Archive for Sunday, March 23, 1997

HOW AMES WORKS

March 23, 1997

Advertisement

— CyRide provides 2.6 million rides for $3.2 million a year.

Shiny buses, slick brochures, easy-to-read schedules and convenient destinations.

Welcome to the home of CyRide, where even people who don't ride the bus are happy to see red-yellow-and-white transit coaches rolling throughout town.

"That means there are fewer crazy drivers on the streets," said Laura Ryan, a jewelry shop manager who walks to work. "I love it."

Whether you're headed for class at Ames High School, looking for a sweatshirt at North Grand Mall or needing a sprained ankle examined at Mary Greeley Hospital, CyRide can get you there.

The system, which runs 17 hours a day, seven days a week, reaches to within a quarter-mile of 80 percent of Ames' 48,000 residents.

Buses typically run every 20 to 40 minutes, and all but one route cuts through ISU's campus. Fares are 75 cents each way for the general public, even cheaper if you buy fare tickets by the book or a monthly pass. Students pay 35 cents a ride, or less with rides spread out over a $99 semester pass.

"It's worth it," said Todd Caraway, a mall shopper who doesn't own a car. "There's a lot of people here who don't drive cars. If we didn't have this bus system, people would just be sitting around on their butts all the time."

CyRide operates on $3.2 million a year, with 92 employees including 20 full-time drivers. A shuttle hauls students and staffers, for free, between Iowa State University's 3,000-car parking lot near the football stadium and onto the main campus.

The system provides 2.6 million rides a year.

The system is overseen by a board composed of representatives from the city, Iowa State University and ISU students.

Each population gets something for its money.

For the city, residents enjoy reduced traffic congestion and improved access for residents of all ages, physical abilities and income levels.

For the university, administrators take advantage of reduced parking demand by replacing lots on the main campus with new buildings.

For students, getting to class doesn't require owning a car or walking across town. A special "moonlight express" service runs Friday and Saturday nights, offering door-to-door service largely for ISU students.

CyRide was born out of a private system that started bus service in Ames 67 years ago. By 1970 it was losing money, and for three years needed $12,000 a year from the city to break even. The bus company closed up shop in 1976, leaving the city to provide Dial-A-Ride service, with federal assistance, which survived five months.

The city soon started a small, two-route bus system during rush hours, plus a Dial-A-Ride system. It expanded until 1981, when ISU administrators, students and city officials joined forces.

Routes expanded as demands increased. The agency built a central maintenance and office building on ISU property for $2.4 million, 75 percent of it financed by the federal government.

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