City of Cedar Rapids works to improve bus system

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- After a neighboring city’s bus service was shut down, TV9 looked at the City of Cedar Rapids bus system.

The city council in North Liberty voted to end the $50,000 a year service in September because of low ridership.

There are 12 bus routes throughout the city and in Marion and Hiawatha. The service runs regularly from 5:15 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. on weekdays. It has shorter hours on Saturday and doesn't operate on Sundays. It costs up to $1.50 to ride, and three dollars for a day pass.

TV9’s Samantha Myers rode the buses for a day to see first-hand how they worked. She started her day around 2 p.m. making two stops – one at the Lindale Mall, and one on Blairs Ferry Road. She says the hardest part was waiting for the bus to come.

On a typical weekday, the ground transportation center is full of people coming and going from one destination to the next.

Cedar Rapids transit provided 1.3 million passenger trips in the fiscal year 2016. 62 percent were adults, 24 percent elderly/disabled, 11 percent students and 3 percent children.

Many who ride the bus, have no other option to get around town.
"I ride the bus because I don't drive a car and the reason I ride the bus is I get to work,” Chris Johnson said.

Chris Lewis has been riding the bus since he was in high school. Now he uses it to get to work at the Salvation Army. He doesn't mind waiting for the bus with his friends.

For those that weren't as happy with the bus service, the city listened and is working to improve the routes. The city held a series of public input meetings to hear people's concerns.

"That's probably our biggest change is going to be the increased frequency on First Avenue,” Transit Manager Brad DeBrower said, “Route 5 will end up going between downtown Cedar Rapids and Lindale Mall along First Avenue every 15 minutes. That's our busiest route. I think we're going to see a big improvement on service along that corridor."

The city is also adding more routes to popular locations like the Wal-Marts in town so that people don't have to go all the way back to the main transportation center for transfers.

Right now the bus service doesn't run past 6, but in a few years, the city could change that too.

"There are no changes to our service hours right now, no fare increases, no tax increases, our service hours will stay the same but that was another item that we heard loud and clear was ‘please expand service into the evenings,’" DeBrower said.

Overall the people TV9 talked with overwhelmingly said they appreciate the bus system and wouldn't change much besides adding more hours.

The funding for the buses comes from various tax levies. For now, there will be no fare or transit levy increases.

DeBrower says in the future they may be able to shift money from a fund they are currently using for new buses, in order to fund later hours.

The new routes go into effect July 31.