The People's Plan for Moving Our Area Forward
In June 2010, The Rapid's Board of Directors unanimously adopted a new transit master plan (TMP) to guide the growth of public transportation services in our community for the next 20 years. Dubbed "The People's Plan" because the development and approval was so heavily guided by public input, the TMP is the culmination of months of work by the Mobile Metro 2030 Task Force, community and business leaders, seniors, students, commuters, riders, and non-riders working together to establish a vision for transit services.
The plan includes a number of improvements to make the existing system more convenient, efficient, and attractive to commuters. It also includes new types of transit services, like two bus rapid transit lines, the first lines of a modern streetcar system, and a regional express bus program. GO!Bus would see improvements that mirror fixed-route enhancements, and additional improvements as new services come on-line.
The proposal to renew the existing millage (1.12) and increase the millage to fund the Phase 1 improvements (0.35) for a total of 1.47 mills will be on the ballot in East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Walker, and Wyoming on May 3, 2011. As an Act 196 authority, The Rapid is only allowed to ask one ballot question per calendar year, which is why the renewal and enhancement are not separate questions as other entities are able to do.
As part of the Transit Master Plan development, a rigorous peer review was conducted. The peer group consists of 10 U.S. transit systems located in Louisville, KY; Ann Arbor, Flint and Lansing, MI; Akron, Dayton and Toledo, OH; Rochester, NY; Nashville, TN; and Madison, WI.
The peer analysis compares The Rapid’s fixed-route bus and paratransit (GO!Bus) services to systems similar in size and regional demographic characteristics. Criteria used to select the peers include urban area population and physical size, annual vehicle revenue hours and annual unlinked passenger trips.
In key findings, The Rapid is among the most cost effective and cost-efficient systems evaluated. The Rapid’s bus system is 23 percent and 18 percent less expensive to operate per bus-hour and bus-mile, respectively, than the peer average. Other items of note:
- In each of the maintenance categories reviewed, The Rapid performed at or above the peer average. Despite logging fewer hours annually, the Rapid’s maintenance employees maintain a high standard of vehicle reliability.
- The Rapid’s service area coverage in square miles is well above average, however, when evaluated with respect to population, The Rapid is slightly below the peer average for quantity of bus service provided and consumed.
- GO!Bus’s operations are substantially more cost effective and efficient than the peer average. The average operating cost per passenger trip is $27.36 compared to the GO!Bus cost per trip of $19.82. Weekday service productivity is greater than the peer average as well.
The Transit Vision
There is no doubt that in 2030, we will live differently. We will be experiencing population and employment growth and new technologies will affect jobs and travel. There will be an increase in gas prices and cost of travel. We will be faced with more congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. And, of course, land use and development will be happening at a more rapid pace in all urban, suburban and rural areas. Will transit be more widely accepted for everyday travel?
The Mobile Metro Task Force
A task force was put together to lead the TMP process. This group worked closely with Rapid staff and the consultant team to develop the plan, review analysis, and to prioritize improvements based on public input. The task force represented a very broad-based group of stakeholders including riders, the business community, developers, non-profits, environmental activists, elected officials, city/county staff, educational and faith-based institutions, and the public at large.
Common Themes from the Public Input Process
- More frequent service
- More express and limited stop service
- More convenient transfers
- New modes: BRT, streetcar
- Reduced travel times
- More service to under-served areas
- Easier fare payment
- County-wide service
- Improved services for seniors and the disabled
- More park and ride lots
- More public-private partnerships
- More shelters, benches
- Better passenger information
- Extended evening hours
- Better sidewalks, crosswalks
- More weekend service
- Integration with Amtrak, other modes