Cedar Rapids Transit restarts fares with $1 to ride bus

A Cedar Rapids Transit bus waits for riders at the city’s Ground Transportation Center. Passengers will begin paying a $1 fare on Sept. 6, after riding free during the pandemic. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Transit will start collecting bus fares from passengers on Sept. 6, but at a lower cost of $1 for riders, following approval from the City Council on Tuesday.

The city paused bus fares at the beginning of COVID-19 by allocating $2.88 million in federal pandemic funds in fiscal 2021 and $3.72 million in fiscal 2022, but is now bringing fares back.

Cedar Rapids Transit Manager Brad DeBrower said lower fares will potentially encourage ridership and equity for riders.

“We are going to … switch the programs that we have currently that are half fare. So instead of a full fare and half fare, we’re proposing a full fare and a free fare,” he said. “A lot of individuals have no other means to have transportation, and we want to … try to make it as burden-free as possible.”

DeBrower said Cedar Rapids Transit budgeted American Rescue Plan Act funding as a reserve to offset the reduced fare for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We just see this is a unique opportunity to use those transit-dedicated ARPA funds to allow us to run this lower fare program for hopefully the next several years,” he said.

“As far as the revenue level, we know it’s going to be lower than what we have had in the past, but it still is going to hopefully generate a modest level that we can use to help put toward operations or maybe matching funds for some of our capital grants.”

The new full fare to ride the bus will be lowered from $1.50 to $1 for adults and students, including revisions to those who qualify for a free fare:

— Seniors, age 65 or over with proof of age or free fare ID card.

— Passengers in the student-sponsored fare program.

— Passengers with disabilities with Americans with Disabilities Act paratransit card or free fare ID card.

— Medicare passengers with Medicare card or free fare ID card.

— Income-based program passengers with a free fare ID card.

— Children age 12 and under.

Cedar Rapids Transit renewed the student-sponsored fare program that started in 2019 with Kirkwood Community College, Coe College and Cedar Rapids schools, and is waiting to hear back from area high schools on the program, DeBrower said

“We were up about 7 percent in our ridership, primarily because of the students, and then that’s when COVID-19 hit, and everything fell,” he said.

Fiscal 2022 passenger revenue was $73,000 from the student-sponsored fare program, totaling 739,445 rides, compared to pre-COVID-19 rates in fiscal 2019 at 1,246,374 rides with passenger revenue of $870,298, according Cedar Rapids Transit documents.

The fare revisions also apply to multiday passes, including:

— 31-day or monthly pass: $30.

— 10 ride passes: $10.

— Day passes: $2.

— Single ride tickets (sold to human service agencies): 50 cents

— ADA paratransit service (contracted with Linn County LIFTS): $2.

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