Many readers have submitted questions regarding my two-week stint on Cedar Rapids Transit. Here are your answers.
• Will you continue to use the city buses?
I won’t ride every day, at least not under current system conditions. I have a job that sometimes requires me to work outside of the office. Using transit for meetings, interviews and other off-site tasks is too cumbersome and time-consuming to be practical.
That said, I do have an aversion to winter driving. On work days when I don’t have outside appointments, I can see myself using the bus to commute to and from work.
• What do you most like about public transit in Cedar Rapids?
Hands down, the people — riders and drivers. There is a sense of place on the buses, especially during morning and evening commutes. Riders have gotten to know one another and it is generally a friendly atmosphere. They look out for each other, and hold a “do unto others” philosophy that I wish was more prevalent throughout the city.
Each day I’ve watched as bus drivers show patience, professionalism and kindness. It is truly amazing once you see how often they are disrespected by other drivers.
• You’ve written about the people and the infrastructure, but what about the cost?
Cost is important, but it wasn’t the focus of this project. I wanted to provide a consumer’s prospective, which I saw as lacking among the community leaders and elected officials who are making decisions about the quantity and quality of transit services.
Public transportation is an ongoing discussion, and my project is only one piece. When study results are presented next month, I expect heightened scrutiny of revenue and expenses. My hope is that what I’ve written will become a part of that conversation, that it will make the experience of transit consumers more difficult to ignore.
• Why aren’t you talking about how this type of system is obsolete?
Many people — including several former bus drivers — have pointed to ride services like Uber or the introduction of driverless cars as omens of the impending demise of public transit systems. It is entirely possible that is where we are headed, but we aren’t going to be there this week.
If there were other affordable and timely options, I guarantee that many on the city bus would be using them.
• Isn’t public transit full of germs, dirty and unsafe?
I didn’t bring along a microscope to check for bacteria, but also didn’t die or become ill as a result of riding the bus.
On rainy days the floor of the bus can get messy just like any other high-traffic area, but generally the buses are free of debris and as clean as a public space can be.
I’ve experienced no safety issues on the city buses, at bus stops or while walking. People are just trying to get where they need to go.
• You gave me a magic wand and told me I could use it to change any one thing I wanted about the bus system. If I hand it back to you, what would you change?
I’ve had three big frustrations — bus frequency, hours of operation and ease of navigation. If I could only correct one, it would be hours of operation. Ending bus service around 7 p.m. is shameful.
This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on May 14, 2016. Photo credit: Lynda Waddington/The Gazette