CR Transit changes nearly here

CR Transit changes nearly here

Gazette Column
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…
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‘Circulator’ worth Marion investment

‘Circulator’ worth Marion investment

Featured, Gazette Column
City Manager Lon Pluckhahn and Marion Economic Development Corporation President Nick Glew made the pitch to Cedar Rapids Transit: Expand public transit services farther east, across Highway 13, to the police station and 184-acre business park known as the Marion Enterprise Center. [caption id="attachment_252" align="alignleft" width="640"] A sign promoting one of the vacant lots in the Marion Enterprise Center business and industrial park stands near the intersection of Partners Ave. and N. Gateway Dr. in Marion, Iowa on Nov. 1, 2016. Municipal and economic development leaders are exploring the possibility of expanding public transit services east to encompass this area. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] Brad DeBrower, CR Transit manager, answered that call, providing statistics and options to the Marion City Council. One clearly rose above the rest. Marion can expand access…
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White House Housing Toolkit a good start

White House Housing Toolkit a good start

Gazette Column
Have outdated and onerous zoning ordinances and environmental protections stifled housing development and local economies? A new federal report says they have, contributing to issues such as income inequality, gentrification, strained safety nets, commute lengths, racial segregation and homelessness. The past few days have been nearly overwhelming. We survived (and at least partially mitigated) another historic flood, did our best to absorb this election season’s first presidential debate, and remain in mourning for the latest young life claimed by senseless gun violence. It’s little wonder a new housing report didn’t spawn big, local headlines. [caption id="attachment_150" align="alignright" width="640"] (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)[/caption] Yet this White House produced “toolkit” offers a road map not only for the housing-strapped California coast, but for Midwestern cities like Iowa City and Cedar Rapids as they…
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VIDEO: Cedar Rapids bus riders talk pluses, minuses of system

VIDEO: Cedar Rapids bus riders talk pluses, minuses of system

Gazette Blog
Hoping to provide elected officials with a better understanding of how existing public transit services in Cedar Rapids impact the public, columnist Lynda Waddington recently rode the bus and spoke with other riders. Here are a few of the people she met, and what they think about the service they rely on to get to work, school and elsewhere. Read more about Cedar Rapids bus service in this Q&A piece, in which Lynda answers questions about her time on the city buses. This blog post by Lynda Waddington originally published on The Gazette site on May 23, 2016. Photo credit: Lynda Waddington/The Gazette
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Answering your bus questions

Answering your bus questions

Gazette Column
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,…
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Transit blog, day nine

Transit blog, day nine

Gazette Blog
The changing face of 'those people' One of my main take-aways from this project has been that many people — roughly four out of every five I’ve spoken with — have developed a certain perception of who uses public transit. Some believe transit users are all homeless or nearly so. One woman told me that most bus riders are people with alcohol addictions who have had their driver’s license revoked by the state. Still others have implied the system would be more efficient if it only stopped at Goodwill or other places that employ people with disabilities. An added tax on retirement housing complexes and nursing homes should be explored, one man wrote, since the elderly are primary transit consumers. Large, local businesses should sponsor transit services, noted another, because…
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Transit blog, day eight

Transit blog, day eight

Gazette Blog
There is sort of an app for that At the beginning of this series I said that after I used the Cedar Rapids Transit app more, I’d offer a review. Today seems like a good day. The first thing you need to know is that the website — rideCRT.com — and the companion mobile app aren’t homegrown. They are part of a system offered by Utah-based Ride Systems, which reports it works with more than 150 transit agencies in North America — municipal, academic, corporate, airport and resort. I’ve used their site to access a tutorial for the app, and have also embedded that video below. (If you aren’t into new age music, you might want to watch with the sound muted.) I can’t say that I learned anything from…
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Transit blog, day seven

Transit blog, day seven

Gazette Blog
Not all stops are created equal Until I met Marion resident Ann Roberts (day three) I didn’t spend much time thinking about bus stops. I’m guessing most people who don’t ride the bus don’t really see the stops, since many are little more than a small sign on a poll. Route 5S, for instance, has a total of 114 stops along its route, which runs from the transit hub, along First Avenue and out to the Marion Wal-Mart near Hwy 13 — roughly one stop every two blocks. Placing a shelter or even seating at each stop on each route wouldn’t be practical or possible. Some are located in the parking area (between street and sidewalk) of residential roads, others adjacent to private property. And, when you are riding the…
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Transit blog, day six

Transit blog, day six

Gazette Blog
Gaining a new perspective Reaching the halfway mark of my two-week stint on public transit feels good. It also seems like a good time to relax a little and reflect. I drove my car this weekend, and I must admit that I enjoyed it. For Mother’s Day, I wanted new shoes and my sweet husband suggested I just go and find the ones I wanted. In fact, he told me to “buy two.” It was a task made exponentially easier by car, even though Cedar Rapids Transit offers free rides on Saturday. But even as I drove around, visiting various retail joints, I was more aware of the community and the transit buses than I normally would be. If you ride city buses for any period of time, you can’t…
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Cedar Rapids Public Transit’s mental toll

Cedar Rapids Public Transit’s mental toll

Gazette Column
Heard of the cognitive tax? This week, thanks to Cedar Rapids Public Transit, I’m feeling it. Cognitive tax is a term used to describe the mental state of those living in poverty or other stressful situations, also known as a scarcity mind-set. The more uncertainty in your life, the more mental work you need to expend, which takes a toll on the quality and number of tasks that can be completed. I think of it in terms of bandwidth, and how computers and smartphones bog down when they are trying to do too much with too little. When people have stable jobs, stable homes and generally predicable lives, routines go somewhat smoothly. We know where to go when we get hungry, know where we sit for work. Those are things…
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