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Transit survey receives weak response

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty City Council has reviewed the official report on a transit survey conducted by the City of North Liberty.
City Planner Dean Wheatley told the group last Tuesday, Aug. 11 that both the meager return and the respondents’ answers did not point toward a need for increased public transit in North Liberty at this time.
“Normally, with this kind of free-form survey, you see proponents load up and push for what they want,” Wheatley said. “This survey pretty much represents our current ridership.”
The survey was conducted between May 12 and June 15, when council discussions led to a request for more information about what citizens need and want in public transportation. The city received 106 total responses.
Despite the extensive publicity and wide accessibility of the survey, less than 1 percent of North Liberty’s estimated population of 10,982 responded. Of those, just 47 said they were likely to ride the bus every weekday. Forty-nine respondents said they would take advantage of service just periodically. More than half also said they would not pay more than $2 for fare; a one-way trip actually costs the city about $4 per rider.
Most desired destinations were downtown Iowa City (36), University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (25) and Coral Ridge Mall (12).
Comments from respondents were varied, though many centered around the inconvenience of the current bus departure and return schedule. At least 10 respondents said they supported having a bus service, but the current bus schedule between North Liberty and Coralville was too limited for many to take advantage of it.
Wheatley said there was not much data to support adding bus routes.
“To offer an on-going, fixed-route service, you have to have on-going, consistent ridership,” Wheatley said. “I believe, based on the returns, it’s very difficult to justify additional transit services.”
Council member Chris Hoffman said he was disappointed that, while written survey forms were provided at city locations, in local publications and on the city’s website, there was not a way to actually complete and submit the survey via the Internet.
“As a proponent of transit services, I felt the survey would provide some insight, but I don’t feel, in 2009, it was available as it should have been,” Hoffman said, concerned that the lack of online submission contributed to the scant response. “It was inconvenient to print it out, fill it out and then turn it in.”
Councilor Jim Wozniak said he hoped the survey report was not the end of the transit discussion.
“There’s no way we should rely on this (survey) alone to make policy decisions,” Wozniak said. “I want to keep the debate going. I would like to explore trying a survey again, maybe six months to a year from now.”
The council took no action on conducting another survey, though Wheatley said the city’s telecommunications department could work toward making the survey available for online completion; most councilors offered vague agreement to consider re-issuing the survey at a later date.
“Obviously, those that are interested are very interested, but there just wasn’t much response from the community,” concluded Mayor Tom Salm.