The concept of the Neighborhood Transportation Service (NTS) goes back to a televised town meeting held in 1993 at the Westminster Church in the Wellington Heights Neighborhood of Cedar Rapids. At that meeting, residents of Wellington Heights brought to light their inability to get to work due to the lack of affordable transportation available in the evening and on the weekends. Not only was there no publicly funded transportation available during the evening, many cab drivers refused to take calls in the Wellington Heights area after dark.
Over time, many entry-level jobs moved from the inner city to the outlying areas of Cedar Rapids leaving low income urban residents with no affordable transportation to get to work. No longer could inner city residents simply walk to nearby jobs. Many entry-level jobs are second and third shift jobs. They include manufacturing and industrial jobs, service jobs at restaurants, hotels and care facilities. Quality Chef, CCB Packaging and the Cedar Rapids Gazette are among the many that have moved. NTS bridges this spatial mismatch by providing affordable transportation to those who need to obtain or maintain employment.
NTS was founded in 1994 as a grass roots effort to meet this need for safe, reliable, and affordable evening and weekend transportation to and from work in the Wellington Heights Neighborhood of Cedar Rapids. NTS began through the partnership of United Way of East Central Iowa, The City of Cedar Rapids Five Seasons Transportation and Parking, Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association, and Jane Boyd Harambee House. That first year, NTS provided 566 evening rides utilizing one seven passenger mini van. Over the next several years, NTS expanded to serve the cities of Cedar Rapids, Marion, and Hiawatha. After the expansion of service, NTS experienced rapid rider growth. In fiscal year ending June 30 of 2007, NTS provided 57,149 rides to or from school, work, and life skills classes.
Many of us never give a second thought about how we are going to get to work. We get in our cars, turn on the key, and off we go. Unfortunately it is not that easy for everybody. Of our 589 new riders in 2006, 90% earn less than $18,000 per year. Survey data shows 71% earn under $12,000. It is difficult to keep a vehicle operational relying on incomes this low. In addition, 74 % of NTS riders report working at least one full time job. Typical NTS riders do not use the service by choice, but because they have to use it to become or to remain employed. In 2006, 66% of new NTS riders reported having difficulty getting a job due to transportation, 59% reported difficulty keeping a job due to having no reliable transportation and 76% report no other means of transportation. Transportation should never be a barrier to employment and the availability of NTS helps make this a reality in the Cedar Rapids metro area. As well as providing evening vocational related rides, NTS also fills a gap in services by assisting other non-profit agencies and neighborhood groups with transportation. For example NTS provides transportation for three after-school programs for at-risk youth. NTS also provides transportation to and from the Arc of East Central Iowa Summer Day Program, Jane Boyd Community House and Young Parents Network (NTS).
In 2003 NTS was the recipient of the Iowa League of Cities “All-Star Community Award”. This award is given based on the program’s impact on the community; including how it is meeting the community’s needs, its value to the community, how many people it affected, originality, cost-effectiveness, and potential for duplication by other cities.In addition, NTS was one of nineteen sites selected nationally in 2001 by the PEW Charitable Trust to participate in a two-year national research project “Solutions for America”. The project was sponsored by The Pew Partnership for Civic Change in Charlottesville VA, and funded through the Pew Charitable Trust in Philadelphia. The research was conducted by local researchers working in partnership with Rutgers University, Center for Urban Policy Research. “Solutions for America” documented existing solutions to some of our nation’s toughest challenges. The PEW Partnership then made this information available to communities nationwide to encourage replication of these successful programs.
NTS 2014 Board of Directors
Mike Barnhart, Executive Director
Kay Fisk, Director of Development
Brenda McFarlin, Office Coordinator
Jerry McGrane, Vice President
Bret Niles, Treasurer
Dan O’Brien, Secretary
Sarah Gray Markut
NTS Director of Development Kay Fisk & Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corrbett
Neighborhood Transportation Service Inc.
317 7th Avenue SE, Suite 205
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
“More than a ride…”
Now Located on the Human Services Campus!