Shuttle To Link Downtown, Airport

November 14, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Rapid transit system will begin direct shuttle service between downtown and the Gerald R. Ford International Airport with the Jan. 3 debut of Air Porter.

The Rapid currently provides a bus route from Ford International to downtown via the

44th Street
Crosstown route, but it requires one bus transfer to complete the trip.

The Air Porter shuttle will run from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily, making stops at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, the Days Inn Downtown, the Marriott Courtyard Downtown and the airport. The new JW Marriott Grand Rapids will be added to the route when it opens in the fall of 2007. Air Porter will operate on a continuous loop, arriving at those destinations every 30 minutes, according to The Rapid.

The service will be available to anyone traveling between downtown and the airport, not just for guests of downtown hotels. Tickets will be $15 one-way and $25 roundtrip, and passengers will be able to purchase them with cash or credit card on board the shuttle buses, said Jennifer Kulczuk, spokesperson for The Rapid.

Air Porter’s fleet will include three 15-passenger cutaway buses, which are buses with larger, more comfortable passenger compartments better suited to transit trips, according to Conrad Venema, The Rapid’s planning and grants manager. He said the vehicles are on order and will be delivered to The Rapid later this month.

Kulczuk said The Rapid staff approached the airport with the idea of offering the service.

“We saw a need for direct airport service, especially with the increased presence of conventions and the attraction of more of that type of traveler into the area,” she explained. “It was an easy way to connect downtown to the airport, so we wanted to look at how we could help accomplish that.”

Each shuttle will be wheelchair accessible, with extra-wide entry doors and “premium” seats, which are wider and more heavily padded than traditional bus seats. Shuttle drivers will offer assistance with luggage and other boarding needs. The Rapid purchased the three 15-passenger buses at about $63,000 each, according to Venema. He said 80 percent of the purchase price was covered by federal Section 5303 Urbanized Area Formula funds, and the remaining 20 percent by state transportation funds.

Downtown hotels didn’t have to pitch in on the cost and won’t have to help fund any ongoing service or maintenance costs, Kulczuk said. The Rapid anticipates shuttle fares will cover the cost of operations, and thus expects the program to be self-sustaining.

“As far as ridership projections, we’re estimating that we’ll have an average of three passengers an hour on an average day,” Kulczuk noted. “Certainly some trips will be much busier than others. A lot of it has to do with flight schedules and that sort of thing. We actually need 1.7 rides per hour for the program to be self-sustaining, so as long as we meet that, we’ll be able to operate the program on the revenue that it will generate.”

The every-half-hour time schedule was based on current activity levels of the airport shuttle program the AmwayGrandPlaza has been operating on its own, she said.

Kulczuk noted that the hotels have agreed to help promote the shuttle service to their guests, sell tickets on the site of their own establishments, and provide guests with information about the service.

The Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau also is going to promote the shuttle as it tries to attract

DeVos Place
convention business to town, and will “definitely” try to promote the service as one of the advantages of holding conferences and conventions here, she added.

“The offering of this service is a very clear indication of the growing convention industry in West Michigan,” said CVB President Steve Wilson.    

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