Group plans transit study

November 7, 2008
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The Grand Valley Metro Council is getting ready to conduct a new public transit study — one that will look at the latent transportation demand in townships and rural areas and then try to come up with a “cafeteria of options” that fit within the agency’s transit budget.

Call it a holistic transit approach. Based on a suggestion by Plainfield Township Supervisor George Meek, the council will look to area churches for help in measuring the demand and determining the solutions for transit services outside of the cities. Meek said churches have insights into the transit needs of rural residents, especially those of seniors.

“They’d be glad to do it, if they’re asked,” he said.

The study is expected to cost $250,000. The council is hoping to get a grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation to pick up $150,000 of that tab, with the Interurban Transit Partnership having already committed the other $100,000.

“The study is going to entail almost everything,” said Abed Itani, transportation director for the Metro Council.

And the study could be traveling almost everywhere. GVMC Executive Director Don Stypula said they’d like to reach outside of the municipalities in the metropolitan planning region and reach into places such as Grand Haven, Holland and Muskegon. Itani said the study would move into the rural areas, too.

“It’s tough to get our arms around this with the state of the economy. But we’re going to go ahead with this,” said Stypula.

The study’s proposed and lengthy reach was good news to Algoma Township Supervisor Denny Hoemke. Hoemke pointed out that a number of residents in his neck of the county depend on nonprofit organizations for their transportation, and those groups depend on the generosity of others for the funds to meet those needs.

“We know (a demand) is there, but we don’t know what it is. We came to the Metro Council and asked for this, and they added to it. We think the Metro Council study is going to be a key,” said Hoemke.

“It’s great to see the Metro Council get out in front of this issue,” said John Helmholdt, GVMC at-large member.

The start date and study area hasn’t been locked in yet. But Itani said he felt the work could be done within the budget’s parameters.

“I do not anticipate that this study will cost more than $250,000,” he said.

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