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Flexible Infrastructure

Cities are always changing. Can capital intensive infrastructure really meet GR's needs?

Photo of Josh DeVries
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Grand Rapids has seen huge growth over the last eight years, a lot of that growth is fueled by townships outside of GR proper (1). Suburban growth contributes to GR's ingrained dependency on one car per person. In fact, just 6% of workers downtown don't use a car to get to work (2). And suburbs don't stop changing. Whether driven by overall population growth/decline in Kent County or families moving into/out of the urban center- our suburbs will always see population fluctuation. And with that fluctuation, our public transport needs to be flexible to meet changing demands. Advancing our public transportation will also be expensive. An example is the Silver Line, opened in 2014, running from 54th Street/South Division to downtown (about 10 miles) and cost around $35 million in public funds. Projected to contribute $160 million in development, Division has seen little to no new investment. Projected to have 7,200 average weekday boarding's the service only saw 2,700 in the 2017 fiscal year (3). $35 million is a lot for a single inflexible bus line. Or Google the Qline in Detroit to see an expensive project having lower impact than expected. GR needs better public transportation, but those options need to be dense (lots of options), efficient, and convenient to promote widespread usage. It also needs to be flexible to meet changing demands. Cars are just too convenient, especially in Grand Rapids where traffic (at least for now) isn't that bad. Links are in attached

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Photo of Tom Bulten

Hi Josh: I appreciated your thoughtful post about the need for dense, efficient, and convenient public transportation. I wonder if you could expand these observations into a proposal for the "Propose" phase of this Challenge. (The Challenge is seeking proposals through September 30 and is providing $100,000 to a winning proposal.) A few proposals have been posted about flexible, demand-based transit. But, you bring unique perspectives to the table. Maybe one of the existing proposals would be open to adding your expertise to their team. I'm the online facilitator for the Grand Rapids Challenge. So, let me know if I can help you refine an idea. You can submit a proposal here:

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