Partnership funds free Rapid rides to Medical Mile

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In a first-of-its-kind announcement, The Rapid has partnered with the city of Grand Rapids and Spectrum Health to make bus rides along Route 19 free.

Previous to Monday’s announcement, Route 19 was one of the least traveled lines along The Rapid, with an average ridership of just 54 people per day. Officials with The Rapid hope the free rides will push ridership to around 800 riders per week.

Route 19 runs along the Michigan Street corridor from Plymouth Street, continues west along Heritage Hill, then heads through the Medical Mile and to the city’s West Side.

“One of the things that is a barrier to riding sometimes is fares. In this particular area, we want to get people to work as quickly as possible, so going fare-free in that small corridor we’re thinking that is going to be a great way to get people to ride the bus,” The Rapid CEO Andrew Johnson said.

The free rides are being subsidized by the city’s Mobile GR and Parking Services Department along with Spectrum Health. Both will contribute $293,000 each year of the three-year pilot program.

“I think it’s about addressing the density, the increased density in the city. We need to make some adjustments. We need to get people to and from work and to all the entertainment downtown in the most accessible and trouble-free way,” Second Ward City Commissioner Ruth Kelly said.

The route will run Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. Buses will come every 15 minutes, except for during peak times between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. when the buses will come every 10 minutes.

The route runs along a fast-growing area of the city. According to a release from The Rapid and the city, it will have 10,000 new residential units and 15,000 daytime employees by 2035.

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