By Kellie Van Maele
The Ingham County Chronicle
Every morning, Michigan State University freshman Krista Dunger gathers her belongings and heads to the CATA route one station outside of her apartment complex. Being a frequent rider, Dunger is aware of an upcoming change that would transform Michigan Avenue and Grand River Avenue before she graduates.
The revitalization promises faster, easier and more efficient rides to its 1.8 million riders per year, which is very pleasing to Dunger because, compared to other students, she has some extra baggage to carry.
“Having a baby and trying to juggle school is definitely not easy, but route one has been so reliable,” Dunger said, “Hearing of the upcoming changes to route one is exciting because it will make my commutes to campus and work so much easier.”
Laurie Robison, director of marketing at CATA, said that the new bus system will be more accommodating to riders.
“Right now at peak times, CATA is unable to accommodate all customers who want to ride because the busses are too crowded,” Robison said. “It is proposed that new buses along the new route would operate every six minutes using 60-foot buses, compared to the current 40-foot busses operating every 10 minutes, which adds capacity and improves the frequency without negatively impacting automobile traffic.”
Because of the magnitude of this project, the stages of production are very complex. Currently, CATA is in an Environmental Assessment phase, which determines the impacts that the Bus Rapid Transit could have on the environment including noise levels and traffic.
“CATA is currently working to complete its summary of traffic modeling efforts, simulations of traffic behaviors and patterns with the proposed BRT in place, and refining its draft of the EA,” Robison said. “CATA’s board of directors will select one of two proposed BRT alignments in April, then submit the final Environmental Assessment in May for review and comment by the Federal Transit Administration.”
Although the outcome of the EA will not lead to any final decisions for BRT, it will help to advance the process closer to construction.
“If the EA process ends in a “finding of no significant impact,” also known as FONSI, the project will move to the final design and engineering stage,” Robison said. “Construction could then begin in 2017, with opening day occurring in 2018.”
Robison said that the corridor of BRT has a promising future for the residents of Lansing.
“Yes, BRT is a project,” Robison said, “but more importantly it is about transforming our region into a more economically stable and industry-diverse community than it’s ever been before.”
Student and mother Dunger said that she is excited about what the new system would provide.
“To know that the improvements could start happening is a relief,” Dunger said, “Route one has become a lifeline for my family and there truly is no easier way to commute safely, especially with my daughter.”