TRANSPORTATION MATTERS for IOWA

How did you get to work today?


IC busHow did you get to work today? Chances are you hopped in your car, by yourself, and drove. That simple act is so common that most of us think that’s the way everyone commutes. For people facing homelessness, the story could not be more different. Folks who have no permanent residence not only have no personal transportation, they face barriers to public transit when commuting to jobs, as well.

A group of area businesses, agencies, and concerned citizens in Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty is trying to reduce those barriers and allow more access to transit for people who lack a permanent address. The Community Transportation Committee is led by Jeremy Endsley, who is working with Iowa City’s Shelter House through the AmeriCorps Vista program, and University of Iowa graduate student Laura Jackson.

Copy of CTC Logo (7)The CTC group, which meets monthly, includes staff from the City of Iowa City, area transit systems, employers from the area, and representatives from various human service groups interested in increasing mobility. The group wants to increase public awareness to improve transportation options for workers, both for individuals and for the economic prosperity of the region. Endsley said, “The CTC is focused on making systematic and policy changes that will improve mobility for the people we serve.”

 

This committee, which connects key players to raise awareness of barriers to transportation, advocates for more useful transportation options. The group recently conducted a community transportation survey to identify barriers to transportation for those experiencing homelessness in the area.

This survey, conducted in 2015, along with feedback and research indicate:

  • 35 percent reported having lost a job and 30 percent reported they had given up looking for  a potential job due to a lack of reliable transportation
  • Of 94 people experiencing homelessness who accessed employment services at Shelter House in 2015, 70 percent reported that the bus was their primary means to get to work.
  • Local non-profits report that the demand for free bus passes provided by the City of Iowa City far exceeds the supply. (The city provides 1,220 single ride coupons monthly).

One issue specifically identified in the survey was a gap in hours of service of the area transit systems. Jackson said, “Many of the available jobs in Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty are shift jobs. To be able to maintain those jobs, people need to have transit available on an expanded schedule.” To address this, the group is working with Iowa City Transit to expand their hours of operation.

Another barrier brought to light in the survey was affordability of transit. Both Iowa City and Coralville provide discounted fares for the elderly and those with disabilities. In a letter to community leaders, the CTC notes that 32 percent of the population in Johnson County experienced poverty in 2015.

The Iowa Policy Project 2014 Cost of Living Report noted that the average amount spent by a person in Johnson County for transportation to work annually is $522, or about $44 per month. That cost is out of reach to many Johnson County residents. A low-income bus pass is available for Iowa City Transit riders; however the rider must provide a permanent address to purchase the pass. Even if cost was not a factor, a lack of a permanent address is an issue for people experiencing homelessness. Coralville Transit does not currently offer a low income bus pass. This past year, CTC was able to give over $1,200 in bus passes to local service agencies through fundraising efforts.

For those commuting to between Iowa City and Coralville, Iowa’s City’s free single ride coupons can get a person one way, but then they can be stranded with no ride home.  The CTC will be recommending a consolidation of single ride coupon into a roundtrip pass.

Jeremy and Laura
Jeremy Endsley and Laura Jackson

So with the main issues identified, hours of service and affordability, how will the group effect change going forward? Unfortunately, come the end of summer, the group will be without Endsley and Jackson leading the charge. Endsley’s assignment with AmeriCorps Vista ends in July and Jackson, a recent University of Iowa graduate will also leave this summer.

Where does that leave the group? Jackson and Endsley both say while the future of the group is uncertain, they are hopeful that other members will step up and continue the great work that has been done over the past few years.

NOTE: The CTC is just one of Iowa’s many Transportation Advisory Groups. These committees are made up of people from a diverse range of interests in the human services and transportation sectors. They gather to discuss transportation issues and identify opportunities to create a more coordinated transportation system that is affordable and accessible to all individuals in the communities in which they live.

If you are interested in more information about TAG, please contact Jeremy Johnson-Miller in the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Office of Public Transit at [email protected] or call 515-239-1765. To locate a TAG in your area http://www.iowadot.gov/systems_planning/pr_guide/Passenger%20Transportation%20Plan/Find%20your%20local%20TAG.pdf

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