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Marion to Cedar Rapids bus line may expand
City also looking into micro transit within Marion
MARION -- It’s looking like Marion may extend its bus route to and from Cedar Rapids while adding micro transit vans inside the city.
Staff from Marion, Cedar Rapids and Horizons presented three transit options to the Marion City Council during its work session Tuesday night.
Marion city staffers are recommending the option that would extend the bus route along First/Seventh Avenue through Uptown Marion and loop back with a 15-minute frequency through Uptown.
“What we will do now is talk to partners to craft what’s next,” City Manager Ryan Waller said. “Cedar Rapids’ budget cycle is the same as ours so now we can have conversations” on what an intergovernmental 28(e) agreement would “look like.”
The preferred option also would add three micro transit buses. And the current transfer stop at Twixt Town Road would end and Marion passengers wanting to go into Cedar Rapids would simply stay on the bus.
“This option is what would still be a fixed route,” Marion Associate Planner Kesha Billings said. “If you get on the bus at Uptown Marion, there is no transfer to get to Cedar Rapids, and that’s the benefit of extending the route.”
Other options included keeping the route as it is and adding micro transit, or extending the route at a higher cost toward eastern Marion.
Marion has set aside $225,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars to buy three, 16-passenger buses for the micro-transit piece. The micro-transit buses also could pick up passengers anywhere in Marion and drop them off anywhere within Marion.
Marion’s current transit service, contracted with Cedar Rapids, has around 500 to 550 riders per month. The route is a one-hour circular route in Marion. Marion has a contract with Horizons for Horizons’ after-hours ride service.
The conversation on public transportation in the metro area started earlier this year, with Cedar Rapids initially planning to raise the cost of its agreement with Marion by more than $100,000 to about $535,000 annually. With the after-hours service added, the total cost would have been $567,205 for Marion.
Later, after figuring out its state and federal transportation funding, Cedar Rapids revised Marion’s cost to $431,000 for the next fiscal year.
The cost of the new preferred option is less -- $402,095. Adding micro transit, which includes $150,000 for the annual capital replacement cost of a bus, would raise the total cost to $961,775.
Impact on taxes
Going with any of the options would require an increase in the city’s current transit levy of 28 cents per $1,000 taxable valuation.
For the preferred staff option, the levy increase would be the smallest of the three options -- at 21 cents per $1,000 taxable valuation -- to bring the levy to 49 cents. That would add about $26 to the property tax bill for a home assessed at $200,000.
It costs $1 for an adult to ride a Cedar Rapids Transit bus. The ride is free for senior citizens, those on Medicare, passengers with disabilities and for passengers with low incomes. A ride costs $2 on a Horizons micro-bus, but the goal is to pair the two systems so nobody has to pay two fees for one trip.
“Until we have direction from council, we don’t exactly know how that will work,” Billings said. “The thought would be that it all equals out in the end, and there’s a seamless transition.”
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