116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Preliminary ridership estimates for a proposed passenger rail service between Iowa City and North Liberty will not offset the future need for improvements to the nearby - and congested - Interstate 380.
But the service remains a 'natural first phase” for expanded Corridor transit service, state officials say.
An ongoing Iowa Department of Transportation study on the impact of alternative modes of transportation on I-380 found - using federal modeling software - that a North Liberty-to-Iowa City passenger rail service with 30-minute headways would see an average workday ridership ranging from 3,200 in 2015 to 6,200 in 2040.
With 130-minute headways, the service would see an estimated 900 average workday riders in 2015 and 2,100 riders in 2040, according to Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County documents.
Amanda Martin, freight and passenger policy coordinator with the Iowa DOT's Office of Rail, said, while the numbers are preliminary, they show that passenger rail likely wouldn't eliminate the need for upgrades to I-380, which sees close to 50,000 daily vehicles, according to Iowa DOT data.
'It's not going to take enough ridership off to not justify improvements we've deemed as necessary,” Martin said. 'It's a much smaller number of commuters that would use the rail vs. the highway, so you can't justify just doing that as an alternative to making improvements on the highway corridor.”
To compare, planning organization Executive Director Kent Ralston said during a meeting Wednesday that the three main bus systems in Johnson County serve about 7 million passengers a year.
However, discussion among the state, the countywide planning organization and the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway, or CRANDIC, about passenger rail in the Corridor is not dead.
'This is I think the fourth study in the last 20 years that has said passenger rail service between Iowa City and North Liberty is feasible. North of there, not yet,” said Brad Neumann, the organization's assistant transportation planner.
Representatives with the planning group will report the findings to their respective elected bodies to seek votes on whether they wish to proceed with another study on the rail service. That study likely would look at potential ridership revenue.
Jeff Woods, manager of marketing and business development with CRANDIC, said in an email that feedback from the members will help flesh out the next step.
'We look forward to hearing their long-term interests,” he said.
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