Rapid Transit: Almost everybody thinks it's a good idea
Grand Rapids on Monday launched a $40 million rapid transit bus system that connects the city center with southern suburbs.

The 9.6-mile Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit system kicked off with free rides to attract commuters.

"This is important today for symbolic reasons," Mayor George Heartwell told WZZM-TV at a ceremony marking the service's start. "We're the first in the state of Michigan to have bus rapid transit. We are looking toward the future. We're not stuck in the past, we're not even stuck in the present."

The federal government paid about $32 million of the costs, and the state paid about $8 million.

The system cuts a typical 45-minute drive to a 27-minute commute, according to transportation planner Conrad Venema.

"We've designed this to attract the choice rider," Venema told The Grand Rapids Press. "We finally have a transportation mode that's competing with the car. This is part of Grand Rapids growing up. It's a bigger city, and it's a bigger project."

Supporters also said the Silver Line will foster future economic, housing and transportation development. They hope the line will replicate the success of Cleveland's bus rapid transit system, which has stimulated about $6 million in development since 2008.

Jeff Steinport, of the Kent County Taxpayer's Alliance, said he thinks the new bus system is a boondoggle that duplicates existing public transportation routes. -- Crain's Michigan