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Local leaders discuss public transit

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Local mayors gathered for coffee at the GRCC Applied Technology Center to discuss public transit in Kent County.

By Jonathan Stache – Collegiate Staff

Five mayors from neighboring cities gathered at Grand Rapids Community College this morning to discuss public transit. The intent was to address some of the latest concerns from the Grand Rapids community and explain some of the latest developments around the city.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, Grandville Mayor Steve Maas, Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley, Walker Mayor Mark Huizenga, and Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll met in the Applied Technology Center on campus to address public concerns on the city-wide transit system.

The question and answer style meeting invited local residents to voice their opinions and gave the mayors an opportunity to encourage the public to explore the many benefits of public transit. The public transit system has been an area of focus in Grand Rapids recently and Bliss has been making efforts to improve the accessibility for residents.

Changes in bus routes were implemented this month and $45 million have been spent on road infrastructure in this year alone. The intent is to make safer commutes for residents and make public transit more accessible as well.

Expansion of public transit around the county was also discussed, but it would require the support of every township. Some cities do not impose their own income tax which leads to a financial barrier.

Since Bliss has been in office, the number of bike lanes has increased from 20 miles to 80 miles. She is leading a bicycle education campaign to inform local residents on general safety for both cyclists as well as city drivers.

Currently, major employers in the city such as Spectrum Health offer bus passes to their employees. The Wheels to Work program is a partnership between the city of Grand Rapids and Hope Network. It offers companies a way to provide an alternative means of transportation for individuals to get to and from work.

In major cities throughout the country, public transit is the primary method of transportation. The growing city of Grand Rapids is looking to make a potential cultural shift, which may also bring different obstacles. Especially with the winter months approaching, Bliss encouraged local residents to contact city hall with any questions, comments, or potential ideas to benefit the city.

“I find that it’s because of people like you, neighbors, residents, that step up and speak out (that) the best decisions are made,” said Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “The best decisions that I can make are ones where I am well informed and have an opportunity to hear different voices.”

For more information or to contact the city of Grand Rapids, visit their website.

For businesses looking to get on board with the Wheels to Work program, call 616-340-1558.