Michigan's first-ever bus rapid transit system, the Silver Line, is providing superior travel for commuters.
Grand Rapids’ Interurban Transit Partnership (The Rapid) needed an innovative transit solution to inspire growth and modernize its transit system. Division Avenue stood out as a prime area to invest in, based on its population and employment density. More than a decade after the project was conceived, Grand Rapids is now home to Michigan’s first bus rapid transit (BRT) system and reaping the benefits of reduced commute times and increased economic development.
The Silver Line connects downtown Grand Rapids, the city’s Medical Mile with two other municipalities, Wyoming and Kentwood, as it moves south on Division Avenue toward 60th Street. Riders include a mix of both working professionals and students. A vital component of Grand Rapids’ public transit system, the Silver Line decreased travel time along the route from 45 minutes to 27 minutes and increased ridership by an estimated 2,300 riders per day (or about 40 percent) since it opened in August 2014. Dedicated lanes, which separate buses from traffic, ensure a speedy commute even during rush hour times.
increase in daily ridership
increase in daily ridership
CDM Smith partnered with The Rapid to provide final design services and construction assistance for the $40 million, 9.6-mile Silver Line. Because the line crosses through three municipalities, consensus between them was paramount to making decisions, such as agreement on uniformity of bus stations. CDM Smith helped coordinate monthly technical advisory committee meetings with representatives from each community and also sought feedback from property owners near the project so that all needs and viewpoints were considered.
Silver Line wait time sign
Stations include next-bus arrival signs to keep riders updated. Additional features include snowmelt systems keep platforms clear in winter and column lights that change colors as buses approach.
The Silver Line offers more than just the BRT basics. With innovative features like real-time lighting via each shelter’s rooftop columns that transitions from white to green within one minute of a bus docking, it is easy for approaching passengers to gauge whether they can reach the platform in time to catch the next bus. Level boarding ensures all platforms are at the same elevation as bus doors, providing a smooth transition for passengers by eliminating the need to step up or down when entering and exiting the vehicle. With level platforms and precision docking, stations allow for full wheelchair accessibility without ramps. Stainless steel sheltered bus stations also feature snowmelt systems underneath the platforms to combat Michigan’s snowy winters and keep riders safe while they wait.
Through open and honest communication, we were able to design a successful project that the whole community can benefit from.
According to project manager Jason Fox, "Through open and honest communication between the CDM Smith design team, The Rapid and local stakeholders, we were able to design a successful project that the whole community can benefit from." The Silver Line’s increasing ridership has fostered economic growth along the corridor. Existing businesses are now more accessible and the increase in passengers along the corridor create opportunities for new businesses.
Completed on time and $5 million under budget, the Silver Line is inspiring cities near and far to consider how BRT can provide convenient transit and rejuvenate communities. In fact, Michigan is looking at its second BRT—the Laker Line—to serve transit between Grand Valley State University and downtown Grand Rapids on Lake Michigan Drive.
Open communication between the client and stakeholders resulted in a system that the entire community benefits from.