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Discussion on Park and Ride continues

BY MITCH MCANDREW | SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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All across the state, Iowa transportation officials are seeking input on a new plan that will allow drivers to share rides and carpool often.

Park and Ride is a system that lets participants leave their cars in a lot and utilize carpools or public transport for their commutes, said Garrett Pedersen, transportation planner for the Iowa Department of Transportation. The response from these meetings will help complete plans for the program.

“It provides more options to the commuting public,” he said.

There are 26 Park and Ride Systems already in place in Iowa, but the new plan aims to further organize the effort.

“The approach we’re taking now is much more ad hoc,” Pedersen said, meaning the program will grow with time.

The plan is part of broader initiative called “Iowa In Motion — Planning Ahead 2040,” which focuses on improving safety, efficiency, and quality of life in Iowa.

The need for a new approach is significant, with traffic levels increasing 37 percent in the last 20 years. Additionally, only 9 percent of commuters carpool, while 78.7 percent drive to work alone, according to the Iowa DOT.

The plan was finally drafted in response to the public’s input on these issues. 

“The primary goal of creating this [system] is to reduce commuter volume and commuter mileage,” said Brock Grenis, transit planner for the East Central Iowa Council of Governments, which is assisting the DOT with the implementation of the system on the local level.

Reducing the number of cars on the road would greatly improve travel conditions for Iowans.

“Pulling more traffic off of heavily traveled roads will lead to more longevity in our roadways,” Pedersen said.

The reduced traffic would also improve safety, because less traffic will reduce exposure to crashes and alleviate congestion, according to the Iowa DOT’s Park and Ride System Plan.

The roads won’t be the plan’s only beneficiaries.

“[Park and Ride] is also much more cost effective for commuters,” Pedersen said. 

Drivers will save money on reduced fuel and maintenance needs.

Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area commuters could soon be reaping these benefits.

The site would either be at the intersection of I-380 and County Road F28 in North Liberty or I-80 and First Avenue in Coralville.

Interstate 380 has an average annual daily traffic that hovers around 25,000 vehicles/ day, according to Iowa DOT data.

This area’s selection is the result of analysis by the Iowa DOT and several county Metropolitan Planning Organizations.

The locations proposed in the Park and Ride System Plan also experienced heavy county to county traffic, gaps in existing Park and Ride facilities, and input from local planning officials, Grenis said.

“We follow a three-step analysis,” Pedersen said. “First, we identify the highest commuter interaction, then we study the routes on those areas, and finally we look for places along those routes where a Park and Ride would be best utilized.”


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