By Kellie Van Maele
The Ingham County Chronicle
INGHAM COUNTY—Bus Rapid Transit, a $145 million project by CATA, has riders and employees very interested in the future of route one along Michigan Avenue and Grand River Avenue. The project would benefit residents in Lansing, East Lansing, Meridian and surrounding communities with the hopes to improve and expand public transportation in the area.
Currently, the corridor has a higher population and employment density than the region as a whole and, according to Robison, is expected to continue to increase.
“Route one, which currently operates on the corridor, is frequently at or above capacity,” Robison said. “Each week, 10 to 14 trips are over capacity and unable to accommodate passengers waiting to board, but the BRT project will allow more people to move quickly through the constrained corridor.”
The Bus Rapid Transit would differ from CATA’s current buses.
“Initially, it is proposed that buses along the BRT would operate every six minutes using 60-foot articulated BRT buses, compared to the current buses which run every nine minutes using 40-foot buses,” Robison said. “This accomplishes the region’s goal to maximize the number of people who are capable of moving along the corridor.”
Michael Buck, 45, of Lansing says he looks forward to the changes because of his daily dependence on route one.
“I ride the route one seven days a week to get around, but lately it has been really important,” Buck said. “Being sober for four months has really taken a toll, but I can count on the CATA to get me to AA meetings every week. I honestly depend on the bus system more than anything else these days. It has allowed me to stay focused on making my life better.”
Buck was very pleased.
“I really think it would be awesome because it gets pretty packed on the buses,” Buck said. “Especially the route one because rather than just students it’s also a lot of older people that need more space and accommodations.”
Alexis Hamilton, 21, of Lansing also depends on the route one to get to work every day.
“Route one comes very convenient because it drops me off right at work in Meridian,” Hamilton said. “Although sometimes it’s frustrating because there are so many people on the bus and it gets uncomfortable. If the new buses have more space, that will make my ride to work a lot better.”
Not only will the BRT feature newer buses, it will help the corridor of Grand River Avenue and Michigan Avenue maximize its economic potential.
“Approximately 40 percent of all new jobs expected in Ingham County through 2035 will be based in the corridor,” Robison said. “The area within one-half mile of the corridor is expected to add 6,765 new jobs – an increase of 14 percent by 2035.”
With the increase in population, the buses that CATA uses now would not be able to accommodate the number of passengers wanting to ride.
“In the future, conventional buses will not be able to accommodate transit demand, which is expected to increase with the projected surge in both employment and population,” Robison said.
According to the BRT newsletter, the project will also include 28 new stations along the corridor. Each station will have a kiosk to pre-pay fares, a real-time departure screen and an elevated boarding platform at the same level of the BRT buses.
In February, the tri-county board of elected officials discussed and approved adding the project to the region’s long-range transportation plan.
“The long- term plan for funding the BRT is a proposed combination of grants from the federal government through the Federal Transit Administration Small Starts Program, the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program and the Transportation Alternatives Program,” said Susan Pigg, executive director of the Tri-County Regional Planning commission. “So, federal and state grants funds would be for the ‘construction’ of the BRT such as striping lanes and timing stoplights and, once it is built, funding for the actual operations of the system would come from existing CATA operations.”
CATA’s board of directors has yet to decide between one of two alignments for the project.
“Option one is a south-side alignment in which dedicated BRT lanes would be located in what is currently the eastbound travel lanes and the vehicular traffic would be located in the westbound travel lanes and option two is a split-running alignment, in which dedicated BRT lanes would run adjacent to the vehicular travel lanes in both directions,” Robison said.
Both options will be taken into consideration by the board of directors and a final decision will be made in the upcoming months.
“Overall I think this project would help to continue to better the area,” said Noah Powelo, freshman at Lansing Community College. “I am eager to see the changes begin, especially since I would benefit from the new system in the upcoming years.”