The new Route 19 pilot, promising free bus fare along the “Medical Mile” was recently presented to the public at an open forum ahead of its launch later this month.
Following approval from the Grand Rapids City Commission in early June, the city and the Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) hosted an open house to engage the community with the newly designed Route 19.
“(The plan) was already public in a sense,” said Michael Bulthuis, marketing and communications manager for The Rapid. “This was the chance to get a formal announcement and for the public to ask questions. They were pretty enthusiastic about it.”
The route will serve riders from Plymouth Street along the Medical Mile on Michigan Street through a section of the near West Side along Bridge Street up to Stocking Avenue.
Buses will run Monday through Friday, with arrivals every 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Buses will arrive every 10 minutes from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The route will include stops near key institutions like Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and the Bridge Street Market urban grocery store and café under construction by Meijer.
With the introduction of fare-free service, partners on the project claimed the route — along with the city’s fare-free DASH service and city-sponsored fare-free portion of the Silver Line north of Wealthy Street — would allow free travel throughout downtown Grand Rapids with little or no parking hassle.
Hank Kelley, Mobile GR and Parking Services’ transportation planning and programs supervisor, said this free, interconnected transit will open up new parking options for downtown employees. Although not necessarily a “silver bullet” to downtown parking congestion, the route would make better use of parking assets on the city’s West Side.
“We see a service that benefits parking customers the same way the DASH benefits parking customers,” Kelley said. “If you happen to have not very good parking options you can travel and park in one of the city’s low-cost lots.”
Route 19 connects riders to lower-cost, underutilized parking lots on the West Side like Scribner Lot and Lots 7, 8 and 9, according to earlier Business Journal reporting.
“The city will be putting more effort into letting these folks know, if they are willing to add an extra 10 minutes to their day, they could save (about) $60 per month,” Kelley said.
Kelley added there are several other lower-cost parking options currently connected by the DASH routes and the Sliver Line.
To make Route 19 service free to riders, the cost is subsidized through a three-way partnership with the city, Spectrum Health and The Rapid. As the Business Journal previously reported, the city and Spectrum Health each will shoulder 40.1 percent of the operating costs, and The Rapid will pick up the remaining 19.8 percent.
Bulthuis said the public/private partnership benefits riders by providing a free and improved transit service without any increase in millage.
“As a taxpayer-funded entity, any time that we can increase service without increasing our millage is a huge win for us,” he said.
The new Route 19 structure is a three-year pilot, but Bulthuis said he hopes its success will serve as an example for other cities to follow.