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Free bus rides to encourage multimodal future, officials hope

Rapid Silver Line bus
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The city of Grand Rapids and other agencies are laying the groundwork for a larger pivot into ‘multi-modal’ transportation.

“The idea is that we can almost double the amount of folks that are coming into downtown, other than single-occupant vehicle, or drive-alone trips.”

Josh Naramore is the parking and mobility manager for the city of Grand Rapids. He says they want to shift the conversation from downtown traffic - and trouble parking - to transportation alternatives.

“So that could be anything from carpooling, biking, walking, access to transit – riding the bus downtown. Or parking in a remote lot a little bit further from downtown and utilizing either the DASH, the Silver Line or any of the other bus services.”

It includes a pilot program offering free Silver Line rides north of Wealthy for downtown travelers, tourists and commuters - along with expanding DASH pick-ups and hours of operation.

“We’re trying to market that with [Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.], along with the DASH service, to basically say: here are all the wonderful things downtown. That you can come downtown, park anywhere, and ride any of that stuff in order to be able to just get around the city.”

The Rapid Interurban Transit Partnership approved their end of the Silver Line pilot program on Wednesday by near-unanimous vote.

Board member and Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley voted no, expressing fare enforcement concerns as about two-thirds of the Silver Line route would remain fee-based.

Recent reports have also cited a lack of existing enforcement on the line.

Under the agreement, the city would reimburse the Rapid about $9,000 a month for the 10-month run.

If approved by all parties, the free line would begin in September.

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