GV commuters cite growing concerns with overcrowding, wait times on Laker Line


GVL / Aida Dennis

Grace Smith, Staff Writer

This fall, Allendale and Grand Rapids have been buzzing with conversations about concerns regarding Grand Valley State University’s transportation system.

High prices of on-campus parking and the frequent distribution of parking violations have dissuaded students from investing in on-campus parking passes. As a result, many students rely on GVSU’s bussing system as their primary means of transportation.

The growing number of concerns being raised by students regarding the bussing systems have centered around overcrowded buses running late or less frequently than the years before.

“Whenever I get on between 12:00 and 5:00, the bus is always full and there’s barely any room to stand,” said student commuter Kate Lewis.

Lauren Gutierrez, another GVSU student commuting to campus, said that the slightly longer wait times between buses have impacted her commute to class this semester.

“I miss when it was 10 minutes between buses and not 15,” said Gutierrez. “It’s a long wait if you just miss the bus, especially if you have another class to get to.”

According to GVSU Public Transportation Manager Chris Swank, however, such extended wait times came at the request of the service provider.

“The Rapid, who provides our bus service, asked for the Laker Line to run on a 15-minute frequency as that is consistent with the highest frequency on their other routes,” Swank said. “This allows for better connectivity between bus lines.  The change added five minutes between bus schedules.”

Swank said that GVSU Transportation Services is aware of potential issues of overcrowding on the buses, and they will continue to monitor for potential adverse effects of this change as time goes on.

“We’ve been watching ridership numbers compared to last year’s,” Swank said. “Most days, they have been less than previous years’ ridership.  We continue to monitor ridership and will work with The Rapid to make appropriate changes to bus frequency if demand exceeds capacity.”

The Laker Line, which runs between GVSU’s Allendale Campus and its Pew and Health campuses in downtown Grand Rapids, was established in the summer of 2020 with a fleet of 16 buses to carry up to 90 passengers, according to MLive reporting.

Amanda Moore, director of communications for the Rapid, shared recommendations to make sure students get on the bus at their preferred time.

“Planning to be at your stop or station five minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time will give you time to catch your bus,” Moore said.

While even five minutes may be difficult to find in the schedules of busy students, implementing this into students’ daily schedules can help to ensure that they are able to get where they need to be on time.

Additionally, commuters like GVSU student Natalie DeLand said the number of stops on Lake Michigan Dr. has increased the travel time along the route.

Swank said, however, that GVSU and the greater Grand Rapids community have reasons for the multitude of stops on the way to Pew Campus.

“The Laker Line was developed with community, GVSU faculty, staff and student input,” Swank said. “The Laker Line was also constructed with federal, local and state grants to build the robust service.  For such a large investment to be made, the service needed to serve all potential users of the service.”

Swank also suggested that students look into the Laker Line’s park and ride options. The park and ride system is an excellent solution for bus patrons who do not wish to deal with congested traffic and complex parking downtown but do not want to endure the additional time it takes to commute on the bus. There are two park and ride locations on Lake Michigan Drive, located at the Standale Meijer and the Walker Fire Station.

As student concerns intensify over elements of GVSU’s bussing system, GVSU Transportation Services recommends that students with further comments or concerns about the transportation system should email [email protected].