Cedar Rapids Transit resumed fare collection November 1, following five months of free bus rides since the June flood. An article in the Gazette reported noticeable ridership increases during that time and suggested it could decrease now that it is no longer free. Another cause could have be reduction in service during this time – only hourly trips for many routes all day, rather than the pre-flood 30-minute headways. Eight GMC RTS buses were lost in the flood, along with the Ground Transportation Center and maintenance facility.
Initially when transit service returned about a week after the flood hit, a temporary transit site was set up about 10 blocks from the GTC a city parking lot at 4th Ave and 12th Street SE. A few weeks later when downtown became less restricted, a more permanent temporary transfer site was set up at “park and ride” Lot 44 south of downtown at 12th Ave SE, along the riverfront. Since then it has been determined that buses will not be returning to the GTC. A new bus station is proposed with a new intermodal transportation facility that has been in the works for years now, with three or four different sites and programs. The latest location was somewhere by 3rd Street SE close to 8th Ave – only a few blocks from Lot 44.
Trailers have been set up at Lot 44 to provide information, shelter and restrooms for passengers in the coming winter months. Meanwhile the bus garage is being used for fueling and storage only with maintenance being done by the city fleet department.
Eight used 40 foot 1992 TMC RTS buses will be arriving from California in December to replace the eight buses that were lost. Additionally, four brand new 35 foot Gillig Lowfloor buses will be joining the fleet in April. The Gillig purchase – Cedar Rapids’ first actual new buses in many years – was planned for before the flood, just as CyRide, Iowa City Transit, and Cambus have purchased new Lowfloors in the past year.
As Cedar Rapids Transit was rebranded from “EAGL” about a year ago (read post) when transit and parking split in the city reorganizing, the new buses will bring a visible rebranding with a new livery. The new used RTS’s and new Gilligs will be painted green (shade of city logo, not the old teal color) below the windows with some striping and the city logo added. “We are switching to the city’s green because we want to be recognized as a city department, and because we want to promote the green (environmental) benefits of public transit,” according to Transit Manager Brad DeBrower.
I expressed to Brad my desire to see big improvements at Cedar Rapids Transit into a great system with expanded service. However, it’s clear they are facing many setbacks. In addition to the flood, the transit department is plagued with budget restraints, too many old buses in the fleet, and insufficient manpower. For example, all transit planning is done by Brad, on top of his regular duties as department manager. He says he’s hopefully the system’s impediments will be addressed.
The new used buses arriving in December – which are in better shape than the eight lost – will allow for increased peak service. Additional 35 or 40 foot Gillig Lowfloors will be purchased over the next few years to modernized the fleet.