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380 Express should continue
Bus started to ease congestion during Interstate reconstruction has proven itself
As work on the Interstate 80/380 interchange winds down, officials are looking at ways to keep the 380 Express bus going when the construction wraps up.
The current funding stream ends when construction is finished, so the ahead of schedule project means finding long-term funding is pressing.
The bus is a great option and provides a needed link between Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Iowa City. Continuing to grow this service on a permanent basis should be a priority. We'd also like to see area cities work with the East Central Iowa Council of Governments in helping establish this as a permanent option -- both in helping identify funding and in helping build awareness the 380 Express exists.
The bus provided more than 70,000 rides last year, the highest since it began in 2018. The fares are $3.50 for full fare, or $1.75 for seniors and those with disabilities -- meaning the bus was the most economical option for many riders.
The service is particularly popular with health care workers commuting to University Hospitals, and for students commuting to Kirkwood. Having ridden the service dozens of times, it's easy to see why. The bus service has proven itself: The drivers and schedules are good, service is dependable even in bad weather. Onboard wifi and coach buses with bathrooms provide convenience, comfort, and the ability to work or wind down while someone else drives.
The cities can and should help ECICOG in several ways. Simple tweaks -- like adding the 380 Express to transit route maps and transit web sites is a low-cost start. Improving signage at transit hubs to include schedules and fare information would be helpful.
The service has worked well, but some longer term tweaks may help boost ridership further:
Move the Iowa City stop from the Court Street Transportation Center to the Old Capitol Town Center, where Iowa City, Cambus and Coralville Transit all convene. This would create easier transfers between the systems as well as a warm area to wait during cold weather.
Increase signage about the service at the Ground Transportation Center in Cedar Rapids and other main stops. A small curbside bus stop sign kitty corner from the GTC is the only marking, making it hard for people to know the service exists even when they are looking for it. Information about the express should also be added to Transit system buses.
Look at a Park-n-Ride lots near the North Liberty interchange at Interstate 380 so the bus could make a quick stop and pick up passengers from a commuter lot with minimal additional time added to the schedule. This would attract more commuters and could eventually be a connection for bus service in North Liberty.
Look at special service during Iowa Football or major athletic events and the creation of a family pass. This would create an attractive option to the games or major events.
Large employers at both ends of the system could look at operating shuttles during peak hours to help employees reach 380 Express stops.
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