Yesterday was the second CR Transit Study open house, where the consultants revealed the options they came up with from all of our feedback. I went to the afternoon slot and about 10 other people also checked out the boards while I was there. I’m going to go into detail about several of the proposals, and having the boards from this open house will be helpful. Check them out here.
Each route had 1-3 options showing what they called “minimal” changes and “moderate” changes. As expected, there was no major overhaul of the current system, but instead, logical recommendations based on the ridership statistics presented at the first open house. Routes like 4 and 10 barely had any changes, and I tended to agree with that. We noted some of the positives of Route 4 during the bus party, mostly surrounding the direct path and the opportunity to catch a bus going out or back after a short 30 minute grocery stop. I heard one participant comment about still wanting direct Edgewood and Blairs Ferry routes, but I believe those changes can wait a bit longer, as in 5-10 years as the transit system (hopefully) grows in a planned manner.
Not all routes were left intact. Routes 1, 2, 3, 5B, and 7 all had major changes as one of the modification options. The consultants had two variations of a “moderate” change for Route 1. Both removed the north “hump” along Ellis Blvd, since the ridership has obviously been affected by the flooding in that area. Option A then has the route going bi-directionally along O Ave. and then down Edgewood to turn around at Westdale Mall. Option B creates a loop out on F Ave and back along O Ave. I prefer Option A because it provides a new north-south connection along Edgewood and connects to Westdale which could act as a hub outside of downtown. I also like that Route 1 would cross Routes 8, 10, and connect with 12 at Westdale. Timing, initially, may not be ideal for transfers to and from these other routes, but if the connection points exist, transferring becomes more realistic as route frequencies increase. And until then, there is still the option of connecting to Routes 10 or 12 at Westdale without waiting downtown.
Moving to Route 2, its moderate modification removed the entire route section north of Mount Vernon Rd. This change would let Route 2 be bidirectional along Mount Vernon Rd until Memorial Dr. and allow for 40 minute route runs. Route 9 and 2 are currently almost the same routes, just traveled in opposite directions, so the area dropped in Route 2 would still be covered fairly well by 9. During the Route 2 Bus Party, we talked quite a bit about how the route seemed to wander around and it was confusing as to what the purpose was. I think trimming this route and making it more direct will help define it’s purpose, plus allow for a functional frequency.
Here I’m skipping to Route 7 which serves south Cedar Rapids out to Kirkwood. I had the pleasure of talking with a Kirkwood employee at the first open house and she clearly explained why the current Route 7 bus service is not popular with students. Right now the route makes a huge loop that goes through campus, out to C St. and connects with Bowling St at 41st Ave Dr SW. If a student gets on the route at a Kirkwood campus apartment to go to class, the only way back to their apartment is via downtown Cedar Rapids. Who in their right mind would do that? The moderate route modification would have the bus turn around at Aegon on C St. SW and then back track along the same path. I just can’t disagree with this change, it’s too logical.
Now to 5B. I changed my mind on these options during the open house, and as I’m reviewing the changes again, I may flip once more. This is tough. Both options are trying to decrease the “loop dee loo” going on with the current setup, but there are a lot of factors in play with this route and Route 3 as we’ll see in a bit. The minimal route change would remove the section along Blairs Ferry Rd. -> Center Point Rd. -> Robins Rd. until Boyson. This would create a bidirectional route from downtown to the corner of Boyson and Robins Rd, then an end loop that goes from Boyson to Center Point Rd, north to Tower Terrace Rd. and back south along Robins Rd. to Boyson again. I completely agree with the bidirectional section. As this is my back-up route, it can be a long ride home even if it’s my best option.
The moderate modification removes the end loop along Robins Rd, Tower Terrace, and Center Point. Here it would follow the current “lower loop” along Blairs Ferry Rd, Center Point Rd, Robins Rd, Boyson Rd, and C Ave. This would shorten the route time and cover the main area, but leave a large hole in the growing business area in north Hiawatha. There is also a direction change suggestion where the morning route would go one direction around that loop, and at some point during the day, the route would switch and follow the other direction of the route. I didn’t ask for a reason on this because I actually missed that detail at first. Unless there is an exceptional reason for this, I don’t think it’s a good idea. We need simpler routes, not more details to remember. I’m pretty sure I marked the minimal option as my preference at the open house, but I’m changing my mind again for the moderate option without the AM/PM direction switch, because it has a better focus on a core area that is used. This decision is also based on Route 3 decisions below.
Ah, Route 3. This is my daily route and the two options presented are probably among the most minimal and most drastic of the bunch. I’ll start with the minimal modifications. This would potentially remove the section north of Blairs Ferry that goes by the Post Office and behind Target, and reroutes it along Blairs Ferry. I currently get on along this path, but I’m a rare rider that will seek out the bus (within my odd definition of reason), so if this section is cut I’ll be inconvenienced, but not ticked off. It also “undoes” the change made earlier this year to take the route along 32nd St by Rockwell’s building. I have never seen someone get on or off along this section, so I can see why.
Now onto the moderate change option. This would completely remove Route 3, see I told you it was drastic! The reasoning is that there are 3 other routes (4, 6, and 5B) that serve an area close to 3, so they could pick up the current service. This is where tightly linked “if” statements apply to make the resulting transit service effective. I mentioned that I was up in the air about Route 5B, and that is largely because I found that changing one without paying attention to what the other was covering could cause large, important areas to go unserved. Right now the northern section of Route 3 serves people going to work at Wehrenberg Theaters, Goodwill, and Rockwell, and people going to the Post Office, Target, and BioLife, along with people who may live close. Removing Route 3 would remove immediate access (right across the street or right outside) to Wehrenberg, Goodwill, the Post Office, BioLife, and Rockwell. Target has Route 5B along Blairs Ferry. Ok, so we use Route 5B to fill in access to these location since Blairs Ferry is roughly two blocks south of this section. That leaves Rockwell’s current stop as a hole not served by another route, so employees would have to use Route 5B along Blairs Ferry and maybe walk a bit farther. Now we’ve removed Route 3, so the only way this plan works and still covers the Route 3 locations is for Route 5B to use the moderate option because it maintains the Blairs Ferry Rd. section. If that section is removed, there is not a good way for riders to access the Route 3 void. This change would also mean that frequency would go from 60 minutes to 80 minutes for this area, making it less useful for many of the professionals using Route 3 to get to work downtown. This is where I’d have to start backing off on my use because my life schedule can only handle so much waiting and planning.
So removing Route 3 (moderate) should lead to choosing the moderate 5B changes, and choosing the minimal Route 5B option should lead to choosing the minimal Route 3 modification so that important areas continue to be served.
That is probably more than most of you care to consume at one time, but hopefully reading these thoughts with the route boards at hand will make everything more clear. I would love to hear what others though of the open house, especially if you were able to hear the presentation at the evening time, and share your opinions on the changes. Are you excited? Angry? Would some of the changes help you start riding or make it worse for you? Remember to take a look at the boards here and send your comments to the Corridor MPO here if you weren’t able to attend or thought of more ideas. All responses would be most helpful if they are in by October 27th, so responses can be accounted for before the final open house.
The third and final Transit Study open house will be on November 24th with further details yet to be announced. Mark your calendars!