Tag Archives: grand rapids

Michigan City Gets On-demand Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous car on a road. Inside view.May Mobility recently launched on-demand, autonomous vehicles in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“The on-demand service, which includes four May Mobility Lexus RX450h vehicles and one wheelchair-accessible Polaris GEM equipped with May Mobility’s autonomous technology, operates within a 1.36 square-mile service zone that includes more than 20 designated pick up and drop off areas in downtown Grand Rapids,” explains MITECHNEWS.COM.

Riders can request vehicles using an app, which also suggests the best pick-up and drop-off points for their intended routes. The project’s partners are working on technology that would remind people to take belongings left on seats as well.

Read the whole story here.

Member News: City of Grand Rapids Retains AMG Payment Solutions for Credit Card Processing


The City of Grand Rapids, MI (GR) recently selected AMG Payment Solutions (AMG) as one of their new credit card processing vendors.

AMG will provide their niche processing services across the City’s entire parking ecosystem, applying their credit card processing solution for transactions at all parking meters, parking pay stations, parking ramps and lots, monthly parking permits, and the city’s Motu mobile parking application. Cities like Grand Rapids utilize a merchant services account to work with their parking hardware, software, and mobile payment providers to enable customers to pay via credit / debit card. These accounts come with high “regulated” debit card transaction fees that can reduce the revenues from these small ticket parking transactions. The AMG niche solution can reduce these monthly fees by 20% to 50%.

AMG’s First Data / Fiserv platform utilizes preferred interchange pricing from both Visa and MasterCard. The City will utilize AMG's industry leading processing platform for small ticket parking transactions. The AMG solution will help save the City of GR thousands of dollars each year. The savings retained by partnering with AMG will allow the City to utilize those funds for higher and better uses in their operation.

AMG’s value proposition is unique and unlike anything else in the merchant processing industry and the parking industry. In addition to the City of Grand Rapids, AMG provides similar services to hundreds of U.S. cities parking operations including Lexington, KY, Manhattan Beach CA, Hermosa Beach CA, Asbury Park NJ, Princeton NJ, Newark NJ, Bloomington IN, Athens GA and Tempe AZ.

About AMG Payment Solutions

AMG is a boutique merchant processing firm with a significant focus on the United States parking industry. AMG utilizes the First Data North processing platform for their clients, and currently partners with hundreds of cities nationwide to reduce their credit card processing costs at parking meters, parking pay stations (kiosks) and mobile payment apps like ParkMobile, Passport or PayByPhone.

AMG specialize in processing the $1-$5 parking transactions cities incur each and every day. AMG offers preferred interchange rates with both Visa and MasterCard on the small ticket “regulated” debit card transactions, and these rates are only available with AMG.

AMG services municipalities, universities, healthcare facilities, and parking management companies to help process parking revenue and significantly reduce client costs.  AMG clients save between 15%-50% compared to their previous merchant service provider.

Parking and the Autonomous Future

Autonomous Vehincles self drivingBy Josh Naramore

There has been a tremendous amount of media attention the last few years offering prognostications and insight into a future where autonomous vehicles are the norm. For the City of Grand Rapids, Mich., the future has merged with the present.

In July 2019, the city with partners launched the Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (AVGR). AVGR is a collaborative, public-private effort to test the readiness of Grand Rapids for self-driving vehicles.

Through the testing of autonomous shuttles, the partnership aims to create more livable cities, attract next-generation innovation and job creators, and place Grand Rapids at the forefront of testing technology in the real world. The partnership has committed to engage the public, explore ridership trends, innovate accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and study impacts to the built environment. Understanding how autonomous mobility will operate in our world and how people will use or adapt to autonomous mobility is essential to making these systems accessible to people of all backgrounds and abilities. Parking and mobility professionals need to prepare for what the future holds and plan to manage it accordingly.

A future in which autonomous vehicles are the norm requires concerted effort on the part of key stakeholders—both in the public and private sector—to develop vehicles, infrastructure, and operational domain sooner rather than later. As the next wave of mobility emerges, it is vital that Grand Rapids stays on the forefront of learning and understanding how new technologies shape and cultivate consumer behavior.

Josh Naramore is director of Mobile GR & Parking Services for the City of Grand Rapids, Mich. He will present on this topic at the 2020 IPMI Virtual Parking & Mobility Conference & Expo; click here for details and to register.


THE GREEN STANDARD: Taking Stock in What You Have: A Case Study

By Josh Naramore

IN THREE YEARS LIVING IN MY HOUSE, I have passed through the kitchen countless times. The shades that hung above the kitchen windows never impressed me, but when I spontaneously removed them last weekend, I was taken aback by the change. I had more light and could see the beautiful wood trim surrounding the window, and all it took was a different perspective.

Sometimes when things have existed for a long time, we take them for grant­ed, especially in the public sector. It’s important for cities, universities, airports, and other institutions that offer transit service to continually revisit their brand and marketing and not take these assets for granted.

For almost 40 years, the City of Grand Rapids, Mich., has operated a transit ser­vice to shuttle commuters from remote parking facilities to job centers through­out our downtown area. This service is paid for with parking revenue and has recently gone through a transformation to better meet the growing demands of the city.

History of DASH

The city has operated a transit service since the 1970s; it was originally branded as the Grand Rapids Urban Shuttle—the Gus Bus. In the 1990s, Gus was rebranded to the Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH), with new colors, logo, and bus wraps. Commuters showed their parking cards and received free transit trips. The service was offered Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. DASH offered 10-minute service from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m. and 30-minute service the rest of the day.

DASH continued without revision for nearly 20 years. Ridership remained flat during those years with about 1,000 rid­ers per day. The service routes had not kept up with changes in the downtown development environment.

Grand Rapids has changed dramati­cally. There are thousands more residents, and employment has grown to almost 50,000 employees. A new convention center increased the number of down­town visitors, and Van Andel Arena hosts a growing number of concerts, special events, and games of the Grand Rapids Griffins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. With all this growth and change, DASH faced new challenges and opportunities.

The Rebrand

I did not realize what the DASH was until a few months after starting my job with the city. Yet, our department was respon­sible for the service. A free transit shuttle was a huge asset that was not being fully leveraged—only a small percentage of commuters even knew about it.

Our convention and visitors bureau requested that the city explore increas­ing DASH service to weekends and later hours of service and rebrand its look and feel. The city partnered with a private marketing firm, The Grey Matter Group, and worked with downtown employers, residents, hotels, and daily users to de­vise ways to improve the service.

We went into the rebrand exercise with eyes wide open and a willingness to change everything. After ridership surveys of users and drivers and focus groups with other stakeholders, the city decided to keep the name. Our team spent six months workshopping logo designs and color palettes and testing marketing tag lines. We also thoughtfully worked through changes to service routes and hours of operation. Instead of focusing solely on the Monday-Friday daytime commuter population, the service was expanded to target growing retail and service employment as well as visitors.

In August 2018, the new DASH service started with two new routes that offer seven-day service and late-night week­end service. Expanded hours give visitors attending special events access to cheaper parking in remote parking lots. Bus headways are maintained consistently at seven to eight min­utes all day. DASH got a refreshed logo and color scheme, along with maps and marketing materials in English and Span­ish. For the first time, the city also began purchasing advertis­ing on billboards, at event venues, and in local businesses to market DASH.

The Future

The expanded service has increased our service costs by 50 percent. Ridership has increased 30 percent year-to-year and continues to grow every month. Parking revenue in historically underutilized surface lots is up 20 percent over previous years. Because of responsiveness of the hotel and visitor businesses to the changes, the city is exploring the potential for private revenue to help offset some of the increased costs. There is also new demand from residents, employers, and businesses to expand the DASH service into neighborhood business dis­tricts outside downtown.

The city has partnered with our downtown development authority and will leverage funding to install improved transit shelters at all DASH stops. These will include solar lighting, trash/recycling receptacles, benches, improved signage, and advertising panels. These ad panels combined with selling advertising space on buses will help pay for snow removal and cleanup at all stops. We’ve also started purchasing new compressed natural gas vehicles and will test electric vehicles in partnership with our regional transit agency. All the new vehicles will have more transparent windows to better allow riders to see out and be seen.

The DASH rebranding has demonstrated to our community the effects of expanded mobility accessibility by thoughtfully updating something that has existed in plain sight for a long time. Remember the shades on the window? Often we, as transportation professionals, are under pressure to deliver better customer service by purchasing new technologies or larger capital investments. Sometimes, taking stock and understanding the existing assets in our communities can have a more significant impact.

Read the article here.

JOSH NARAMORE is director, mobile GR and parking services, with the City of Grand Rapids, Mich., and Co-Chair of IPMI’s Sustainability Committee. He can be reached at jnaramore@grand-rapids.mi.us.