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Oh, the places you'll go (on The Rapid)

Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!"

When the book "Oh, The Places You'll Go," by Dr. Seuss, was released in 1990, it was embraced as a rousing message for those entering a new stage of life, particularly high school and college graduates. It also helps celebrate the spirit of adventure and the joy of discovery, including the adventures and discoveries that can be experienced using The Rapid, the bus transit system serving Grand Rapids and surrounding communities.

"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go."

The types of destination served by The Rapid are as varied as its riders. Whether it's work or health care or entertainment or school, The Rapid gets riders to where they need to be.

Adeline Heck, a student at Grand Valley Student University, appreciates the convenience of riding The Rapid between the Allendale campus, where she resides, and downtown Grand Rapids. This summer she's been traveling downtown regularly to meet with an instructor. Her favorite destinations, however, are along Route #5 on Wealthy Street, where she visits restaurants like the Electric Cheetah and Brick Road Pizza, plus The Sparrows coffee shop. Best of all, as a GVSU student, she rides free!

Sean Dingman, another GVSU student, frequently rides The Rapid to his favorite destinations -- the malls. Woodland Mall, Centerpointe Mall, RiverTown Crossings Mall are all on Dingman's list of most frequently traveled places, and he rattles off the bus routes for each expertly. High school students like Alana and Kjh-lajhni also love riding The Rapid to the mall. "I use it to go wherever," said Kjh-lajhni, "especially when I can't get a ride." High school student Lena also enjoys visiting the malls, but uses the bus just as frequently to visit friends.

Rosa Lopez, a GVSU student, rides the bus out to Allendale for classes, to the mall, and to go to work at Little Mexico Cafe downtown. "The bus drivers are really nice," she said, adding that when she was a new rider they were very helpful in explaining where to get on and off. Plus, "it goes everywhere I need to go!"

Ron Pawloski relies upon The Rapid to get to and from his job working for Kent County. His favorite destination is home. James Strikwerda feels the same way. He recently lost his license and now relies upon The Rapid for his commuter needs. Kevin Schumaker, meanwhile, doesn't really like taking the bus at all and views it as a necessity.

"You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights."

Yvonne Dudley-Woodard rides The Rapid to the hospital, to visit friends, and to work (she currently sells fruits and vegetables at a farmers' market held at The Rapid's central station every Friday). Her favorite destination is the museum and she loves getting into discussions on the bus. "Somebody will just say something and then everyone will start getting into it, I just love that," she said.

Trisha Eadie uses the bus daily to go to doctor appointments and whatever she needs to do, but her favorite destination is school. Meeting new people on the bus helps make the experience even more enjoyable. Sirhonda Polasek uses the bus nearly daily, with her most frequent destination the library, where she studies and uses computer services to look for a job. Recent high school graduate Jessica M. uses the bus nearly daily to go just about everywhere. She rides The Rapid to go to appointments and to visit friends.

"Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying

You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing."

WLAV's "Blues on the Mall" is a favorite downtown destination for many riders. Grand Rapids' nightlife destinations also attract Rapid riders cautious of hitting the road after a fun night out.

Ashley Schulte, a paralegal and graduate student, began riding The Rapid as a GVSU undergraduate and found it so convenient she hasn't stopped.

"My single best experience was on a Friday night in 2008 when a group of my friends rode The Rapid from GVSU to the downtown Pew Campus and went to a Griffins game," she said. "The best part was riding back. Everyone pumped up from the hockey game, singing songs as if it was an elementary school field trip."

"Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
will make you the winning-est winner of all."

Brad Becker, in his 50s, enjoys riding his bike to Fifth Third Ballpark to catch the Whitecaps. But when the game's over, he lets The Rapid get him home. "I just ride my bike to the nearest bus stop and catch the first bus home," he said.

For Becker, a hedge fund/money manager, the bus is just convenient. "I don't like the hassles of driving," he said. He uses the bus to get his mail downtown, grab lunch, or go out to meet friends at his favorite watering hole. "The bus station's right across the street from Founders, so I can drink to my heart's content without ever worrying about it!"

"I've literally taken every bus route," says Becker. "It's well run. It's reliable. Fares are reasonable. I even got a date out of it once." While that didn't turn out so well, Becker says he's not giving up on The Rapid. He takes his bike along on "urban adventures" to all corners of Greater Grand Rapids, exploring his newly adopted city.

"I never took a bus until two years ago. It wasn't until I moved to Grand Rapids from Tucson that it even dawned on me to take a bus. In Tucson I had an office that was just too inconveniently located, plus it's a car culture down there. Grand Rapids lends itself better being that it's smaller and more centralized."

When friends visit from elsewhere, "we take the bus to East Hills or Eastown so we can go to The Winchester, Greenwell or Marie Catrib's," he said. And when Becker goes to visit friends in Chicago, he takes The Rapid downtown, gets on the Amtrak train, then takes the Blue Line in Chicago. "The round trip costs me no more than $70," he says.

Riders of The Rapid come from different backgrounds and have different reasons for riding and have different destinations. One thing they have in common, however, is that The Rapid gets them where they need to go.

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
You're off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!"

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