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City of Marion looking into on-demand public transit options

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 5:00 PM CST
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MARION, Iowa (KCRG) - The city of Marion is looking into a new plan to expand public transportation’s reach.

Currently, only one bus route reaches Marion. It’s run by Cedar Rapids Transportation, but only is accessible to a portion of Marion.

Marion Community Development Director Tom Treharne says the route doesn’t cover much East of Highway 13 or North of Highway 151. “There’s a senior housing development out there, we have Squaw Creek Mobile Home Park that is out there, those areas currently are not served. Those folks, if they desire to ride transit, they’re gonna have to cross 13, which, we don’t want to send anybody in that direction,” says Treharne.

The city is consider swapping out those bigger buses for an on-demand option.

The new service would use smaller, around 15 person vehicles similar to shuttles. It would partner with Horizons, which already provides after hours service to Marion. Riders would schedule a ride via call, computer, or mobile app, and could schedule any time from two weeks in advance to the day of.

Around 550 riders a month currently use Marion’s bus route. The on-demand shuttles could go anywhere in Marion, reaching populations that are under-served or not served at all.

Treharne says the idea came from Cedar Rapids Transit, when it proposed a new contract with Cedar Rapids starting in July would increase Marion’s annual price up to $535, 517 a year.

If Marion made the switch to on-demand shuttles, the annual cost would be around $493,000, not including after hours costs.

Treharne says it would require people to learn the new system, saying “There is something to be said for understanding that when I go to this spot I will be picked up every hour on the hour or dropped on every hour on the hour. There would be a learning curve.”

The city is asking people to fill out a survey to help them get feedback on the idea. It is available through the end of the month here.

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