C.R. transit consumers speak out

Last week I announced a C.R. transit experiment, and asked readers for their advice and suggestions. They didn’t disappoint.

With new money soon arriving for public transit services in Cedar Rapids, many local groups are studying all aspects of what currently exists. Surveys have been completed. Public meetings have been held. Yet my experience is that most of the people who seek and are elected to public office — those folks that tend to hold the purse strings for public transportation — have few, if any, firsthand experiences of what it is like to use and rely on public transit.

So, I announced last week that I’ll be riding city buses, beginning the week of May 1, as if I was part of a one-car family. Alternate transportation would only be available to me on nights and weekends. The following week, I will ride the bus as if it is my only transportation option. I’ll blog my experiences and, hopefully, the experiences of others I meet on the bus.

I asked readers to forward specific routes I should ride or tasks I should attempt to complete. Here are some of the suggestions, many made by multiple people:

• Find and download the smartphone app that shows real-time city bus data. Is it useful? Does it need additional features?

• Save some money by purchasing a day pass from the bus driver when you step on the bus. It’s good for the entire day, no matter how much you ride or how many transfers you make.

• Pretend that you have children that need to be dropped off at child care before you go to work. Does service start early enough so you can still make it to work on time?

• See if you can get someone in authority to answer a question about when locals can expect regional service, when the transit turf wars will end.

• Have your kids ride the bus alone. Talk to your local school district about whether or not they encourage or teach students how to ride the bus. (Note: My teenage daughter and her friends have used the bus by themselves, usually to shop at Lindale Mall.)

• Take the bus for lunch near Westdale to see if you can be back at the office on time.

• Gather up some clothing and take it with you on the bus to a local laundromat.

• Ask the bus driver to lower the bus and clear front seats for you. (Note: From a disabled rider who has had mixed experiences in accessing buses and reserved seating.)

There were also a few submissions I can’t complete. My guess is that these were submitted to make the point that they are impossible under current conditions.

• Use the city bus as your designated driver. Go out with friends on a Friday night, indulge in a pint or two and then ride the bus back home. (Note: It would need to be a very early evening out, since fixed bus routes in Cedar Rapids run from 5:20 a.m. to 6:20 p.m. Special after-hours service needs to be scheduled 24-hours in advance, and is intended for rides to and from work, school or other classes. I’m not sure a night on the town fits the guidelines.)

• Ride public transit to and from your office in Iowa City. (Note: There’s no regular, regional public transit service.)

Keep those suggestions and ideas coming.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on April 30, 2016.