Story and Photos by Jonathan D. Lopez – Photo Editor
I’m a moped rider and I have two options every day: ride the moped or ride the bus. Riding the #1 Division bus takes more than 50 minutes when adding the time of walking from Fulton Street to the Main Building. In comparison, my moped allows me to get downtown in 25 minutes, and I don’t have to pay for parking either. Unfortunately, the growing number of clashes with Mad Maxes and mindless texters on the road has reduced my desire to drive downtown every day. Neither option is great, so I was ecstatic when I heard that the Silver Line had been approved. With Monday being the opening day of the Silver Line, I had to give it a shot.
About 8 a.m. I arrived at the 60th Street Silver Line stop just as the bus was pulling away. Nine minutes later the next bus arrived – shockingly early. We waited a couple minutes before departing, so I sat down in the back and I asked a group of three sitting next to me a few questions. As it turned out, they were all from Grand Rapids Community College, as were many other passengers on the bus.
I asked if any of them rode the bus regularly. None of them did, but David Conti, 18 of Kentwood, replied, “Not since the 5th grade.”
What made them consider it now? “I figured it would be way cheaper,” said Thyra Ferguson, 18 of Kentwood.
Quickly figuring the math out in my head, if they took the bus both ways for four days a week, each student could save $6.80 by avoiding parking costs, and about $11 in gas if they had a car getting 25 miles per gallon.
As we continued our ride, I couldn’t help but notice how pleasant riding the Silver Line was in comparison to the #1 Division bus. Aside from the smoother engine, the fact that the bus was only stopping every mile rather than every few hundred feet made the ride’s pace seem much more like that of a car. The bus was less cramped at all times. There were about 20 people riding the bus the majority of the time headed into Grand Rapids, and heading back out, there were about 15. The smaller intervals between the buses definitely helped keep the buses from becoming congested like the #1 Division route.
About half way to Grand Rapids, I tried to use the free Wi-Fi, but unfortunately, they didn’t have it up and running yet. Well, one can’t complain about the lack of free Wi-Fi when the ride itself is free (at least for the opening week). The turn onto Wealthy Street came as a surprise to me as I forgot I wasn’t on the #1 bus. Making our way through the roundabouts by Mercy Health was unsettling to say the least. I can’t imagine what it will be like going through the roundabouts in the wintertime, but it can’t be any worse than the buses trying to get up and down the Michigan Street hill.
Overall, I was impressed with the speed of the Silver Line, both in the morning and the evening. The 8:13 a.m. bus arrived at the Spectrum/GRCC stop at 8:37 a.m., and the bus I rode at 4:35 p.m. arrived back at the 60th Street stop at 5:05 p.m. I wasn’t the only one impressed. All three of the GRCC students I rode with in the morning said they planned to ride it every day.
“It adds five minutes coming in and fifteen minutes to my commute home,” said Brian S., 30 from Gaines Township. “It fits my needs exactly.”