The Rapid on board with GR-lakeshore commuter line

Ottawa County

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich., (WOOD) — The people behind plans to create a commuter line linking downtown Grand Rapids with the lakeshore are considering bringing on The Rapid.

The task force for the West Michigan Express have entered a memorandum with the Grand Rapids bus service.

Conversations about the project started in fall 2018. Originally, the West Michigan Express task force was looking to use existing railways along Chicago Drive with stops along the way.

“What started as discussions of a potential commuter rail have evolved a bit,” said Bill Kirk with The Rapid.

To save money, they’re now working to add a commuter bus service in the corridor instead.

“It’s just so expensive to plan for rail service,” said Kirk. “Bus service would make a lot more sense both from a planning and financial perspective. Maybe sometime in the future, (rail service) could be a possibility but right now we’re focusing on bus service.”

The current plan is not concrete. The task force is still working to narrow down where the buses would stop and how often. Despite tentative details, 14 entities including Holland, Grand Rapids and Hudsonville are on board for the possible multimillion dollar project.

Georgetown Township, an area where about 30% of people commute to Grand Rapids daily, is not one of the areas that have expressed interest. Township officials said they weren’t considering the idea because they didn’t think taxpayers would be willing to pay for it. Now that things have changed, they say the Township could join.

Right now, the task force is working with local companies to gauge community interest.

“We’ve got a lot of people around the room just trying to understand the potential demand and looking at the potential for that service,” said Kirk.

The group heading up the project says the earliest the area would see a pilot program for a commuter bus is Fall 2020. If the demand is there, the rail service would be several years down the line.

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