CR Transit changes nearly here

Proposed changes to CR Transit passed their first public hearing hurdle this week.

The upcoming changes are a result of recommendations from the 2016 Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) transit study, as well as current fiscal reality.

In short, most transit riders will see improvements, but not a much wanted broader expansion of service.

What’s included? Glad you asked.

• Alternative Transfer Locations (aka Mini-Hubs) — Riders are going to see more crossover of routes, which will allow transfers to more easily take place outside of the ground transportation center in downtown Cedar Rapids. These will be located at Lindale and Westdale malls, and at the east and west side Wal-Mart stores.

• Circulators — Looping routes will be implemented for Marion (Route 20) and the northeast side/Hiawatha (Route 30), making it easier for residents of those areas to run local errands. The circulators will connect with other routes through the Lindale Mall mini-hub and, for Route 30, the Wal-Mart on Blairs Ferry Rd.

CR Transit buses are reflected in the windows of the Ground Transportation Center on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
CR Transit buses are reflected in the windows of the Ground Transportation Center on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

• Frequency Increases — Buses on heavily used Route 5, which travels First Avenue between the GTC and Lindale, will arrive every 15 minutes. The two circulators begin with one-hour frequencies.

• Peak Service — Several Cedar Rapids high schools will benefit from higher bus frequency during peak hours.

• Stagnant Fares & Taxes — There will be no fare or Cedar Rapids tax levy increases, and Saturday transit service remains free.

• Route Efficiencies — Infrequently used bus stops are eliminated or combined, and widespread rerouting will take place. For instance, routes 2 and 9 are being combined, while routes 4 and 6 will connect at the Wal-Mart. There are multiple other changes, most minor. A complete list with maps and frequencies is on the City of Cedar Rapids website.

Not (yet) included are a handful of more costly changes many transit riders want:

• Sunday Service
• Expanded Footprint
• Express Service (to Downtown Cedar Rapids)
• Night Service

That last bullet point was the most requested system enhancement from those who participated in the transit survey. It’s also my biggest complaint about local bus service.

To understand why, consider Tuesday’s public hearing on these proposed changes. The hearing began after local service ended for the day. So, the people most impacted by the changes were effectively cut out of the process unless they could arrange alternate transportation. Any way you slice it, that’s unfair.

The good news is that CR Transit Manager Brad DeBrower is aware and exploring options. He told Cedar Rapids Council members to expect to hear from him again next year, when he hopes to present options for expanded transit hours.

After the hearing he told me work being done now, specifically fleet and other equipment updates, could help pave the way to night service.

So, who wants to ride the CR Transit buses with me after the route changes are implemented?

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on May 27, 2017. Photo credit: Liz Martin/The Gazette