Transit blog, day four

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Does the metro really value all residents?

Only a few seats were filled on the Route 5S bus Wednesday night when I boarded for the last trip out of the transit hub in Cedar Rapids.

Since buses on Route 5 are heavily used, the lack of passengers was initially puzzling. A few more boarded the bus as it worked its way along First Avenue, headed to Marion, but not very many.

After thinking about it last night, and again this morning (while riding a full Route 5 bus into downtown), I’ve come to the conclusion that bus passengers were sparse because it was the last route of the day. There were no more opportunities remaining for someone to travel to the store for a gallon of milk or to go out to dinner, at least not if they wanted to catch a bus home afterward.

Wednesday was rough and busy for me. Working on a tank of low quality and quantity sleep, several tasks were on my to-do list and not one could be pushed back. That’s the reason why my dragging feet made their way to the transit center so late in the day, knowing that I had more to do once I’d completed the trek home.

The normally bustling Cedar Rapids Ground Transportation Center is much more quiet at 6 p.m. on May 4, 2016, as only a few public transit riders gather inside to wait on the final bus routes of the day. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)
The normally bustling Cedar Rapids Ground Transportation Center is much more quiet at 6 p.m. on May 4, 2016, as only a few public transit riders gather inside to wait on the final bus routes of the day. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)

It was nearly 7 p.m. when I walked into my home and learned (rather loudly and somewhat surly) that the husband and kids were hungry. I had absolutely no interest in cooking a meal, so we piled in the car and went out to supper. It’s one of those luxuries that I take for granted.

If we had no other transportation option, we wouldn’t have been able to schedule special bus transportation since you must do it in advance and the service isn’t intended for recreational outings. Even if we could afford to dine out, we’d need to add the extra expense of a taxi or Uber ride. Lastly, we could have called around to see if any family or friends wanted to pick us up and join us for a meal.

The options are there, but it seems odd that in a metro area the size of Cedar Rapids these are actually requirements for evening activities or entertainment for those without access to a vehicle.

By ending public transportation services when we do, we are effectively telling certain segments of our community that their economic and social input isn’t needed or wanted. It’s de facto discrimination in terms of local government meetings, and exclusionary during community celebrations.

Your child is supposed to perform at a school concert? Great, find your own way there.

Got a notice for a public hearing on zoning changes in your neighborhood? Guess you’ll have to pull a little extra out of your household budget if you want to attend.

And while I don’t want to pick on the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization, it’s bothersome that the entity charged with reviewing and approving transportation investments in this area scheduled a public transit open house at a time that prevented public transit users from attending and riding a bus home.

In a little more than a month, metro area residents will come together to celebrate the nation’s independence. The Freedom Festival committee and affiliated organizations have planned many affordable, recreational events. But take a glance at the schedule and what you find is event after event after event that is held too late in the day for anyone who needs or wants to use public transit. Maybe you can take that walking tour of New Bohemia or watch a movie on the riverbank next year. And I hear many of the television stations offer footage of the fireworks — and the balloon glow. Maybe someone will tweet it.

Would you feel welcome and wanted in this community if you had to pour over logistics just to see a Friday night movie, attend a hockey game, take your kids out for dessert, join co-workers for an after-work drink, attend your child’s school functions or eat dinner out with your family?

This blog post by Lynda Waddington originally published on The Gazette website on May 5, 2016. Photo credit: Lynda Waddington/The Gazette