Transit conference highlights collaboration between GVSU, Rapid

GVL / Emily Frye    
The Rapid on April 20, 2016.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye The Rapid on April 20, 2016.

Kyle Bindas

Grand Valley State University and the Rapid hosted the Public Transportation and Universities Conference for the first time April 16-19.

The conference brings together university transit officials and members of public transportation services from all over the country. The conference is put on every two years and for the first time, Grand Rapids was chosen as this year’s location, having the conference in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

Speakers covered topics such as sustainability, new technology, safety and funding for public transportation. There was even a student advocacy segment, where student leaders were invited to talk about their views and ideas for public transportation.

Sean O’Melia, student senate’s vice president for campus affairs, was one such speaker.

“I think that this conference will help Grand Valley as it will help (to) be able to give the Rapid ideas on how to improve their services for the students,” O’Melia said. “The Rapid is a key part to the culture and functions of Grand Valley.”

For Grand Valley, the conference meant a chance to highlight the success story of its partnership with the Rapid in supplying students with reliable public transportation.

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase Grand Valley State University to other universities across the United States that will attend this,” said Lisa Haynes, assistant vice president of operations for the Pew Campus and regional centers. “Some may not have heard of Grand Valley, and it’s a great time for us to be able to tell our story.”

When GVSU opened the Pew Campus, it needed a reliable way to get students back and forth between both campuses.

“When we opened the Pew Campus, when we went from one building downtown to a campus, we knew we needed to have a dependable, seamless operation to get back and forth from between the two campuses,” Haynes said. “We investigated the best way to do that, and partnering with the rapid was the way we chose to do that.”

GVSU was the 19th university in the country to create a partnership like the one the university has with the Rapid. The partnership has been a great success, with daily ridership of GVSU bus routes skyrocketing.

“In 2000, when we started this partnership, we had 700 riders a day,” Haynes said. “Now, our comprehensive transit system between the off-campus shuttles and the campus connector was about 24,000 (riders) a day. That’s something the university should be very proud of.”

Beside showing off GVSU’s success, this conference was a way for the university to learn from other systems.

“I’m hoping that we can learn some things from other universities, and they can learn from things from us, as to what works well and what doesn’t work,” Haynes said.