GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) – Grand Rapids is launching 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 will kick off this week with free rides to attract commuters, the Grand Rapids Press reported. The federal government paid about $32 million of the costs, and the state paid almost $8 million.

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

“We’ve designed this to attract the choice rider,” Venema said. “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 think 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 nearly $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.

“A quarter of existing routes are faster … it’s not really that big of an improvement,” Steinport said.

The National Transit Database said the city’s traditional bus system had 11.9 million passenger trips in 2012. That’s up from 10.8 million in 2011 and 9.7 million in 2010.

Venema and other Rapid officials expect the addition of the Silver Line to increase the number of riders. They said the system will eventually be able to serve 5,000 riders each weekday.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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