North Liberty eyeing transit service for poor, elderly

Proposal calls for low-cost, on-demand service, maybe via taxi

NORTH LIBERTY — The North Liberty City Council is looking into a new transit system a little more than a year after the council axed the city bus system because of its expense and lack of ridership.

The council on Tuesday evening discussed a request for proposals for a new on-demand, subsidized transportation service, likely a taxi company.

Those who could be eligible for the service would include the elderly, people who use social services, people who are mobility impaired and some people who may be restricted from driving.

The service likely won’t take the place of Johnson County’s SEATS paratransit service.

“We were trying to design the program to help out some ... groups that may be able to use it, which we would use as a control group,” Mayor Terry Donahue said. “As that evolved, we may start adding more categories on top of it.”

The service would likely be limited to certain purposes and destinations within North Liberty, western Coralville, around the Coral Ridge Mall and Tiffin medical facilities.

A few such places noted in the request for proposals include trips to the food pantry, grocery stores, financial institutions, pharmacies and local government offices.


Both council members Sarah Madsen and Jennifer Goings said they wanted an attorney to review the request for proposals before companies submit bids. Former City Attorney Scott Peterson retired earlier this year.

By having it reviewed by an attorney, Madsen said the city can make sure the company that wins the bid can ensure privacy protections to those residents who would use the service, such as who they are and why they may be at medical appointments.

“You’re only going to get a response as good as the document you submit in the first place,” Madsen said. “I think this is an important service, but if it’s important ... we’ve got the right solicitation being put out there for prospective vendors.”

Donahue said the city has set aside $50,000 for the first six months of the program, an expense the council will reviewed every six months.

Donahue said getting the service underway sometime in January is a “reasonable time period.”

The money will be subsidize a low-cost service, something like a dollar a ride, Donahue said. Estimated cost per trip is $8 to $9 one-way, city officials said.

“Public transit’s been something that as a city we’ve been trying to figure out how best to handle for a while,” said Nick Bergus, the city’s communications director. “So this is really just us trying to figure out what’s the target group and how best to serve those needs.”

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