GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- This week The Rapid will begin moving employees into its new $31 million operations center. The bus company says this is just one more step the company is taking to improve public transportation in Grand Rapids.
Employees and passengers on The Rapid have noticed a lot of changes over the past several months. According to spokesperson, Jennifer Kalczuk, there are many more to come.
"We've been growing steadily since 2000 when The Rapid actually started, but we have had a lot of changes recently," said Kalczuk.
Among those changes is the new Wealthy Street Operations Center. Saturday, The Rapid officially cut the ribbon on the 285,000 square feet facility. The project, which was paid for primarily with federal and state grant and stimulus money got underway more than 2 years ago. Kalczuk says the project was necessary because the old building no longer supported current and future growth.
"We had outgrown our operations facility a number of years ago. It was originally built in the 70's and was designed to hold a maximum of 100 buses. We currently have 117 in the fleet," says Kalczuk. "We had many more vehicles than we had adequate storage for and adequate maintenance bays for. Our staff, our employee base has grown over the years as we have added more service. We have many more drivers and a need for many more dispatchers and transportation supervisors," she said.
Since passing a major millage last spring, The Rapid has hired additional drivers, extended hours meaning some buses now run until after midnight, and The Rapid has also added more weekend service. Kalczuk says improving public transportation is all about improving access.
"Public Transportation is very important for our community for many reasons. We know from our surveys that the majority of the people who ride our buses are going to work. It is consistently over 70% of riders our riders who tell us the bus is their major source of transportation to work. So to keep people working, with access to jobs, it is important to have that link to transit and getting people to work."
In August The Rapid plans to add additional buses. That will allow which will allow them to improve peak time service.
"So we will have many more routes going onto 15 minute service during morning and evening commute times and really improving access during the peak times that people are traveling," said Kalczuk.
The Rapid is still working to secure federal funds to move forward with the much talked about Silver Line as well as iron out a labor agreement with it's drivers. Kalczuk says they are still in negotiations with employees and believes they are on track to open the Silver Line in 2014.
By Angela Cunningham