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Low-income and disabled riders say city program liberates them

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NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa (KWWL) - Riders in a city program sponsoring cab rides for $1 say they have their independence back.

"I just feel like I have a part of my life back and it's a great feeling," Dena Hess said, one of 92 riders in the North Liberty Transit Assistance Program.

North Liberty started taking money out of its general fund in November to help low-income and disabled residents without a car get around town.

Applicants need to meet certain requirements to become part of the program: they either don’t have a car, can show financial difficulty ($23,106 per year for a one-person income, $31,283 for two, etc.), or they're permanently or temporarily disabled.

Once part of the program, cabs take them to certain "quality of life" destinations like area hospitals and doctor's offices, banks, grocery stores or city government buildings for next to nothing.

"I'm kind of excited to go pick out my own groceries," Hess said. "It's the little things that people take for granted."

Hess can't drive anymore after suffering multiple strokes in past years.

City staff say there have been some growing pains with the new program, like callers not being able to get through to the cab company.

"I think we weren't exactly sure what to expect with the response," Angela McConville said, special projects coordinator for the city. McConville orchestrated a new call-in line specifically for the service as a solution.

Yellow Cab of Iowa City is billing the city monthly for its service. North Liberty paid them roughly $1,200 for 200 rides in December.

McConville said they offered the contract to rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, but they showed little interest.

To apply or learn more about the program, click here.

Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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