Education

Cedar Rapids deal with several area schools envisions free bus fares for students and staff

So far, Coe, Kirkwood and Cedar Rapids schools have tentative agreements

Cedar Rapids Community School District buses at the Education Leadership Support Center in Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Community School District buses at the Education Leadership Support Center in Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Several area schools and colleges are expected to begin covering bus fares for students and staff to ease both getting there and coming from after-school activities.

The Cedar Rapids City Council signed off Tuesday on a sponsored fare agreement with multiple schools and colleges. The agreement covers rides year-round on all fixed-route buses.

“This certainly eliminates a barrier, but also gets people on our buses,” Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart said. “Our buses are great, and it gets cars off the road.”

So far, Cedar Rapids Community School District schools, Coe College and Kirkwood Community College have tentative agreements with Cedar Rapids Transit that now be signed with the council’s approval. The city has also extended an invitation to Mount Mercy University, which is interested, according to Brad DeBrower, transit manager.

Other school systems such as Marion, Linn-Mar, Xavier and College Community also could participate if interested, DeBrower said. Business could join the program for their employees.

“We’d like to have a comprehensive program,” DeBrower said.

In total, the entities would pay the transit division $50,000 to sponsor their students and staff for bus fares. The contribution equates to $3 per student or employee with a suggested minimum contribution of $3,000 annually. Three dollars is the full all-day fare.

The schools would be required to provide a picture ID for high school and college students and staff, which they would be required to show upon using the bus. If they did not show the ID, they would have to pay the fare of 75 cents per student or $1.50 per adult.

Elementary and middle school students would not be required to carry an ID.

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The idea germinated from a parent who contacted the city about a Washington High School student who couldn’t afford a bus pass. The parent wanted to see what could be done to help, particularly with low-income students, DeBrower said.

“We get knocked a lot for how slow things move sometimes. In this case, one email from a parent is all it took,” said council member Dale Todd, applauding the initiative.

The goal is to have the agreements in place before the start of the school year, which is later this month.

In other City Council news Tuesday:

— High-volume water pumps will be installed and bring pump stations near the Sinclair Levee and parking lot No. 44 in the New Bohemia District to full capacity, following council approval of an estimated $700,000 project. Equipment to reduce humidity in the lot No. 44 pump station also is part of the project.

The pump stations were built previously, but did not have the full capacity of pumps. The project, which should be complete by spring, should minimize the need for temporary measures in those areas when it floods.

“When the river is flooding, we have to close off all the storm sewer intakes,” said Rob Davis, flood control manager. “But what happens when it rains? We have to pump that out.”

— Council members set a public hearing date for an essential services designation for a controversial Cargill rail yard proposed for the Rompot neighborhood. The hearing will be part of the 4 p.m. council meeting Aug. 27 at City Hall, 101 First St. SE. A vote could occur after the hearing.

Several nearby residents spoke at the meeting, echoing their protests against the facility.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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