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Members of Voices for Public Transit know public transportation benefits everyone. We’re keeping it moving.

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Members of Voices for Public Transit know public transportation benefits everyone. We’re keeping it moving.

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A Tale of Two Public Transit Systems



The New York City Subway. The Chicago “L.” The Washington Metro. When Americans think about public transportation, they usually picture multi-modal systems. However, our nation is diverse—and so are the public transit systems that serve these different communities.

Today—we are highlighting some public transit systems folks may not know a lot about. These smaller systems in towns, suburbs, and rural areas provide essential mobility and benefit local economies. Check out our spotlights, one in Michigan and one in Iowa, to uncover interesting facts about these small but mighty public transit systems.

The Rapid, Michigan

Grand Rapids has a population of about 200,000 people—and boasts a robust public transit system known as “The Rapid.” This multi-modal system includes buses, paratransit, vanpools, bus rapid transit, and a downtown shuttle. The Rapid—which serves the city and five suburbs—provides more than 11 million rides annually.

The city’s main transit hub is a commercial anchor for the city. When the central terminal was expanded just over a decade ago, it became a catalyst for transit-oriented development (TOD), attracting $74 million in new investments.

Investments in the region presented an opportunity for Grand Rapids to leverage and expand its footprint by expanding development near critical bus routes. For example, a two-block area on the city’s West Side is being completely transformed with new retail, office, and residential space. Residents and workers in the $60 million “super block” project will have immediate access to public transit with several Rapid bus lines running adjacent to the development.



Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, Iowa

The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority—better known as DART—serves the Greater Des Moines area, an urban metropolis with a combination of bus lines, shuttles, paratransit vehicles, and a rideshare program.

DART has played a central role in revitalizing the city’s core. In 2012, DART opened a new Central Station, attracting development and new investments to the region. This state-of-the-art facility replaced an aging mall and enabling a prime corridor—Walnut Street—to be redeveloped into a retail district.

This public transit system is critical in connecting Iowans with job opportunities, access to entertainment, and making the region stronger.

Case Study: Dee Zee Manufacturing

Recently, auto accessories manufacture Dee Zee Manufacturing partnered with DART to support a bus line extension that will bring employees right to the company’s main plant. The partnership is expected to help Dee Zee hire and retain employees.

The strength of the DART system is also creating other unconventional development opportunities. For example, Des Moines has reimagined how to repurpose unused parking spaces while supporting public transit. Now Des Moines is considering transforming unused parking structures into mixed-use developments. One old parking structure was recently demolished to make space for the city’s largest project in decades—a high-rise with offices, a movie theater, a boutique hotel, and apartments.

The Power of Small Public Transit Systems

As DART and The Rapid demonstrate, public transit and its benefits are not limited to large cities. Communities of every size benefit from public transportation. Stay tuned to learn more about public transit systems in cities across the nation.