Johnson County group calling for more affordability and expansion of Iowa City transit system

Iowa City Transit buses wait for riders in downtown Iowa City on Monday, September 14th, 2020.
Iowa City Transit buses wait for riders in downtown Iowa City on Monday, September 14th, 2020.(Aaron Hosman)
Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 5:24 PM CDT
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The City of Iowa City is studying how its own bus system, Coralville transit and the University of Iowa’s bus systems work and how they can improve. The Community Transportation Committee wants to make sure people in Johnson County can get to work, even if they don’t have a car. It’s asking the Iowa City City Council to make changes to its bus system to meet that need.

“These changes that we are asking for are specifically directed toward people with low income and who rely on the transit systems to get around town,” Maya Sims with the Community Transportation Committee said.

The committee is pushing for all bus passes to work between both the Iowa City and Coralville bus systems. Currently, only the most expensive pass does that.

“Right now, the system is totally working against and disadvantages people with low incomes because the most expensive pass is the only pass that lets you move between both systems. I mean, that is a disparity that is so clear, people with low income can’t afford that luxury,” Sims said.

The group also wants to serve people who work second or third shift, or work Sundays. She said in their own 2015 survey of people who rely on public transportation, those who were unemployed or stopped looking for jobs said they stopped, because of transportation issues.

Expansion of the program is expensive and Iowa City Councilperson Laura Bergus said with ridership down 60-70% due to the pandemic, it may be hard to justify.

“We believe these are really basic services that should be expected on any public transit system and that if they can’t find the money in the budget, they are not doing enough to look into state and federal grant funding,” Sims said.

Bergus said the Council needs to be sure ridership will rebound since the system is operates like a business, using its revenues to run.

“It is the City Council’s responsibly to provide that service and we can’t leave a few people out because they don’t have the income to buy a car,” Sims said.

Bergus said the Iowa City City Council will review the findings from its latest area transit study on October 6th, 2020. Sims said she plans to attend.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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