kalczuk spokesperson for the Rapid said the feds took that traffic into account. She says Route one, down Division Avenue, is the Rapids' busiest route.

According to the Metropolitan Planning Council out of Chicago ridership grew by 60 percent, when Cleveland implemented the faster bus line.

Rogoff says the intangible benefits of the new system are the draw.

"[It’s] the difference between getting home in time for dinner with your family or not. It's the difference between getting home in time to see your kids little league game or not. It's a huge quality of life changer for the people of this metropolitan area."

Construction on the new line could start as soon as the spring of 2013.

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