Study sees support for Holland-GR commuter line

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — New results from a survey show commuters are interested in the potential development of a mass transit option between Holland and Grand Rapids.

Referred to as the West Michigan Express, the idea is for a bus line or train on existing tracks along the Chicago Drive corridor. It would be a revival of the Interurban Rail, which ran passenger trains between the two cities about 100 years ago before cars took its place.

According to the survey conducted by Hope College, 38 percent of the close to 2,000 people surveyed said that they would take the West Michigan Express to and from work. While not a majority, that’s still a good chunk.

The task force that commissioned the study says about 28,000 people commute between Grand Rapids and Holland during the workweek. That means the 38 percent figure works out to roughly 10,000 riders each day. Proponents of the project say even a portion of that would be enough to move forward.

The survey was directed toward employees from more than 50 employers. The majority, 92 percent, said they drive alone to work. The most common reason, according to the survey, was because it’s the fastest way.

Of those surveyed, employees at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital ranked the most likely to use the service, followed by people employed by Suburban Inns, which owns Holiday and Hampton Inns. Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital workers were not far behind.

The maximum riders would be willing to pay is around $4 per ride.

The cost to set up the line is still being calculated, but preliminary numbers put a bus at around $500,000 and a train between $8 million and $28 million.

People pushing for the transportation service say it will generate money in communities along the route.

The full findings of the study will be presented to Grand Rapids city leaders Thursday.

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