When several local cab services closed their doors recently, HIRTA Public Transportation has used this as an opportunity to open its door even more. On Monday, HIRTA officially expanded its operating hours during weekdays.
HIRTA will now offer its bus services from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Fridays. This expansion increases HIRTA’s weekday operating hours by four hours. HIRTA’s weekend operating hours will remain the same: Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
HIRTA Operations Manager Brooke Ramsey is delighted to bring this new service to Newtonians and spoke about why Newton was selected to test out this service.
“HIRTA was created in 1981 and for 30 years (we) subcontracted our services with various non-profit agencies. After several contracted providers struggled to keep the program running financially, HIRTA stepped in Oct. 1, 2011 and ended the contract in Jasper County,” Ramsey said.
“HIRTA thought that we could use Jasper County as a pilot program to test new services, lower rates, extended hours, new technology and future projects,” she continued. “Over the past 2 years, we’ve experienced a lot of growth and are proud to say we’re serving more people and providing more rides in Jasper County than ever before.”
As a rural community transportation service, HIRTA doesn’t have bus stops like most conventional bus services. Instead, its customers can place a call, at least one day before they need to leave, and together they arrange a pick-up.
“Our service is open to the public, there’s no requirement or qualification process to ride the bus,” Ramsey said. “We serve all ages, all physical abilities and provide a door to door service. All of our vehicles are handicap accessible.”
In addition to the expanded operating hours, another big feature for HIRTA is offering, just in time for the holiday shopping season, are Thursday trips to Des Moines. With a minimum of three passengers and $10, customers get a roundtrip to Des Moines for medical or shopping needs.
The dates these trips run are:
• Nov. 14, to Valley West Mall from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Nov. 21, to Jordan Creek from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Dec. 5, to Merle Hay Mall from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Dec. 12, to Valley West Mall from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Dec. 19, to Jordan Creek from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• Jan. 1, to Merle Hay Mall from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
HIRTA also has regular trips to Iowa City every Tuesday for $10 and Jasper County residents just need to call at least one day ahead for direct pick-up. Ramsey also highlighted some additional special upcoming services HIRTA is providing.
“For Veterans Day, HIRTA will be providing free trips to veterans in Jasper County, they’ll need to mention they are a veteran when they schedule their ride,” she said. “We will also allow the veteran’s to have families ride along with them at no charge. We want to show support to all of our veterans and feel this is a great way to give back to the community.”
“We are once again partnering with the Newton Police Department to provide free trips during the Shop with a Cop program this year,” she continued. “Again, this is a great way to help support the members of our community and help support low income families.”
Ramsey also explained that most Iowan’s don’t realize how noteworthy the services that HIRTA provides are.
“Iowa is very unique and progressive, we’re, to my knowledge, the only state in the U.S. that has as part of the Iowa Code, that public transportation will be available in all 99 counties of the state,” she said. “HIRTA serves a 7 County region and we’re just one of the 35 state designated public transit systems in the state.”
“We believe that it is imperative that the rural communities have public transportation at their disposal as it can be extremely important to quality of life, such as access to medical care, education, employment and grocery shopping,” she continued.
With Newton and Jasper County serving as the base for HIRTA’s every growing selection of services, Ramsey, who has been with the company for three years, foresees even more growth for HIRTA.
“We’ve experienced a continuous increase and are still seeing ridership increase. Since moving to direct services in Jasper County, we’ve also started direct services in Story county and most recently Marion County,” Ramsey said.
“We’re very proud of the progress and improvements that we’ve made and thankful that the residents, and our employees, in Jasper County have been so supportive,” she continued.
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at email@example.com.