Madison County residents in need of transportation in town or out of town frequently call on the HIRTA (Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency) bus.  

In the past, the agency had contracted with Madison County Elderly Services to provide services on their behalf. Due to funding reduction and increased cost on July 1, 2019, the agency’s board made the decision to provide all services to Madison County directly.

HIRTA receives federal transit assistance, state transit assistance and local funding from Madison County. Although receiving assistance, these funds are limited and do not cover operational cost. This is why they also rely on contracted revenue, passenger fares, donations and grant funding.

In an effort to transition, they had made very few changes in the first nine months. Due to COVID-19 and the governor’s state disaster proclamation, many swift changes were necessary to keep the agency operating, and to keep riders and drivers safe.

HIRTA Driver

HIRTA (Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency) provides transportation in and around Madison County.

Benefits of these changes include increasing the use of technology by providing drivers with a tablet to increase safety and decrease distractions; the tablet also provides real time information for the driver in regards to pre- and post-inspections, mandated by the DOT; GPS tracking for better navigation and service monitoring. Technology also allows for a more efficient and cost efficient method of scheduling with the ability to assign same day and will call trips to the driver. 

HIRTA services are open to the general public and anyone can ride for any reason, including persons with disabilities. Riders use the bus for a variety of reasons: trips to the grocery store, medical appointments, therapy, or maybe visiting a loved one at a nursing home. The service allows people to lead an active life and have the ability to get to wherever they need to be for whatever reason.

Office hours and the hours of operation in Madison County are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. The cost to ride the bus for a one-way trip in town is $2.50 per trip. Otherwise it is $5 per trip within the county. 

Other trips are available and information can be found on their website or by contacting their office at 1-877-686-0029. People age 60 and older might qualify for donation based rides and are encouraged to inquire about this program.

Trips around the county and special trips around central Iowa including Des Moines and Iowa City have been limited due to the pandemic. A simple call to 1-877-686-0029 or email to is the best way to find out if they are able to accommodate a trip request. The prices for certain trips out of town vary, so it is best that riders contact HIRTA for accurate rates.

Same day trip requests will depend on how busy drivers are with trips that have already been scheduled. Citizens are encouraged to call the day before to ensure the bus can accommodate their trip. HIRTA tries to reserve same day trips for those who need them for medical appointments.

After scheduling an appointment a driver will pick you up within a 20-minute window of your pick up time. Please plan your trip accordingly as it is important for riders to be ready at the beginning of their 20-minute window. 

For appointments, HIRTA will schedule your trip on a will-call basis. Riders can call when their appointment is done and a driver will be sent to pick them up. When someone calls to schedule a trip they need to let the scheduler at HIRTA know when they need to go and when they need to be picked up so the trip may be scheduled accordingly.

Due to COVID-19 industry-wide and CDC guidance, at this time the bus is operating at a reduced capacity. Fewer riders are allowed on each bus. Buses are cleaned regularly and deep cleaned every night. Riders are encouraged to wear a mask and drivers will wear one as well. A plastic barrier is in place between the driver and rider and every other row in the bus is blocked off.

HIRTA tries to accommodate everyone and continues to go the extra mile to keep passengers safe.

Established in 1981, HIRTA serves the Iowa DOT Region 11 operating in seven counties: Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Marion, Story and Warren.

Managing editor at the Madisonian.