Beginning Sept. 1, downtown’s four DASH routes will consolidate into two lines, which will operate on an extended schedule and utilize the Silver Line north of Wealthy Street as a de facto third DASH line.
The current DASH routes — Hill, North, South and West — will consolidate into DASH West and North. Elements of DASH Hill and South will consolidate into the new DASH West route, while DASH North will only have minor adjustments.
The new routes will operate from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week.
City staff worked with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and The Rapid to develop a pilot project to use Silver Line bus service from north of Wealthy throughout downtown to ensure full coverage of the eliminated DASH route areas that were not picked up by DASH West or DASH North.
DASH service will continue to be free for riders, including those accessing the Silver Line anywhere north of Wealthy Street.
The total cost of the consolidated DASH routes including the Silver Line pilot project is $1.26 million. That is in comparison to the previous cost of $1,075,840 to operate the four DASH lines.
Josh Naramore, manager of Mobile GR & Parking, said the Silver Line pilot project is going to add roughly $80,000 in costs, and the DASH changes will add an additional $100,000, from September 2016-June 2017 — the remainder of fiscal year 2017.
Naramore said with the consolidated routes, DASH service will increase in frequency throughout the day to seven or eight minutes between buses, which is in line with the current morning and evening bus frequency the service has offered.
Seven DASH buses will operate at all times to be able to accommodate the all-day, seven-to-eight-minute service.
Naramore said consolidating the lines will “maximize service for parking customers” and is the result of recommendations included in the GR Forward plan adopted by the Grand Rapids City Commission earlier this year.
It is part of an overall effort supported by the city Mobile GR & Parking Department, The Rapid and DGRI to turn downtown into a “park once” district.
Ridership for the four DASH routes from January-December 2015 totaled 389,562.
Naramore said the goal is to increase DASH ridership and to eventually achieve a 90/10 split, meaning 10 percent of trips in and out of downtown in a day will be done using transportation other than a single-occupant car.
Naramore said he expects one of the biggest concerns regarding the consolidation will relate to changes in bus stops.
“People are sensitive to if their stop is going away,” he said. “We are going to be evaluating all the stop locations throughout the fall to make sure we got it right.”
He said changes to stops will be made if necessary. A preliminary report on the consolidated service will likely be presented to the city Parking Commission at the end of the year.
Once any necessary tweaks have been made, Naramore said Mobile GR will work with The Rapid and DGRI “to enhance a lot of the transit waiting environments.”
He said the plan is to standardize all bus stops and offer covered waiting areas, benches and possibly monitors with arrival time information.