Staff Editorial

Corridor governments making positive transit changes

A bus is parked at the Ground Transportation Center in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A bus is parked at the Ground Transportation Center in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Sometimes, speaking up about a problem can move mountains, or a fleet of buses.

A parent whose Washington High School student couldn’t afford a bus pass asked the city if something could be done to help. That led to an agreement approved this month by the City Council with several area schools and colleges to cover student bus fares.

So far, Cedar Rapids Community Schools, Kirkwood Community College and Coe College have signed on to sponsor student fares, year-round on all fixed routes. Mount Mercy University is considering the arrangement while other local school districts and businesses are welcome to participate.

“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.

This is a good idea, given the transportation challenges many families face. Removing this financial barrier will be one less worry for those families. All of the entities involved deserve credit for moving swiftly and smartly to address the issue. The $50,000 combined being paid by the schools is a bargain.

We encourage other districts — Linn-Mar, Marion, College Community and Xavier — to join the effort.

Iowa City is studying the possibility of going a big step further, eliminating all bus fares. This month, the City Council hired Nelson Nygaard Consulting Associates to conduct a comprehensive review of Iowa City’s transit system. Thanks to a cost-sharing agreement, the study also will include transit systems serving Coralville and the University of Iowa.

Zero fares, expanded hours and Sunday service all are being considered.

Iowa City’s efforts are aimed at increasing ridership, a key provision in the city’s climate action plan. The city plans to convert its fleet to electric buses in the future.

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Multiple concerns likely will drive the need for more and more affordable public transportation. It’s encouraging that officials at both ends of the corridor are making changes. But much more needs to be done to make public transit a viable option for many. More cooperation, between governmental entities, business and regional authorities, will play a large role in making needed changes happen.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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