Rapid Central Open For Business

June 18, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Federal, state and local officials heralded the Rapid Central Station as a first for the region, as well as the state, at is dedication last week.

Officials also credited the teamwork of the six cities comprising the Interurban Transit Partnership (ITP) for bringing the project to fruition.

As of last Monday, all routes serving the former downtown transit center at 210 Ionia Ave. NW began operating out of the new surface transportation center at 250 Grandville Ave. SW, just west of the S-curve along U.S. 131. The center is adjacent to The Rapid’s administration building at 300 Ellsworth Ave.

Rapid Central Station boasts a covered, lighted, boarding and deboarding platform that’s nearly the length of two football fields and has a built-in snowmelt system.

The platform can accommodate up to 17 buses simultaneously and is equipped with heated waiting areas, information kiosks, seating and a concession area.

Beginning this fall, the site will also become home to Greyhound and Indian Trails intercity bus services.

Rapid Central Station’s three-level, 50,000-square foot indoor transportation facility houses The Rapid’s administrative offices, bus information and ticketing areas, a large community meeting room and catering kitchen, a police substation and public restrooms.

It’s the first LEED-certified “green” transit facility in the state. The building sports a 15,600-square-foot sedum roof and was constructed with significant amounts of recycled materials, as well. Its terrazzo floor, for instance, is made of recycled glass.

Changes to Routes 11/Plainfield and 13/Michigan in the downtown area were necessary to accommodate the move to Grandville Avenue.

The $22.8 million project was funded through $14.8 million in federal grants, $6.9 million in state grants and slightly more than $1 million in Downtown Development Authority (DDA) grants. The DDA also donated land to the project.

With the opening of the new transit center, The Rapid’s customers can, for the first time, enjoy easy transfers to regional and statewide connections, such as the Lakeshore, Detroit, Kalamazoo and Traverse City, said Peter Varga, executive director and CEO of The Rapid.

“The community can be proud that they have a station that is unique in the country — an architectural delight that heralds the pride of the region and an edifice that is testimony to our commitment to the environment,” Varga commented.

“The people in our community can also be proud of the transit agency, its leadership and its staff for having the foresight to build something magnificent.”

Rep. Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, described the project as “one concrete step” in a longer range plan to serve the metro area’s current and future transit needs.

“In view of our growing dependence on oil from other countries that are not friendly, I think it’s very important that we try to develop different means of transportation and different sources of energy, and this is a good example of that,” Ehlers said.

“We recognize in our community that the downtown — the commercial and financial center of western Michigan — needs a good transit system that can bring people in and out of the city easily and not just simply end up with clogged freeways as most communities have.”

Ehlers also lauded the building’s LEED certification and its environmentally friendly features.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said the project was all about people and the ability to move people from one place to another.

She described the Rapid Central Station project as “a triumph of people coming together to create a service for people to be able to live, work and enjoy West Michigan.”

Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids, said the station was “the envy of communities around the state of Michigan” and that such a collaboration between six local units of government is unseen in other parts of the state.

He said the state Legislature is forming a transit caucus with the goal of maintaining transportation funding during the current budget crisis and growing that funding in future years.

“We need to have an effective, efficient transit system and this center moves us one step forward in that process.”

Projects like the Rapid Central Station don’t happen unless communities join together and work for the funding to make it possible, said Larry Tibits, COO of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).

“You today can be extremely proud of what you have created and what it’s going to mean to the citizens of this area,” Tibits said. “Some people will be able to have jobs they otherwise would not have if not for facilities like this. Some will be able to visit doctors and visit friends and improve their quality of life.”

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, said the new facilities represent harmony between economic development and environmental protection, as well as harmony between federal, state and local governments.

“These facilities are symbols that we’re able to both develop and progress at the same time we’re able to protect the environment in so many novel ways,” Levin said. “These facilities represent a coming together of people — six cities continuing their collaborative effort in public transportation.”

David Cassard, vice chair of the DDA, gave recognition to the contributions made by recently deceased DDA Chairman Verne Barry and former mayor John Logie.

“Most of the work on this project was done under Verne’s watch,” Cassard noted, recalling Barry’s work as founder of Faith Inc., a charitable organization dedicated to helping people recover from substance abuse and re-establish productive lives.

“He knew that employment was a vital part of that process and finding good transportation was critical to people who are going to recover and re-establish themselves.”

For his part, Logie “was involved in every element of this project” as a DDA member, as mayor of Grand Rapids for 12 years and as an ITP board member, Cassard said.

“As our community grows and we hope to control urban sprawl, to reduce traffic congestion, cut pollution and maintain the quality of the urban core, we need to move more people out of cars and into public transportation,” he added. “The construction of this new facility in our downtown is an important step in that process.”           

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