GPS and Wi-Fi: Inside a Silver Line bus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Thousands of people are expected to regularly ride The Silver Line, the first rapid bus transit system in the state, after it starts running in the Grand Rapids metro area in late August.

“It really works more like a light rail line in terms of the stations and how it operates,” said Jennifer Kalczuk, spokesperson for The Rapid, at a Tuesday open house to discuss the Silver Line.

When riders board a traditional Rapid bus, they stand in line after the bus comes to a stop to put money in a fare box.

With the Silver Line, riders will buy their tickets using a touch screen before they get on the bus. Each of the 34 stations along the Silver Line Route has a terminal to purchase a ticket using cash or credit.

“If you’re standing in the station when the bus pulls up, both sets of doors open up the front and the rear,” Kalczuk said. “Depending on where you’re standing, you’ll be able to get on or get off. … That’s the whole purpose of collecting the fare off board, is really to help speed up that boarding process.”

Buses will have fare evasion officers on board to make sure people have paid their fares. Those officers will be allowed to issue civil infraction tickets, which would cost riders much more than a ridership ticket.

Each station will have signs that display when the next bus will be there.

“It will say next bus arriving in six minutes, next bus arriving in four minutes. So you’ll know exactly,” Kalczuk said. “That’s not scheduled — that’s actual time. It’s controlled by GPS, so the bus and the sign communicate.”

GPS also controls traffic lights along the route, which runs from 60th Street to the Medical Mile and then to The Rapid’s Central Station on Grandville Avenue SW.

“As apart of the GPS system, they can communicate with the traffic lights,” Kalczuk explained. “So if a bus is approaching an intersection, it will hold the green so the bus can get through for it to stay on schedule.”

The Silver Line will run from about 5 a.m. through midnight. During peak times of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., buses will run every 10 minutes. They will run about every 20 minutes outside of those peak hours.

“They will stop in every station, so there is no need to signal the driver that your stop is coming up,” Kalczuk said.

Each bus will also come equipped with Wi-Fi.

Fares are the same as current Rapid buses.

There will be a free park-and-ride lot at the 60th Street station that will accommodate up to 200 cars.

The Rapid is hoping commuters will take advantage of the new service.

“This is going to be a good alternative for them that they may want to check out in terms of cost of savings. It’s significantly cheaper to buy a 31-day pass than it is to put gas in your car, pay for parking,” Kalczuk said.

The Rapid says about 3,000 people ride The Rapid along the Division Street corridor on weekdays. Officials are projecting that to be closer to 5,000 by the end of 2015.

The Rapid also said it is looking into the possibly of another rapid bus transit (RBT) line.

“We actually have a study going on right now to look converting Route 50, which is our route that goes out to Grand Valley to service the Allendale campus, to convert that into a RBT,” Kalczuk said.

The Silver Line project, which came in under budget, is expected to be ready to run in Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming on Aug. 25.

Another Silver Line open house will be held at The Rapid Central Station on Aug. 11 from 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.



The Silver Line

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