Grand Rapids’ bus system considering price increase

Jul 5, 2015

The Rapid Central Station in downtown Grand Rapids (file photo)
Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

People could soon pay more to ride the bus in Grand Rapids.

A proposal to help balance The Rapid’s operating budget would hike regular fares from $1.50 to $1.75. That’s what regular fares cost in Flint, but more than it costs to ride the bus in Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Lansing or Detroit.

The Rapid spokeswoman Jennifer Kalczuk says staff compared prices with systems in Michigan and beyond. “We’re comfortable that the proposal keeps us within that peer group range,” she said.

Unlimited monthly passes would increase from $40 to $47, still lower than many local bus systems in the state.

Kalczuk notes the system hasn’t raised prices in seven years. In that time, both the level of service and ridership has increased substantially.

She says the proportion of the system’s budget covered by state and local revenue is down.

Meanwhile, ridership on The Rapid has doubled since 2005. It’s expected to top 13 million this year.

“So the revenue that we see from fares, again the actual dollars that we receive from fares, has gone up because we’ve had more riders,” she said.

But the cost of running the bus system has gone up more.

“We understand that there may be some concerns about this change. But we need to make sure we’re looking at all options to be able to fund the services that the community relies on and this is one piece of that,” she said.

Kalcheck says The Rapid has cut costs by changing employees’ health plan, for example.

Two public hearings are set for mid-July. Those who cannot attend can submit written comments.

The Rapid's board of directors is expected to vote on the proposed increase next month.