The Rapid is reaching out for customer input to determine how it will improve its system in the next 10 years.
The public transportation agency, which services Grand Rapids and the five surrounding cities, launched an online feedback tool early in September to obtain feedback from the public about ways in which the system could be improved.
Align: the Rapid’s Transit Improvement Study is a yearlong project aimed at supporting the Rapid’s short-range transit plan. The goal of Align is to identify, analyze and prioritize a set of transit improvement recommendations. At this point, the study does not guarantee any changes, and there are no funding initiatives tied to it.
The Align study involves three phases: data collection, analytics and recommendations.
“We’re still in the first phase of the study,” said Conrad Venema, strategic planning manager for the Rapid and Align study leader. “We’re collecting a lot of qualitative data. They haven’t released the first push of recommendations.”
Although the data collection phase is still ongoing, study officials are noticing a large number of respondents citing access to employment as an important factor in public transportation.
Venema explained that employers in the city are having trouble recruiting and keeping employees because of limited access to places of work.
“The region is growing both in terms of population and employment,” he said. “We want to make the system as good as we can and as effectively and efficiently as we can accomplish that.”
The ultimate goals of the study are to provide a competitive option to congested roadways, provide safe and equitable access, service existing and future population and employment centers and support urban revitalization and economic development.
“The Align study is an opportunity to work together and ‘align’ for better public transit in the metro region, so we encourage the public to engage with the short online feedback tool,” said Peter Varga, Rapid CEO.
The study will seek to engage with riders and non-riders, as well as community stakeholders for recommendations on how the Rapid can better meet the needs of the community.
The Rapid launched a similar system evaluation in 2005 aimed at discovering ways to improve the transit system. Venema said that now is “a good time” to re-evaluate and ensure the Rapid is meeting its goals.
“It’s been an enjoyable process. We’re looking forward to when recommendations come through.
The feedback tool is available online at aligntransit.org. The platform is mobile-friendly and features several interactive exercises, including ranking enhancement priorities and an interactive map where participants can place comments to provide specific locations where enhancements are most important.
The feedback period ends Sep. 30, after which Align officials will analyze the feedback and produce a report for the Rapid’s board of directors to be delivered in November.