Opinion | Local transit should be prioritized

Public bus systems need to be a priority to improve cities.


Averi Coffee

The Burlington Trailways location on the corner of Court Street and South Dubuque Street seen on Thursday, April 6, 2023.

Shahab Khan, Opinions Columnist

The Iowa City City Council needs to focus on expanding the capacity of Iowa City’s local transit system.

Recently, two major bussing companies in Iowa City — Megabus and Burlington Trailways ­— announced plans to expand routes connecting Iowa City with several other cities. This development will bring more economic activity to Iowa City, as connectivity between cities leads to expansions in markets.

The council should take notice of the potential benefits that come with the expansion of the Megabus and Burlington Trailways and work to expand the routes offered by the local bus system.

In the past few years, Iowa City and Coralville improved the bus system that makes up the backbone of the Iowa City Transit system.

Buses that serve the Iowa City community now operate on Saturdays, meaning people who are reliant on public transport can travel around the city to fulfill their needs six days a week instead of the previous five.

Since 2021, the city installed 13 new routes connecting Iowa City residents in low-income areas to other parts of the city where they can access better jobs.

However, the bus system is still closed on Sunday, which means someone living in a low-income area who needs groceries at Hy-Vee would have to arrange their own transportation.

These low-income individuals often do not own or have limited access to a car. Without public transport, their freedom of movement is restricted. Expanding bus routes to serve them on Sunday will almost certainly benefit them the most.

Allowing buses to run seven days a week means that residents, especially low-income ones, have access to businesses where they can run errands. Alternatively, expanding bus routes on Sunday will also increase work availability, boosting economic productivity for Iowa City.

There are also empirical effects of increasing the availability of local transit systems. A study that Reimagine! published in 2011 examined the effects of increasing busing routes in the Twin Cities and found that wages and quality of life for low-income individuals increased dramatically.

 Iowa City is becoming a living testament to these findings. Even though there haven’t been any large-scale studies done on Iowa City transit since 2021, results from other cities have shown that increasing the capacity of bus systems will lead to an increase in economic activity and job opportunities for low-income individuals.

The final reason for improving local bus transport will benefit Iowa City is that increasing the number of bus routes makes taking the bus more appealing than the alternative: driving a car.

Increasing the use of public transit is one of the best ways to reduce tailpipe emissions. In fact, some studies estimate that utilizing public transport instead of cars can decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 45 percent, according to an article from UCLA.

In summary, improving upon the local bus system makes it so that people gain access to more economic opportunities. Furthermore, it decreases carbon emissions leading to a better Iowa City and community.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.