Exact change by Lynda Waddington

Transit blog, day three

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Ann Roberts of Marion waits at the Marion Square bus stop on May 4, 2016. Since she has never had a driver's license, Roberts depends on public transit for nearly all of her travel needs. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)
Ann Roberts of Marion waits at the Marion Square bus stop on May 4, 2016. Since she has never had a driver's license, Roberts depends on public transit for nearly all of her travel needs. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)

Remember yesterday when I warned that today’s transit blog installment might arrive a little late? Even I didn’t expect it would be quite this late, but today was busy and fruitful.

This morning I had the pleasure of visiting with other transit riders while waiting on and riding the city bus.

“I love the bus,” Marion resident Ann Roberts told me while we rested on a bench at the Marion Square bus stop.

She lives on 35th Street, just down the road from the Marion Hy-Vee, and has been a part of the community for two years, having moved here from the Quad Cities. At age 67 — “soon to be 68" — Ann has never had a driver’s license, and relies on public transit for nearly all her travel needs.

This day she had traveled to uptown and visited the Marion Public Library. It’s a typical transit trip that shows the quirkiness of the existing system.

To access the bus Ann walks from her home to a bus stop near the Hy-Vee. For a trip to the library, she rides into uptown, usually exiting the bus at the Marion Square bus stop. She crosses Seventh Avenue, the downtown park and Sixth Avenue on her walk to the library.

When she’s ready to return home, the shortest bus route option would be for her to walk three blocks further south to Third Avenue. Route 5S drives through this mostly residential part of town, snaking its way toward Highway 13, where it stops near the Wal-Mart before heading back toward uptown and bus stop closest to Ann’s home.

But, that’s not what Ann does. She backtracks to Marion Square, where she catches a bus going in the opposite direction. Instead of traveling the shortest route, she rides all the way to the downtown transit hub and then back into Marion and, finally, to the bus stop she needs. That’s a long trip — about an hour from start to finish — but she’s learned the longer drive is her best option.

Ann isn’t a young woman any more, and her mobility has decreased. While walking to a bus stop on Third Avenue is possible, standing and waiting at a stop with no bench takes a physical toll — and she’ll still need to walk from the bus stop to her home when she exits the bus.

And, when I offered her a pretend magic wand that she could use to change anything about existing transit services, it was that first and last stretch of her journey she’d like to modify.

“I’d change the route so that one of the buses would turn and travel along 35th Street,” she said.

Not only would that change cut a few steps from Ann’s day, but it also would provide a more direct bus route to Marion’s municipal pool and Willowood Park.

Near Lindale Mall, a man wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” cap boarded the bus. He told me he served for a few years, starting in 1970, and I told him about my brother who died in war. Although he had a license when he was younger, he no longer drives, walks with the help of a cane and uses public transit for many of his needs. He is especially thankful for the shuttle service that takes veterans from the Cedar Rapids hub to appointments at the VA hospital in Iowa City, even if it makes only one trip (leaving early, returning late).

For veterans with mobility issues, the Iowa City shuttle service can be more convenient than visiting the Cedar Rapids Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, or CBOC, on Wiley Boulevard because of the roughly half-mile distance between the nearest bus stop and the facility.

In addition to visiting with other riders, I experienced a midday bus trip and rode the last bus out of the transit hub this evening (which deposited me at home just before 7 p.m.). It’s even later now. So, I’m going to save those observations for tomorrow’s blog post.

• Comments: @LyndaIowa, (319) 339-3144, lynda.waddington@thegazette.com


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