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New ideas needed to address transit service gaps

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All Corridor residents deserve an opportunity to live, work and fully participate in their communities. Affordable transportation options are necessities toward that goal.

Community members without adequate transportation too often find their lives limited, their world a little smaller. Transportation not only dictates where a person or family can live, but how actively they can participate.

There’s no purpose in rehashing the list of shortfalls within existing public transit services in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas. Frustrations have been voiced for years, with few resulting tangible public investments.

A new funding formula for the Corridor MPO, which serves the Cedar Rapids area, has earmarked federal money for the transit system beginning in 2020. Yet this new windfall can only be spent on capital improvements.

We appreciate the fiscal realities, and applaud those who provide quality service despite long-standing, lackluster investment.

Nonetheless, as Iowa’s population ages and the gap between wages and living costs widen, more must be done to ensure residents of all ages and income levels can get to and from the places they need to go.

We agree with the authors of the latest Cedar Rapids Transit study that a Regional Transit Authority may be needed to fully advocate on the behalf of the service. A system, vital to so many, must be more equitably funded by the jurisdictions and businesses it serves.

New, self-sustaining transportation programs must also be part of the discussion.

We believe Martin Wissenberg, executive director of the Riders Club of America, has an idea worth expanding. His non-profit offers annual memberships and low-cost rides to area residents unable to drive.

While not competing with on-demand services, and shunning fluctuating public funding, Riders Club has evolved into a viable, decade-old service, providing more than 1,000 rides each month.

Unlike other stopgap measures, Riders Club drivers take their charges anywhere at any time they need to go, the airport, doctors’ offices, grocery stores and hair salons, just to name a few.

It is a part of the fabric that has kept the organization’s predominantly elderly clientele active in the community. It is a piece of fabric we desperately need to duplicate and weave into a stronger transportation safety net.

• Gazette editorials reflect the consensus opinion of The Gazette Editorial Board. Share your comments and ideas with us: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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