New bus service connects Iowa City and Cedar Rapids

A new bus service will give Iowa City to Cedar Rapids commuters another way to travel to help avoid congestion due to the I-380/I-80 interchange construction project.

Josie Fischels, News Reporter

A new bus service between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City will begin today to serve commuters along the Interstate 380 corridor.

The Iowa Department of Transportation’s interchange project on Interstate 380 and Interstate 80 has been a headache for Iowa City and Cedar Rapids commuters. With the potential to greatly disrupt travel time and create traffic congestion over the next five years, the search for alternative transportation has been ongoing, said Brent Paulson, the DOT research and technology manager.

Luckily, the DOT’s launch of the 380 Express may provide some relief to travelers. The bus service will begin its route today, with the first of four buses leaving Cedar Rapids at 5:20 a.m. and last bus returning at 8:40 p.m. The service will run every 30 minutes Monday through Friday.

The service is a result of an Iowa Commuter Transportation Study conducted in 2014 used to identify and evaluate alternative transportation options for commuters in the I-380 corridor, the DOT website said.

The study “identified the existing and future commuter needs in the corridor and determined the viability of various commuter transportation alternatives to address those needs,” according to the website.

Transit administrator Brock Grenis said the service will run from downtown Cedar Rapids to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, with stops along the way at Kirkwood Community College and Coralville. Though not much can be done to ease the traffic flow (or nonflow) at the interchange, he said, he sees the new bus as an opportunity to provide some relief.

“It won’t take away all congestion,” he said. “It’s mostly just an alternative for the commuting public to use to make it easier to commute the corridor.”

The buses are operated by Windstar Lines, a charter-bus company selected by the DOT in April based on its new deluxe buses and affordability.

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“The fact that we’re starting off with brand-new motor coaches that are very highly equipped makes it a pretty attractive ride for the commuter to be able to get back and forth to work,” Windstar President Jeff Greteman said. “The coaches are equipped with power outlets at each seat and have Wi-Fi as well. The seats are very comfortable. It’s a great way to spend the commute riding rather than driving yourself.”

Daily trips will be $3.50 each way, but monthly passes are also available, at discounted rates for the elderly and disabled.

The DOT’s Paulson said the passes can be purchased through the Token Transit app Routes for smartphones. Arrival times and buses can also be followed in real time via Google Transit.

“We’re very excited about this service,” Greteman said. “It’s a neat thing for our company to be a part of. We’re very hopeful that the public is excited as well, and we hope to see the ridership at levels needed to sustain the service.”

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