Iowa City buses won’t charge a fare

The City of Iowa City will continue to provide transit services but will suspend transit fares and require riders to enter through the rear doors of the bus to promote social distancing and prevent the spread of coronavirus.


Nick Rohlman

Commuters load and unload buses at the Downtown interchange in Iowa City on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.

Rachel Schilke, News Reporter

Iowa City announced on Thursday that buses will suspend transit fares and will now require passengers to enter through the back doors to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

According to a city release, city officials would like to promote social distancing while also providing transportation services to the area. This response from the city comes after Iowa’s total number of positive COVID-19 cases rose to 38 on Wednesday.

The City said that citizens should avoid traveling by bus even with the modifications to the system and limit travel to necessary trips. Those with mobility devices or issues will be accommodated, the release said.

The suspension of fares and use of a back door entrance are among the steps that the city has taken recently to address COVID-19 to keep both riders and transit operators safe from the virus.

The City said the steps they will implement to ensure riders’ safety include:

  • Nightly sanitizing of the buses, targeting the driver’s area and common spaces in the bus
  • Installing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posters carrying hygiene recommendations in English, Spanish, and Chinese on every bus
  • Placing spray bottles of disinfectant, boxes of Nitrile gloves, and paper towels in each bus along with directions for use for the driver
  • Placing antibacterial soap and hand washing guides in all Transit/Parking restrooms and wash areas
  • Disinfecting all offices and break rooms several times a day, with spray bottles and wipes available to employees at all times

The City said there will be a limited supply of wipes and disinfectant materials for riders, but that the buses will be routinely cleaned by employees.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the steps taken by Transit follow Gov. Kim Reynolds declaring a State of Public Health Emergency on Tuesday.

“These are unprecedented times and the state of Iowa will do whatever is necessary to address this public health disaster,” Reynolds said in a previous release. 

Following the declaration of a state emergency on Tuesday, Reynolds had called for the closure of bars, fitness centers, casinos, theaters, and other areas of mass gatherings, including day-care and senior care center facilities

In a video posted by Mayor Bruce Teague on Wednesday, he declared a state of Civil Emergency and said that Iowa City would be enforcing Reynolds’ orders. He said that if voluntary compliance with the orders does not occur, the police will enforce the orders by citations or arrest.

“I shall take extraordinary measures in order to maintain health, welfare, and safety in our city,” Teague said in the video. “While there is a reason for concern, by following the guidance and preventive measure outlined by the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control, you can help slow the spread of this horrific virus.”

According to the City of Iowa City website, the city closed the Iowa City Public Library, recreation facilities such as Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, senior center, the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center, and City Hall.

The website also said that critical operations such as the fire and police department, providing clean water, sewer services, trash and recycling collection, and transit will continue to operate, but could be subject to modification as circumstances change.

On Wednesday, Reynolds said in a video that the state of Iowa would be following the 15-day plan set by President Trump. Among the guidelines, gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, she said in the video on Wednesday that the most important thing for Iowans to do is to stay home if they, their child, or a family member is feeling sick, and to practice social distancing at all times. 

“We all have a role to play,” Reynolds said, “…and now is when our actions matter the most. We can do this.”