Student senate looks into expanding transportation throughout Allendale

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

McKenna Peariso

Grand Valley State University’s current transportation system operates through the Rapid bus system that connects several apartment complexes to both Allendale and Pew campuses. At a recent Student Senate meeting, the idea for expanding transportation into more parts of Allendale was discussed. Currently, the furthest west the Rapid bus can go is its stop at Becker and University drive. Student Senate President Rachel Jenkin and several local businesses are hoping to provide transportation for students that goes further west into Allendale.

“Having available transportation to the community that we live in is crucial for us to continue to grow as a university,” Jenkin said. “The majority of our students are not aware of the local businesses or cannot utilize them due to transportation. Because of this, we are not helping our community grow or teaching our students to explore what is around them.”

Allendale has many restaurants, businesses and services that currently only benefits students with their own vehicle. Students that depend on the bus system miss out on local resources like dentistry, counseling, Family Fare and more. There are also several apartment complexes and housing units that fall beyond 48th avenue where many students reside that currently lacks bus transportation to campus.

Student Senate and several local businesses are looking into developing a type of transportation so students can have access to services and resources in Allendale. An increase in students being able to access these local businesses would also be a possible increase in Allendale’s local economy. Ottawa County and Student Senate have recently been putting forth effort to improve university and county relationships, with the most recent Ottawa County Commissioners meeting being held on GVSU’s campus. This recent effort to better community relations may assist Student Senate in developing transportation in Allendale.

“If we were to have transportation expanded through Allendale, I think it would have a huge impact on our students and the economic growth of our surrounding township,” Jenkin said.

At the Student Senate meeting on Nov. 13, Jenkin explained the parameters and possibilities to developing transit in the Allendale area. The idea for transportation in Allendale had been proposed at several Student Senate meetings prior. However, the timeline to plan, develop and administer a system will likely be prolonged. Jenkin told her fellow senators that purchasing another Rapid bus that would operate further west in Allendale could cost the school between $86,700 to $400,520 depending on the route. A bus system was tested in Allendale approximately 10 years ago, but did not satisfy the township organizers and was quickly shut down. Even today, another Rapid bus route still may not be able to serve enough students to balance out the costs. 

“This is an ongoing conversation that has been happening for over ten years,” Jenkin said. “All parties in the conversation agree that transportation would be greatly beneficial for students and the community, but it is costly and if Grand Valley wants to continue to stay with our free transportation for all students, a project like this needs outside funds.”

Several off campus apartments including Campus View, Trio Apartments and Enclave have purchased their own shuttle buses that drives students to and from campus or directly to the nearest bus stop. Jenkin referenced these shuttle buses at the Nov. 13 Senate meeting, citing the possibility of utilizing a shuttle bus similar to these apartments for bussing students around Allendale. These shuttles can accommodate as many as 16 to 25 passengers and can reach higher speeds than a Rapid bus. However, there is the question of how many students will utilize the Allendale transit, which could be a higher demand than a shuttle bus could provide.

A system of transportation in Allendale is still in the early stages of brainstorming and research, with no definitive plans currently in the works. Assuming community relations with Student Senate continue to be developed, GVSU students may eventually see an Allendale transit system to connect them to local resources.

“I’m confident that this will be a big year in regards to getting the idea from paper and conversation, to action and planning,” Jenkin said. “I think with the hard work on all ends this can definitely come into fruition in the future, and I’m really grateful that the community sees how important this is to our students and the potential in this project.”