Thursday, March 16, 2017

CR Transit moves cautiously in the right direction

CR Transit and the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization rolled out the changes to the bus system they will propose to the City Council, with implementation anticipated this summer. The changes are cautious, more limited than the most incremental model presented at last spring's open house (see link below). They are unlikely to attract new riders, which is unfortunate, but within the limits of their budget and political mandate they will improve the experience of many current riders.

The core features of the bus system remain: daytime only operation (5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.), with lines running hourly out of downtown on looping routes to maximize the service area. However, in a few cases low-use areas have been trimmed, making for a more logical route. The two southeast side routes, pictured below, have been combined, making for a two-mile straight shot along high-traffic Mt. Vernon Road. The routes from the New Bohemia neighborhood near the river to the Mt. Vernon Road Hy-Vee Food and Drug Store, or from Washington High School to New Bohemia, will be far more direct than they are now--see current routes 2 and 9--though it will still be lengthy and tedious to go in the reverse direction.

Route 2 on the southeast side (proposed)
Some trimming and rationalizing would occur on the west side as well. The routes pictured below still take an hour, but are somewhat more direct.
West side route changes
The most dramatic change occurs on Route 5 (blue in the picture below), which is currently by far the leader in ridership. It will now run every 20 minutes, with a 40-minute loop up and down 1st Avenue from downtown to Lindale Mall and back.
Route 5 along 1st Avenue (proposed)
At the mall it will link to two circulator routes which will run hourly to different sections of the adjacent towns of Marion and Hiawatha. This provides more service to a route where buses are frequently crowded, and arguably better service within those towns. The downside is that the circulators will require payment of an additional fare, so that a trip from, say, downtown Cedar Rapids to downtown Marion will cost $3.00 instead of $1.50. That won't affect monthly- or day-pass holders, but at present those can only be purchased at the bus station in Cedar Rapids.
New circulator routes in Marion (light green) and Hiawatha (red) would replace current service

Revolutionary changes like extensive night service, express lines and multiple connections could make the system attractive to new riders,but are probably impossible without substantial infusions of funds. Significant geographic contraction could make the system more fiscally sustainable--possibly providing the basis for revolutionary changes--but would probably impact current riders who, while relatively few in number, depend on the bus. General Mills, Kirkwood Community College and employers around Westdale Mall are where they are, and it's hard to serve them without having extensive routes. For current riders, the virtues of the proposed changes are that they can still get where they need to go, and maybe by a less "scenic" route.

EARLIER POST: "Changes Planned for C.R. Transit," 30 April 2016


  1. F. John Herbert3/19/2017 07:08:00 PM

    Thanks for the update, Bruce. Two questions: Who makes the decisions, and why aren't you one of those people?

  2. Ultimate decision power rests with City Council. They decide some time this summer.... As I've written in an earlier post, I prefer being adjacent to the arena to actually being in it.


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