GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The new Silver Line bus system will start running to downtown Grand Rapids a matter of months.
The idea behind the new line slated to start running Aug. 25 is to get people to the Medical Mile for work, as well as other busy spots downtown — and do it faster at half the cost.
The Rapid CEO Peter Varga said project preparations are ahead of schedule and a couple of million dollars below budget because organizers have been “efficient.”
Many people along Michigan Street Wednesday said they wouldn’t use the Silver Line — but many of them also didn’t know what it was. Some changed their minds after getting an explanation.
“I think any way you can get more cars off the road, and being a poor student, you won’t have to spend as much money on gas or as much time getting to work, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” Aleigha Vandenberg said.
“The Silver Line operates more like a light rail vehicle, like a train rather than a bus,” Varga explained.
He said the Silver Line will be much faster than the average bus because it will make fewer stops and uses level boarding.
“The platforms are built level to the bus, so it’s what we call level boarding,” Varga said.
That makes it easier for wheelchairs and strollers to board.
“They get on the system and move,” Varga said.
Thirty-four stops have been set up on the Silver Line route, four of which are still under construction. The bus route will run down Division Avenue and then loop by Mercy Health Saint Mary, the community college and the Medical Mile; along Monroe Avenue downtown; and then around to The Rapid central station off Grandville Avenue SW.
During rush hours from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., lanes on the Silver Line route will be dedicated to the bus, much like a carpool lane.
Varga said studies indicate traffic congestion won’t be a problem and he doesn’t think the line will have a negative impact on drivers.
“I think drivers are given more flexibility now. They can actually park somewhere and get on the bus and get downtown, and save the money on parking,” he said. “It’s going to be great.”
The line is expected to eliminate only a few parking sports on Michigan Street. Other street parking will not be affected.
In the next few months, there will be more driver education about the new bus lanes. Grand Rapids police say they are still figuring out how they will enforce the new rules.