June 29, 2018 11:26 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- Those who depend on the bus to get around in Charles City may be left without transportation after the city's contract with the transit company expires at the end of July.
Amid a sharp decline in riders and a lack of drivers, the Charles City transit system has made significant cutbacks, including ending trips to Mason City and other Floyd County communities in December. Now, one of the program's main operators is retiring but the city has no replacement lined up.
Charles City contracts with the North Iowa Area Council of Governments to run the program, but with NIAGOD taking over the transit program in neighboring Mitchell County, its resources are stretched too thin to run both.
The uncertainty is unsettling for those who depend on the bus as their primary transportation, like Sharon Madsen. Madsen said she takes the bus at least once per weekday to get to doctors' appointments, haircuts and programs at the senior center.
"It's not going to be very good because I haven't got the people that would take the time or can take the time to take me where my appointments need to go," she said.
While clear sidewalks make some trips feasible in the summer, come winter she said she might not be able to get around using her walker.
Marla Llewellyn used to use the bus to travel to her doctor in Mason City. Since that route ended, she's been forced to find other options.
"Paid big bucks; $125 round-trip to go to my doctor," she said.
Since she doesn't own a car, she's concerned about running errands if bus service is discontinued.
"I won't be able to shop, I won't be able to pay my bills, it will be very difficult for me," she said.
Ridership has dropped by more than half in recent years to approximately 27,000 rides annually, City Administrator Steven Diers said. The majority of those who use the bus service are seniors, the disabled and young kids.
The current contract was set to expire June 30, but both sides agreed to a one-month extension to allow the city enough time to find an alternative. Diers said the city is exploring operating the buses themselves or working with a private company with city support.
Until the ink has dried on a new contract, though, Madsen, Llewellyn and others are left waiting to see what's next.
"All I can do is hope that things... and the rest of us hope that things will work out," Madsen said.
Created: June 29, 2018 11:26 PM
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