In 1981, the Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency (HIRTA) was established and designated as the public transit system to serve the counties of Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Marion, Story, and Warren. At that time, HIRTA was established as a brokered system that provided no direct service. Instead, the transportation organization contracted its services with sub providers, such as HomeCare Services, Inc. of Dallas County, in order to operate these transit services.
“We are pleased to have been fortunate enough to provide transportation services in Dallas County for over 40 years. We take pride in our role in the community, including our past role in providing transportation services for individuals for whom no other viable options were available,” a statement from HomeCare, Inc Board of Directors said.
However, starting April 1, HomeCare Services, Inc will no longer be providing these services on behalf of HIRTA. On Jan. 31, 2019, HIRTA’s Board of Directors made the decision to offer the transportation services directly with a vote of 6 to 1.
“The HomeCare contract was ending June 30, 2019. Therefore, HIRTA either needed to go out for a Request for Proposal or provide services directly,” HIRTA Executive Director Julia Castillo said.
Castillo noted that two of the major factors for the decision to provide services directly was the significant rate increase in HIRTA’s insurance along with the significant drop in revenue due to the changes in Medicaid.
“We accept HIRTA’s decision not to continue subcontracting with HomeCare, Inc. Still, it is fair to say that we are disappointed with the HIRTA’s Board’s decision to centralize services rather than contract with community-based providers,” a statement from HomeCare Inc, Board of Directors said.
The statement also said that while this decision marks a significant change for the agency, HomeCare Aide and Nutrition Programs will continue to serve residents of Dallas County as they have in the past.
HomeCare, Inc and HIRTA are also working hard to make sure that the transition of services is a smooth one.
“We are actively working with HIRTA to assure that our county’s residents continue to receive transit services with minimal disruption during the transition,” a statement from HomeCare, Inc Board of Directors said.
Although HIRTA owns all of the vehicles and provides the scheduling software there are some minor changes that won’t go unnoticed. These could include the change in HIRTA shirts for drivers or the rebranded logo on the vehicles.
HIRTA’s general public fare structure consists of $2 per trip within Adel, Perry and Waukee, $4 per trip within the county, and $10 per round-trip to Des Moines. HIRTA also provides three ways to schedule a trip. Customers can contact the transportation organization via phone, email, or through the Amble App (a free app available through Google Play or the Apple Store). In addition, HIRTA offers four ways to receive payments from customers; cash, check, HIRTA bucks or an online payment option.
“One thing that will be different is the fare needs to be paid at the time of service. We do not bill or invoice individual riders, which is an option that HomeCare offered,” Castillo said.
Castillo also noted that HIRTA will have a notification module which calls customers the day before their trip to remind them of their time for pickup. HIRTA drivers will also use tablets which will include all of the needed trip information for the day and can be updated in real time.
“There is a lot to do in the transitioning. However, all the behind the scenes details should not affect anything the customers see,” Castillo said. “There will be, what we hope, people will see as positive changes.”
The new HIRTA changes will officially take effect starting April 1, 2019. Anyone interested in learning more about the upcoming changes can visit the website www.hirtapublictransit.com or follow HIRTA on Facebook.