NORTH LIBERTY– The bus isn’t going anywhere.
At last Tuesday's council meeting, Council member Chris Hoffman asked for city officials to squelch the rumor that the North Liberty/Coralville transit bus, which offers park-and-ride transport between Coralville and North Liberty each weekday, would be discontinued.
Hoffman received an email from a citizen who rides the bus stating he heard rumors that the council was considering pulling the bus service. The citizen, a University of Iowa employee, also indicated the bus is “quite crowded early in the week,” and the lack of a shelter at the Community Center bus stop made for a cold morning wait.
City Administrator Ryan Heiar fielded the concern, stating North Liberty and Coralville had signed a two-year contract for the service.
“Clearly, discontinuation of services is not an issue,” Heiar said.
Heiar said the maximum number of riders in November was 47 people, and the average morning ridership is about 36 people.
Council member Terry Donahue said the council has never considered stopping the service.
“The only thing we have ever talked about was making it better,” he said.
Heiar also said he spoke with Coralville Transportation Director Vicky Robrock to inquire about the size of the buses and the number of riders from North Liberty.
“Sometimes the buses are smaller because their larger buses are being used on another route,” he explained. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing the buses are crowded, because it means we are being efficient with our transit service.”
To that end, the council agreed to form a committee of community representatives to study the effectiveness of the service and suggest ways for improvement.
City Planner Dean Wheatley offered that the place to start was to define the city’s purpose in offering the transit system.
“The main consideration is, does North Liberty want to provide transit service to the transit dependent, specifically to those who need it? If that is the case, it steers you in a certain direction. Alternately, if you want to provide it as a quality of life feature and encourage people to use it, it points you in different directions,” Wheatley said.
The council unanimously agreed to start by asking the citizens of North Liberty about their transportation needs and perspectives, possibly through a community-wide survey distributed in various forms.
Heiar and Wheatley were asked to return to the council table in January with a plan for appointing a citizen’s transit committee and getting started with a community survey.