DOT express Corridor bus service is welcome news

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We’ve long advocated for efforts to encourage better regional connections along the I-380 Corridor, including public transportation options for commuters south and north. Now, at long last, a plan is in place to make that happen.

The Iowa Department of Transportation announced this week its plans for express bus service between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City in 2018. That’s a year before necessary but highly disruptive work will begin on the I-380/I-80 interchange. Planners hope commuters hopping on the bus will relieve congestion through the construction zone.

Bus service will be funded as part of the $270 million construction project. At this point, express buses will run for seven years, from 2018 to 2025. We are optimistic that demand for an intercity bus will show the need for a permanent link.

In the interim, at least, eight round trips would run every morning and afternoon, with the earliest bus at 5:15 a.m. and the last bus at 8:38 p.m. As many as 460 commuters could use the service daily, depending on yet to be determined routes and stops. Planners expect most riders will travel from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City/Coralville. Service was recommended by a 2014 Commuter Transportation study commissioned by the DOT. The East Central Iowa Council of Governments is implementing its recommendations.

It’s a great example of the way that regional cooperation can fill a regional need. And we’re hopeful it will lead to a much-needed discussion about more robust public transportation along and at both ends of the Corridor. Population growth, new technology, environmental concerns and changing commuter preferences will put more pressure on the region’s existing transportation structure to adapt. Expanded public transportation may prove more cost effective than expanded, expensive pavement.

Cedar Rapids is studying its bus system with an eye on the future. There’re been a lot of talk over the years about the possibility of light rail along the Corridor. Growth in existing traffic loads likely will force the addition of lanes along I-380 with a massive price tag.

So the DOT’s announcement is an important step in the process of determining the region’s transportation future. We’re eager to see how the seven-year experiment turns out.

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