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Make Central Station(s) Central to Something

The irony of Central Station is that it isn't central to public needs.

Photo of Meagen Coburn
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Central Station, by definition, is ironic. 

While it might be the most central location to Grand Rapids geographically that they could've gotten land-wise ten years ago, it's not actually central to the needs of the people.

I've read a lot of the proposals and quite a few thread a common theme. No one person feels that they're going to change the world and come up with the future hoverboard, but rather each person is speaking into their needs for their personal vehicular autonomy, their use of the bus system, their use of bicycles, their use of Uber/Lyft/cab/other, their love of walking if it's feasible, etc.

As such, maybe we just need to tweak the equation. Grand Rapids needs an updated master plan to move us into the next generation. We can't move buildings. We can't really move roads at this point. And we've got a lot of transportation options. So why don't we create a hub & spoke model of transit stations that serves the community where the community wants to be?

By default, most everyone wants/needs to get to a grocery store (hence, the rise in Shipt and Amazon Pantry) and the pharmacy and doctor/dentist offices and to work. Then we have the desired needs: shopping and restaurants. So why don't we master plan for specific zones to have their own station that is a central landing place for a park, grocery store, dentist/doctor locations, hardware stores, and an easy in & out for all of the awaiting transit options: bus, cab, bike rental, and obviously walking  (if you're able)  within a couple block radius of these stations that check all the boxes.

Instead, the photograph above showcases how GR treats mass transit, today. Central Station resides downtown 0.6 miles from the dead center of the city (division & fulton), 2.5 miles from the Family Fare grocery store and pharmacy (which I believe is the closest full service store?), 0.5 miles from Cherry Health or Mercy Health or 1.3 miles from Spectrum Health, and has intentional circle routes just out and back all day long. In fact, there's a mass exodus of busses each morning the same time I pull into the parking lot next to the station. The same entrance/exit for the buses is one lane from my parking lot entrance, which is separated by my pedestrian-first walkway (which the 67 employees at my company have been hit or almost hit 4 times and counting in one year- the guy crossing in the photograph had to dodge the bumpers of cars, as they were stopped overtop the crosswalk), which is the other side of the road from a massive construction project that was sorely planned for traffic-wise, which is on the main throughway (Cherry Street) since the major highway exit is closed down at Division and Wealthy. This is to say nothing of my experiences living in my own neighborhood in East Hills and the lack of driver awareness to pedestrian and bike safety -- yet everyone who lives there raves about the walkability being among their most treasured things living here.

I would love to see the city master plan for encouraging businesses to operate in central hot spots so that the transit could fall in line with those zones, thus getting everyone where they need to be. Including redesign/overhaul of road/sidewalk treatments to heavily favor walkers and bikers and SLOW traffic in these areas. And secondarily, a massive marketing effort to train the public on the city's desire for pedestrians to be treated first.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

me -slash- group think from the garfield park event.

Funding Request

  • No funding is required


Join the conversation:

Photo of KatieWalsh 100

Hi Meagen - thanks for this idea post - it sounds from what Tom said that you are chiming in with city thinking, but what's good is, *from* a particular neighbourhood. You have not asked for any of the prize pot - yet - seems to me that your input might be great on any plans - and maybe it wouldn't just be your neighbourhood - there are a lot of neighbourhood associations in GR - I know - I researched them for this project - could you suggest that you use a chunk of the money to employ someone to co-ordinate neighbourhood input to your hub and spoke or 'village' planning, and report back to the city. Just seeing if I can make this idea a little meatier for you! Feel free to discuss with Tom Bulten 

Photo of Meagen Coburn

I would love to. In fact, I already am part of an Uptown committee and that crosses a lot of neighborhoods - and it focuses on design/mobility. So this sort of project is perfect for us. If we could just collaborate, that team of individuals is incredibly passionate about each of their respective areas of downtown living.

Photo of KatieWalsh 100

Hi, the judges will be perusing ideas right now - it's too late to add this in - but if they like your idea enough for it to be a semi-finalist we can revisit.

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