Guest Opinion | Expand Iowa City public transportation services

The Iowa City Community Transportation Committee advocates for Sunday and evening public transportation services.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa City Transit bus as seen on Sept. 21, 2020.

On March 2, Iowa City Transportation Director Darian Nagel-Gamm presented potential transportation service enhancements to the Iowa City City Council, including Sunday fixed-route, Sunday demand response, Late Evening fixed-route, Late Evening demand response, and Night-Owl demand response.

The enhancements included leveraging existing services that could be engaged in these enhancements, such as Iowa City Transit, Horizon’s Neighborhood Transportation Service, Johnson County SEATS, Yellow Cab, Lyft, Uber, and Via. After presenting the pros and cons of each, Nagel-Gamm recommended the city adopt plans for a two-year pilot program to provide fixed-route service on Sundays for an annual cost of $780,000. She estimated that it could see up to 3,700 daily riders and 192,400 annual riders.

She added that if late-night service is desired, the city should partner with Horizon’s Neighborhood Transportation Service to provide late-night and overnight demand response for an annual cost of $648,000, plus a start-up cost of $219,000. This service would provide transportation for an estimated 18,200 riders annually.

The Community Transportation Committee was thrilled to hear support from the councilors for the Sunday and late-night service pilot program. Iowa City’s low-income and Sunday workers would benefit greatly from Iowa City finally providing public transportation on Sundays and evenings.

Our 2015 survey revealed that the main challenges utilizing public transit to get to work or to job interviews were that the bus did not run when they needed it and that Sundays and after 11 p.m. were the most requested times for additional service. CTC has long advocated for Sunday and late-night transit service, based on strong community demand. Unfortunately, that barrier has existed for too long for many in our community.

Numerous employers remain open on Sunday or are open long after the buses stop running. A Sunday and late-night program would prevent workers from having to walk home, many in the middle of the night on the shoulders of highways. Employees who work on Sundays or late hours deserve the same safe and reliable transportation workers enjoy who do 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday days. Our 2015 survey revealed that 30 percent of the workers we spoke to gave up looking for work or were forced to quit a job because of problems with transportation.

The Community Transportation Committee supports the adoption of Sunday and late-night transportation services to provide Iowa City workers with safe transportation after work and on Sundays. However, we believe that a short-term commitment would be a disservice to our community.

We urge the Iowa City City Council to pursue a sustainable long-term Sunday and late-night strategy. Regardless of what these programs look like, we believe Iowa City residents deserve to get to and from their workplaces safely and conveniently. To learn more about the Community Transportation Committee, you can visit our website.


Maya Sims, Advocacy Intern for Iowa City Community Transportation Committee

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