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Voters in Grand Rapids suburb could withdraw from regional bus system

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

Voters in a Grand Rapids suburb will decide in November whether the city should withdraw from the regional bus system.

This week the City of Walker certified petition signatures collected by the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance.

Ben Reisterer lives in Walker and is with the alliance.

"We’re not against busing at all. We think it’s a good thing for the community. But we don’t necessarily agree with the way they are going about providing that service," Reisterer said.

He wishes Walker would consider contracting transportation services instead.

"We think there’s quite a bit of waste involved in the system and that they’re not exactly responsive to the will of the people out here in the outlying communities," Reisterer said.

Last year people in Walker voted against a tax hike to improve bus service. But voters in the larger region passed the increase; by less than a half of a percentage point.

If voters in Walker withdraw from the bus system in November, residents will still have to pay that tax for the remaining six years.

Transportation officials with bus system declined to comment. However, The Rapid CEO Peter Varga issued this written statement.

"Our job remains to provide efficient and effective service in the six city region and beyond, as evidenced by the 162% increase in ridership since 2000." Ridership is expected to top 11.5 million trips this year, providing needed connections to jobs, fostering economic development, and encouraging a sustainable future for our region. "The Rapid has had twelve years of balanced budgets with no deficits, kept its promises in terms of service improvements over the years, and continues to be a driver in regional development, said Peter Varga, CEO of The Rapid. "It is a leading example of regional cooperation and collaboration." "The more people learn about The Rapid, the more they realize the value. Surveys consistently show that over 70% of people use The Rapid to get to work. That number was 80% in the most recent survey," said Barb Holt, Chair of The Rapid Board and Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Walker. "By providing service across the region, people gain access to schools, churches, hospitals, and places of employment."

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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