Transit Changes Approved

GRAND RAPIDS — The Interurban Transit Partnership Board voted unanimously Wednesday to move ahead on Phase I of a service plan that will bring numerous system improvements to The Rapid transit system.

The Rapid will began implementing Phase I of the plan on May 7, 2007. Phase I includes bundles of improvements that have to be undertaken simultaneously. Improvements include simplifying service patterns on routes, eliminating large one-direction patterns on routes, creating greater efficiency by tying together different routes, frequency improvements, expanded transfer opportunities and expanded weekday evening and weekend transit offerings.

Under the plan,

Lake Michigan Drive

will get regularly scheduled service, airport service will run seven days a week from WoodlandShopping Center and some new service routes will be added, as well.

The board can move ahead with Phase I in May because The Rapid already has the costs covered under its existing operating budget, noted ITP Chairman Carol Sheets.

The service plan requires four more buses, part of a group of 10 buses previously approved for purchase. Phase I enhancements will add $241,700 to The Rapid’s annual operating expense, according to staff.

The board did not endorse Phase II of the plan last week. Phase II would add further improvements to the system and would require an additional $2.2 million in operating funds, or about a 0.18 mill increase in The Rapid millage rate. Sheets said The Rapid won’t budge on Phase II until it has the money to pay for it.

The ITP Board also unanimously approved a formal registration process for PASS (Passenger Adaptive Suburban Service) clients, which requires an eligibility screening. The move limits the system’s on-demand PASS service to passengers who are situated more than one-third mile from the nearest fixed bus route — unless a person has a condition or disability that makes them unable to navigate to and from bus stops.

“The intent is not to take away service from people who need it,” said board member Rick Morris. “What we don’t want is someone using this service as a taxi service when they can easily get to a bus.”

A few members of the public expressed concern that the changes in PASS service might disenfranchise the disabled and elderly and make the service more difficult to access. Sheets responded that the board would take into account the public comments made at last week’s meeting.

Both the Phase I and Phase II service improvements and the changes in PASS service were based on recommendations that stemmed from The Rapid’s first comprehensive operational analysis.

Additionally, the ITP Board approved four additions to The Rapid’s fixed route fare structure:

  • A $4 day pass
  • A $10 four-day pass
  • A discounted 31-day pass for senior and disabled passengers priced at $22.75
  • Free fixed-route transportation for ADA-eligible passengers.    

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