Published on May 30, 2012
I-Team Waste Watch: The Rapid
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The I-Team Waste Watch tonight has turned their eye to The Rapid bus system in Grand Rapids.
One year ago today, voters passed a new tax increase--by just 136 votes--to expand and lengthen service on public bus routes.
Now, there are big questions about ridership and results.
The I-Team took a late night ride on Route 1 down Division Avenue--supposedly the busiest bus in the entire system.
We got our own private ride for three miles all the way down to 54th Street.
Taxpayers are paying more than $1 million annually for the Rapid to put more buses on the road in the evenings--from 6:00 on--and expand service longer into the night--past midnight.
Route 44 runs from Grandville to Downtown Grand Rapids, and has 8 different cameras on board.
Watching film from them for nearly an hour revealed zero riders.
We watched Route 17 close to 11:00 p.m., from the Ford International Airport to Woodland Mall. Two riders got their own private ride that night.
We sampled in the daytime--Route 12, around noon. There was no company to be had.
Peter Varga, CEO of the Rapid, said he thinks the night expansion has been a raging success and that they were good investments.
We looked into ridership numbers for a sampling of 100 bus trips Monday through Friday late at night when service was expanded.
For 6% of those rides, there were zero passengers. 32% had three or fewer people. 56% had six or fewer. A whopping 80% had fewer than 10 riding the bus each time.
Most of the trips surveyed were part of the expanded service, but the average ridership for the new trips added was 5.64 passengers.
Federal documents pegged the Rapid's operating expense per bus hour at $74.
Cab fare is suddenly looking competitive and watchdogs are angry.
Even the staunchest critics want to see the Rapid succeed--to receive the performance voters expected last year.
Unfortunately, no one could tell us a new plan or new way to stop those private, late-night rides.
Leaders in Walker and Grandville told the I-Team that they are going to be collecting signatures over the next few months to put to a vote a measure to back those cities out of the Rapid system, because of perceived waste.