Ottumwa Transit continues to have problems with its downtown bus shelter, though plans to change its location have raised concerns about the heart of the problem.
At this time, there are no definitive plans to move the downtown bus shelter, though Ottumwa Transit Advisory Board members considered locations along River Drive or near Quincy Place Mall at their meeting Wednesday night.
“We’re seeing a shift in our ridership because of the economic development going on in the community,” said Executive Director Diane Gawronski. “We don’t want to take away or diminish the importance of downtown ... we believe we are in a position to look at a second hub for buses, possibly in the mall/Quincy Avenue area.”
According to the Department of Transportation, the downtown bus station has $66,000 of useful life value left.
But Councilman Mitch Niner said they need to understand the problems the downtown bus shelter sees, including “vandalism and lewd acts.”
Bret Geiger, who owns the building adjacent to the downtown bus shelter, expressed his frustrations that no one has taken responsibility for the reoccurring problems there.
“You talk about moving the shelter but no one is thinking of addressing the issue, the problem that exists,” Geiger said. “Moving that shelter is not going to magically make the problem disappear. There needs to be some way of restoring some order down there.”
New board member Shannon Addison said it would no longer be Ottumwa Transit’s problem but the Ottumwa Police Department’s problem once the bus shelter is moved.
Geiger said the problem would follow the bus shelter wherever it moved.
“Transit, the police, the DOT, federal, the school district, they all say there’s nothing they can do about it,” Geiger said. “Everyone says it’s not their problem, but it’s a community problem.”
Addison agreed, saying “kids have way too much time on their hands and a lot of things happen downtown that shouldn’t be happening any place.”
Surveys will provide insight into new bus routes
Board members will be surveying passengers in the coming weeks as part of a route review that will be submitted to Bob Bourne, retired Ames Transit System administrator.
The review will consist of three surveys: one with general questions, one involving transfers and one monitoring when and where passengers get on and off the bus.
“All of this is a lot of leg work but I think it will help [Bourne] give us a recommendation,” Gawronski said.
Public forums will also be held to garner community input on Ottumwa Transit. One is set for 6:30-7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17 and the other is the following day from 2-3 p.m. Both will be held in room 108 at City Hall.
Bourne will also meet with transit drivers and dispatchers for their input and all other transit employees will have another forum to submit suggestions and ideas.
“Once we determine what is the most feasible for our community and for transit, as any other business looks at their organization, we’ll look at long-range planning and make some difficult decisions about adding, eliminating or changing routes,” Gawronski said. “And we’ll be thinking ahead to next year when the new school opens.”
Gawronski also said that with the nine new bike racks, she sees an opportunity to add a bus stop near one of the bike trails in town.
Bourne told Ottumwa Transit he would like to have the revised routes finalized by October.