The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Free Iowa City transit fares well with UI students

Since it was implemented on Aug. 1, Iowa City’s fare-free transit program has gone over well with University of Iowa students.
Alyssa Maiers
A passenger sits on an Iowa City city bus on Thursday Aug. 24, 2023.

Almost a month after Iowa City Transit transitioned to requiring zero fares, some University of Iowa students are taking advantage of the free bus access.

Bus ridership in Iowa City transit increased by over 50 percent after a month of fare-free busing when comparing August 2023 to August 2022. Since Aug. 1, the City of Iowa City’s buses don’t require a fare, and won’t do so for the next two years as part of a pilot program.

Nearly a month in, city officials have taken notice of the pilot program’s success. Iowa City Director of Transportation Services Darian Nagle-Gamm said bus ridership has increased 53 percent from this month since last August.

This percentage is promising, Nagle-Gamm said because the city’s goal for the pilot program was a ridership increase of 20 to 60 percent.

“We’re really excited,” Nagle-Gamm said. “The community is really embracing the fare-free service.”

Several UI students have taken advantage of the free rides.

Second-year UI student Sebastian Buchman said the reinstating a fare would not deter him from continuing to use Iowa City transit, but he said a fare-free mode of transport would make transit more equitable for people of all income levels.

“I just think that’s something to take pride in,” Buchman said. “It’s a small thing, but it’s something that adds up to feeling like you’re at the right place — like this could be your home.”

Naomi Sennett, a third-year UI student, said she has been using Iowa City transit to get downtown and to her classes since she lives in an off-campus apartment this school year.

She said she likes Iowa City transit because of its convenience for her specific situation compared to other local transit systems.

“[Iowa City transit] definitely reaches a lot farther than Cambus or any of the other buses,” Sennett said. “Also, buses tend to come around a bit quicker than Cambus. They usually have two or three buses running the same route in Iowa City, whereas Cambus, they don’t come around as often.”

First-year UI student Justis Walker said although he lives in a residence hall, he frequently takes Iowa City transit. He said he appreciates the fare-free program because it makes using Iowa City transit less stressful.

“I think it definitely helps with students because it’s something they don’t really have to worry about, especially because a lot of people are on a budget,” Walker said. “It’s one less thing that they have to have on their mind, like, ‘Oh, do I need to reload my card,’ or whatnot. It’s just kind of a stress-free thing.”

UI first-year student Brooke Paasch said Iowa City buses have been a place where she’s met new friends.

“It’s kind of like a little bonding experience because everyone’s doing that sort of thing, so I’ve enjoyed it,” Paasch said.

Some UI students would also like free fares for the Coralville transit system.

Coralville Director of Parking and Transportation Vicky Robrock wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that a fare-free system is not currently at the forefront of the city’s plans. Robrock wrote that Coralville is centering its efforts on evaluating new and changed routes and schedules that were recently implemented, as well as COVID-19 recovery.

While Coralville received one-time federal funds to help assist with the costs of COVID-19 recovery, these funds would not be a feasible source of revenue replacement for the bus fares, Robrock wrote.

“Any service adjustments or additions or zero fares would require a comprehensive evaluation to ensure additional investments in our current transit service is sustainable for the future,” Robrock wrote.

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About the Contributors
Isabelle Foland
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.
Alyssa Maiers
Alyssa Maiers, Photographer
Alyssa Maiers is a photojournalist at The Daily Iowan. She is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in sports media & culture with a minor in communications.