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I've lived in West Michigan all of my life. I was born at Blodgett and raised in South East Grand Rapids until I was seven when my family moved to Hudsonville. I lived in Hudsonville until I graduated high school then moved to Allendale to attend Grand Valley State University, but I never had had a run in with public transit until my freshman year.
I had ridden the 50 bus from Allendale to Standale to Grand Rapids. No problem. It was a straight shot with a few stops along the way. From my freshman year until my junior year I had taken the 50 bus on multiple occasions at nearly every hour of the day, but it wasn't until I moved back into Grand Rapids after thirteen years of being away that I finally realized how absolutely useful the bus system is.
Public transportation is supposed to be useful, I get that. It's supposed to be convenient and reduce traffic and all that jazz. I know. I know. But you really don't know how well it works until you use it firsthand.
If you’ve driven through most parts of Grand Rapids, you’ve seen the Rapid bus stops. The little poles with a Rapid logo on them or even the big glass/plastic covered bus stops. They’re everywhere. This is why utilizing the Rapid is so easy: it’s everywhere.
For instance, I get on the 2 Northbound only 200 feet from my house, and take it to the corner of Eastern and Franklin. I jump on the 4 Southbound and get off at Eastern and Burton to grab my weekly comics from Tardy's Collectors Corner. 15 minutes later I can jump on the Northbound 4 again and head right into downtown Grand Rapids. After a short walk to the GVSU Pew Campus I can get on the 50 Westbound and head to GVSU for work, class or to see friends. It's as simple as that.
There are 26 total routes on the Rapid and almost all of them (with the exception of a few routes) head to the central station so it’s easier than pie to transfer to get across the city, but you don’t necessarily need to go to the central station to transfer. Many of the bus lines overlap and intersect across the city and as you’re riding the bus announcements let you know what route you’re coming up on if you need to transfer. It’s all done very well.
My recent fascination with the Rapid came from me losing my car to, well, "car trouble." Out of the blue, my car died and later that night I was freaking out about what I was going to do to get to work and class the next day. After some frantic searching online I realized how close and how easy it would be for me to take the Rapid from my house and get to the 50 bus for work and class in Allendale.
The Rapid has saved my butt in the last week and as a happy coincidence, I'm helping the environment by not driving a car. I'm using the bus system every day now and it's been extremely beneficial. Forcing myself to walk to the bus stop every day gives me that little bit of exercise I need in the morning to keep me awake for the rest of the day. On top of that, my knowledge of Grand Rapids has grown as I need to know where cross streets are across the city to find bus stops.
If you're not using the Rapid, I really feel like you're missing out. I know that buying a pass may be a pain for you non-college students—we’re talking $1.50 per ride or $11.50 for a 10 day pass [more info here]—but if you’re like me you know that GVSU students ride for free and GRCC, Kendall, Calvin and Aquinas students ride for a discount [more info here]. It really is a great alternative to driving. For those who work in the city, there is also the DASH bus that anyone can ride for free that will take you all over downtown Grand Rapids.
But to not sound any more like an advertisement for the Rapid, I'll leave you with this: public transportation is something Grand Rapids is lucky to have. If a lowly college student like me can find it to be extremely useful, I'm sure you can too.
I am a GVSU Computer Science student who recently moved into Grand Rapids from Allendale. I'm currently working for GVSU's Office of Student Life and don't plan on leaving school until next year... my fifth year. I'm a serious comic book enthusiast, a Mac genius and an advocate for local music. I'm looking to contribute what I can in the means of complaining, ranting and raving, as well as some informative stuff on Technology in the area. Really it comes down to whatever I can muster up the energy to write. We'll see.
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