The Iowa Transportation Commission approved over $1.6- million  in federal funding Tuesday for bus lines that serve smaller Iowa cities. D.O.T. spokesman, Ryan Ward, says a large portion of the money was awarded to Burlington Trailways.

He says they are focusing on safety and convenience and they applied for money to retrofit some older buses with three-point seatbelt systems along with adding electrical outlets for computers and other devices. Ward says adding the electrical outlets meets one of the top requests of riders.

“In a recent survey the public has said, besides safety, their number one wish when using bus service is for convenience,” according to Ward. Burlington Trailways also received money for depot renovations in Cedar Rapids and for a new bus — with their total award hitting $1.1-million.

The public survey also showed a need for more information and that was part of an award to the Jefferson Lines so they can put real-time monitors in 10 of their depots so passengers know when buses will actually arrive and leave. “They may purchase a ticket and they are told they are going to catch a bus at 10 a.m., but there is no real-time information to tell them when the buses is actually going to arrive,” Ward explains.

The Mason City airport’s “Iowa Travel Information Center” won an award of just over $20,000 to continue operation. “It’s a center that not only provides information on intercity buses, but also public transit service in Iowa, so a person could call and say ‘I need go get from say Mason City to Des Moines’ and they could give them information on transportation,” Ward says. They could also purchase tickets for the bus through the center and find out information for other public transit systems.

The Sioux City Transit center was awarded $8,800 for some work to install wider doors to accommodate newer wheelchairs, and also includes the installation of automatic opening switches. Ward says the bus funding should help those in smaller towns to be able to travel.

“It’s just focusing on keeping that transportation option open to individuals who might be too far away from an airport, or that might not have the money to pay for an airplane ticket,” Ward says. The bus lines have to pay a 50-50 match for safety and convenience improvements.

They pay 20% of the capital improvements like depot renovations. The federal government pays 83% if the bus lines are making upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The money has to help improve the inter-city bus service for cities that are less than 50,000 in population.