Haas, Mantella tour new Laker Line bus
Local officials got a first look at one of the new articulated buses that will be part of the Laker Line when it begins running in August 2020.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held at The Rapid's Central Station in Grand Rapids June 3.
The Laker Line will replace the current Route 50 and connect the Allendale Campus to downtown Grand Rapids, with 20 stops along the way, including the Pew Grand Rapids Campus and the Health Campus on the Medical Mile.
Construction for the Laker Line is already underway on the Allendale Campus, along Lake Michigan Drive and in Grand Rapids.
During the ceremony, President Thomas J. Haas said the public-private partnership that made the Laker Line possible is all about stewardship.
"This is about taking care of our students, but it is also about taking care of our community and our region," said Haas. "Growing up in New York, we took the bus every day. It's exciting to see a culture where taking the bus is natural, it's now preferred."
Haas and President-elect Philomena Mantella walked through the articulated, 60-foot-long Laker Line bus that will be able to hold 50 percent more riders. In 2018, there were more than 1 million riders on the Campus Connector.
Andrew Johnson, CEO of The Rapid, said the Laker Line will average 10,000 riders per day.
The Laker Line buses will have dual boarding with wider doors for quicker boarding. Bus stations will look more like light rail stations with seats, shelters, snowmelt and raised platforms so riders don't have to step up to get on the bus. Enhancements also include traffic signal priority technology that will allow buses to flow through traffic more efficiently.
A federal grant will pay for nearly 80 percent of the $70 million project. The remaining cost will be covered by the Michigan Department of Transportation. Grand Valley will pay for operation of the Laker Line as a part of its existing 10-year contract with The Rapid that began in July 2013.