Guest Columnist

Iowans demand transit for all

To say the money doesn't exist is no longer acceptable.

Dale Retzlaff, a driver, wipes down a bus between routes at the Ground Transportation Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Mo
Dale Retzlaff, a driver, wipes down a bus between routes at the Ground Transportation Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Monday, May 18, 2020. Bus service resumed limited routes today, with free fares continuing for riders. Riders must wear a mask and bus capacity is limited to ten passengers at a time. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Transportation to work is essential for finding and maintaining employment. While the current Iowa City and Coralville bus systems meet the needs of weekday 9 to 5 workers, they fail to meet the needs of low-income, second-shift, and Sunday workers. We believe all workers deserve the same service.

That’s why we are asking the Iowa City and Coralville City Councils to do two things: make all bus passes universal on Coralville and Iowa City buses and extend service to midnight and Sundays. CTC has demonstrated an immediate need for these services in our 2015 study in which we found that 40 percent of respondents reported turning down a job due to poor transportation. Our study also revealed that the most difficult days to get to work were Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and that the most difficult times to get to work were early morning and evening.

The current system negatively impacts people with low incomes. Why is it that only the 31-day pass (the most expensive pass) works on both Coralville and Iowa City buses but none of the other passes do? All bus passes should be honored on both systems. Expanding service to midnight and Sundays would benefit the many workers whose employers remain open at night and on Sundays such as hotels, food service, and retail stores. These policies would not only help improve individual lives in our community, but would help both cities meet their climate action goals by providing services that encourage more people to take the bus.

To say the money doesn’t exist is no longer acceptable; our community deserves these services and it is the councils’ responsibility to find the funds to provide them. In Iowa City, law enforcement receives more than 20 times as much funding as transportation. We recognize the Iowa Freedom Riders’ demands to defund the police department and reallocate those funds in a way that benefits BIPOC persons. We are also calling on the city to seek state and federal grants for employment-focused transit initiatives and developing public-private partnerships that enhance the affordability of transit for workers. These requests are supported by the Center for Worker Justice, Democratic Socialists of America Iowa City, Iowa Freedom Riders, Coralville Community Food Pantry, Successful Living, and Domestic Violence Intervention Program. For more information visit www.ctcjc.org

Maya Sims is the advocacy intern for the Community Transportation Committee.

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