A long-awaited and specialized transit study will get underway shortly, now that the Grand Valley Metro Council approved a $223,685 contract with RLS & Associates of Dayton, Ohio.
“Most of the time and money is going to be spent on public outreach,” said Abed Itani, transportation director for GVMC, which served as a third-party negotiator for the effort.
The study will try to determine the unmet transit needs in the county, an idea first presented to the Kent County Commission about two years ago. But commissioners thought the Metro Council, as the region’s official transportation and transit agency, was better suited to handle the work, so the council got on board with the project.
The study’s total budget is $250,000. The Michigan Department of Transportation provided a grant of $150,000 for the work, and the Interurban Transit Partnership contributed $100,000.
RSL & Associates was selected from a field of six consulting firms that submitted proposals for the study, which is known as the Kent County Transit Needs Assessment.
“About nine meetings will be held throughout the county. The charge of the consultant is to contact every advocacy group,” said Itani.
The study’s result will set benchmarks for meeting the unmet transit needs in the coming years, especially the needs of those who are disabled, through a computer modeling system. All transit providers in the county will be contacted.
“At the end of the day, the consultant will need to tell us what we can consolidate,” said Itani, who estimated the study would be completed by April. “We are going into this with a completely open mind. We have no preconceived notions.”
ITP CEO Peter Varga said his organization’s 2030 transit study would reflect the unmet needs outside of the existing system. “I expect our study will be completed soon,” he said. “There should be some harmony between transit plans.”
Itani agreed. “What ITP is doing and what we’re doing will complement each other.”