NTS Services May Change Due to Federal Funding Cuts

By Addison Speck, Reporter

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By Addison Speck

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Federal funding cuts could seriously impact the customers of one Linn County Transportation Service. The Neighborhood Transportation Service is primarily an overnight shuttle that transports people in Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, and Marion to work. The service runs when city buses don't.

"We serve people who are mostly low-income people who are re-entering or entering the workforce and who are predominately making between 18 to 22 thousand dollars a year," said Kay Fisk, the Development Director of NTS. The service is normally funded by the City of Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, Marion, United Way of East Central Iowa, and federal funding. But Fisk said some legislation passed over the past summer took that federal funding away.

"We are left with about a third of our budget that we need to find a way to make up for," Fisk said. The 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. shift received most of that federal funding. That time slot provides about 98 hundred rides a year and serves about 550 people. "We have people who work in hospitals, care centers, custodians, people who clean buildings," Fisk added.

But until NTS finds more money, those riders may need to be prepare for some changes. " If someone calls in and they are the only person that we are going to pick up in a certain area, we may have to say no if we have nobody else to pick up in that area," Fisk said.

She also said that NTS may also consider not taking on any new customers or increasing their rider fare. "Right now we charge five dollars a ride, but we are thinking of increasing our fare to 6 dollars a ride. While that doesn't sound like much, it's quite a bit for someone making 18 to 22 thousand dollars a year," she said. It currently costs NTS about $17.50 for each ride they provide. That price includes fuel, paying the driver, the driver's benefits, and insurance.

Fisk also worries about the impact it will have on those who employ their riders. "We are taking people to work, so what will happen is that the businesses we serve will find that their employees are not going to be able to get there anymore and then these low-income people will find themselves without jobs," she said.

Fisk said NTS leaders are already talking with area businesses, the cities that help fund the service, and legislators to help find a way to make up the gap in funding.

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