Local bus service
There are no city records that show when bus service started, but bus service did exist as early as 1921.
Jan. 20, 1925, a passenger and bus driver were injured in a bus fire. The bus was being refueled at the Manhattan Oil Station at the corner of Lincoln Way and Grand. The bus driver, Albert Elliot, was seriously injured when the bus caught fire while he was refueling it. A passenger, Gladys Zismer, was seriously burned when she jumped through flames that had engulfed the front door of the bus. Zismer, an Iowa State student from Delmar, died in June from her injuries. On Dec. 19, 1925, her father was awarded $3,075 in damages from the Manhattan Oil Co., which had been convicted of negligence in allowing the bus to be refueled while a small kerosene stove was burning near the tank. The driver was released from the hospital Feb. 10, 1925.
Jan. 28, 1925, the Chamber of Commerce board of directors met to discuss the bus fire and the frequent accidents that had been occurring. They discussed canceling the franchise of the Hutchison Bus Co. and authorizing the FDDM&S to operate buses in Ames. The matter was referred to the Chamber of Commerce Highway Committee.
On April 21, 1925, the Ames City Council finally approved an increase in streetcar fares from 5 cents to 7 cents. Ticket prices increased from 25 for $1 to 17 for $1. At the same time, the FDDM&S announced it was buying four buses for use in Ames. The buses were bought to operate between the Fourth Ward (campustown area) and downtown. The buses were built by either Reo or Graham. The bus garage was located at 1003 Second St.
1930: The first time that high school students were transported at the expense of the Ames Community School District. It marked the successful conclusion of negotiations between the school district, city, and bus company. Residents of the Fourth Ward objected to the distance their children had to travel when the school board proposed to erect a new high school at Fifth Street and Clark Avenue. Fourth Ward residents had asked that the school be constructed in west Ames. The school board presented figures that showed there would be decreased efficiency in all branches of the curriculum if two high schools were maintained. To solve the problem, the school board offered to provide transportation to the 100 high school students in the Fourth Ward. When school resumed Sept. 8, 1930, special school bus service left West Gate every morning at 8:02 a.m. During the 1930s, the school district began operating its own buses.
Sept. 26, 1930: FDDM&S gets building permit for 18 by 32 addition to garage at the West Street and Sheldon Avenue intersection.
Feb. 24, 1931: Interstate Transit Lines was given permission to operate city bus line for month of March from FDDM&S special city council meeting April 1, 1930 to April 1, 1931 permit dates.
June 30, 1942: Ames' one bus route is revised to conform to World War II regulations. The route operates at 20-minute intervals from 6:20 a.m. to 11:40 p.m. A total of 6,312 passengers rode the route on Saturday, Dec. 18, 1942.
1931-1944: Interstate Transit Lines started operating buses in Ames. The company ran one route with two buses on 20-minute schedules from 6:20 a.m. until midnight. Interstate Transit Lines was a part of Union Pacific Stages.
Sept. 15, 1944: Interstate Transit Lines was sold to Robert Walker of Keokuk. Walker changed the name of the company to Midwest Transit Lines. Walker also owned bus companies in Keokuk, Muscatine and Fort Madison.
Emerson Gorman started as a driver for Interstate Transit Lines in 1935, then moved into the office as a dispatcher in 1942. In 1947, five new 1946 models were received.
April 27, 1946: Streamlined routes were started. Two routes were expanded into four routes. Buses operated at 20-minute intervals. They were staggered from Fifth Street and Kellogg Avenue so there was a bus every 10 minutes to campus. Ames College Route left at 10 minutes, 30 minutes and 50 minutes after the hour. The Crosstown Route left on the hour, 20 minutes and 40 minutes after the hour.
Sept. 23, 1947: Nine Ford transit buses are used to provide service on two routes.
June 13, 1950: the summer schedule was announced by Midwest Transit. Buses operated at a 20-minute interval weekdays until 7 p.m., and then at a 40-minute interval during the evening, and Sundays and holidays. Buses operate from 7:08 a.m. until 11:35 p.m.
Sept. 5, 1950: Midwest Transit Line buses were operating at a 20-minute interval from 6:08 a.m. until 11:55 p.m., including Sundays and holidays. Special campus buses via Sixth and 13th streets began operation on Sept. 25, 1950.
Sept. 20, 1950: New bus routes were announced.
Via 13th Street leaving Lincoln Way/Riverside Drive at 7:40 a.m., Lincoln Way to Duff Avenue, Duff Avenue to 13thStreet, 13th Street to campus.
- Via Sixth Street, Fifth Street/Grand Avenue at 7:40 a.m., Fifth Street to Kellogg Avenue to ninth Street to Roosevelt Avenue to 12th Street to Northwestern Avenue to 13th Street to Ridgewood Avenue to Sixth Street to campus. Buses left the library corner at 5:05 p.m. and operate on reverse route. Noncampus bus leaving at 11:55 a.m.
- Pammel Court bus will left Sixth Street/Kellogg Avenue at 1:35 p.m. and North Pammel Court at 11:50 a.m., and every hour until 6:50 p.m. Last bus departure at 6:50 p.m.
- Regular college buses went by South Pammel Court when Pammel Court bus was not operating.
1951: Bus service is reduced due to low ridership.
1952: George Fenell bought Midwest Transit Lines and changed the name to Midwest Transportation Inc. At that time, Midwest Transportation took over the school routes. Before this happened, the school furnished its own buses and drivers.
1955: A traffic study in Ames showed that 5 percent of the population rode the bus daily. The Ames College Route carried 350 passengers per day; the Crosstown/Northside Route carried 700; the special bus (three trips) carried 50; and the evening shuttle carried 50 per day. Four buses were required for this schedule; Sunday ridership was 90 passengers per day. The taxi companies operated a total of eight taxis that carried approximately 800 passengers per day. Twenty-five intercity bus trips stopped each day in Ames at the Union Bus Depot located on the southeast corner of Main Street and Clark Avenue. The Union Bus Depot was completed in February 1949.
1960s: Midwest Transportation operated transit service, contract school service with Ames Community School District, and local taxi service (Red Top Cab). In August 1965, two new GMC Model 3501 transit coaches were purchased to replace old equipment. These buses continued in transit service until Midwest ended fixed-route service in 1975. The buses were used for contract shuttle services with ISU, serving dormitory shuttle routes until March 1982 when that seasonal service ended. They were also used occasionally in charter service for fraternities, sororities and dormitories. Used 40-foot "old look" buses were also purchased from the Twin Cities during the 1960s to replace older buses.
Bob Killam started at Midwest July 15, 1966, as general manager. In 1972, he bought the business from George Fenell. In 1971 Midwest Transportation received the Ward dealership for the state of Iowa. In 1982, Midwest received the award for western Nebraska. Midwest was limited to picking up in six counties, and in 1980 received the rights to pick up anywhere in Iowa.
Sept. 3, 1968: A new Northside Route to 24th Street was added. Bus service operated from 6:15 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. at 30-minute intervals on two routes (Crosstown/West Ames and Northside/24th Street) and four times per day on the University/16th Street Route. Trippers were also operated to Street Cecilia School and Ames High School.
Fixed-route ridership fluctuated during the 1950s and 1960s with a gradual downward trend dominating. Ames and ISU were growing, but the transit share of the travel market was declining. In 1958, there were 234,791 passengers from a population base of 26,182. In 1962, ridership increased to 269,997 and then steadily declined by 1970 to 105,517 even though population increased to 39,505.
The 1970s were a time of turmoil and transition for bus service in Ames. In September 1970, Midwest Transportation Inc. reported to the City Council it was losing money. Midwest requested and received a subsidy of $1,000 per month to continue bus service. The city subsidy continued until December 1972. At this time, a lease program was started with Midwest. The city council agreed to pay an hourly rate of $7.25 per bus to Midwest, and all farebox revenue was returned to the city. This was continued with various route structure and experimental operations until September 1974 when the per hour rate was increased to $9.95 per hour. Two crosstown fixed routes were operated and four tripper buses provided limited service to other areas in Ames.
March 1973: A subsidized taxi program was instituted allowing people 65 and older to ride for 75 cents. The city of Ames paid the balance of the regular fare. Subsidized bus and taxi service continued through 1975.
Jan. 15, 1976: The fixed-route bus service was ended, and revenue sharing funds were allocated for a Dial-A-Ride system. The service were provided under contract by Ames Taxi Co. with the use of city funds. The name, Cy-Ride, evolved at this time.
Federal revenue sharing funds were allocated for a Dial-A-Ride system. The services were provided under contractual arrangement between the city of Ames and the Ames Taxi Co., using city funds. Bob Cherry, a consultant and Davenport taxi owner, had indicated that Dial-A-Ride could make an operating profit, but would need funding for the purchase of equipment.
The city of Ames terminated this arrangement June 15, 1976, after five months of operations. Termination of service was attributed to poor organization and inadequate funding. Late buses and missed pickups were common problems.
The city of Ames asked the Iowa DOT to perform an analysis of the transit system and provide recommendations. Al Baker of the Iowa DOT developed a fixed-route system.
September 1976: The new version of Cy-Ride began Sept. 13, 1976, with the city of Ames owning and operating the system. Mark Huddleston was the transit manager, and Karen Martens (Jamison) was the first dispatcher.
Cy-Ride included a combination of fixed route, Dial-A-Ride, city taxi and special services for handicapped and elderly, including a wheel chair van. Two fixed routes were operating during rush hours and a Dial-A-Ride service was provided during the middle of the day. The fixed-route buses did not enter the ISU campus. A total of 86,368 passengers rode in the fiscal year.
Sept. 4, 1979: A third route was added that provided service from 6:25 a.m. to 6:25 p.m. on weekdays. All-day operation on all three routes began Sept. 4, 1979. Buses were routed through central campus. Experimental evening service was provided for a three-week period in December 1980.
Aug. 23, 1981: The Cy-Ride system started by the city of Ames September 1976 was succeeded on Aug. 23, 1981, by an expanded service implemented after months of preliminary planning: one year by the temporary Transit Advisory Committee (March 1980 - March 1981), and then by the permanent authority, the Ames Transit Agency Board of Trustees.
The transit agency was established Sept. 16, 1980, to undertake establishment, acquisition, operation, management, control and governance of transit services in and for the city of Ames. That agency assumed control of the Cy-Ride system on July 1, 1981. This marked a milestone in university and city cooperation. The transit system that was launched Aug. 23, 1981, received funding from mandatory student tuition, an ISU contribution, property tax levy, revenue sharing, advertising revenues, an Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) grant, an Iowa DOT grant, and passenger fares.
The new five-route system provided more service on existing routes and included two new routes that served the Kate Mitchell School area (route #5) and Veterinary Medicine (route #4) areas. It also provided evening service, Saturday service, and new Sunday service. Service levels were 30-minute intervals during the day and 60-minute intervals in the evening. Limited Saturday service on the Yellow Route began Oct. 12, 1981.
The 1980s were characterized by continuous expansion of the system with new routes and a combination of new and used buses purchased to meet the growing demand for service.
Aug. 22, 1983: The Brown Route (route #6) was established, operating during rush hours only. The parking lot shuttle was established, connecting the Iowa State Center parking lot with central campus and provided additional service on the Orange Route (#4). Funding for the parking lot shuttle came from the Parking Systems Office at ISU. The purpose of the parking lot shuttle was to reduce the need to construct additional parking on campus. Subsequently, several parking lots on central campus were used as building sites. A 20-minute interval was established on Red, Green and Blue routes during the daytime hours.
May 5, 1984: A 31,000-square foot storage building, maintenance facility and office was dedicated at 1700 W. Sixth Street. The land is owned by ISU and leased to the transit agency for 99 years. Grants from the UMTA paid 75 percent of the $2 million construction cost, and $400,000 in tools and equipment that were installed in the building.
Ridership increased from 86,368 in FY76 to 331,365 in FY81 during city ownership and then increased dramatically to 902,711 in FY82 and 2,000,178 in FY84 under the ownership of the transit agency. The peak year in the 1980s was FY89, when 2,447,273 passengers rode.
Aug. 24, 1985: Adult fares increased to 60 cents for fixed-route service and Dial-A-Ride fares were increased to $1.50 for the elderly and disabled riders. Sunday morning service was started. A 20-minute interval on the Red Route on weekends and a 20-minute interval on Blue Route on Saturdays was established. Fiscal year 1985-1986 was the first year that the Iowa DOT implemented a dedicated source of transit funding statewide. Mass transit in Iowa was now supported by one-fortieth of the license plate fees collected in the state.
Aug. 23, 1986: A crisis in the insurance industry resulted in the bankruptcy of Cy-Ride's insurance carrier. This caused a 5 percent reduction in Cy-Ride fixed route, Dial-A-Ride and administrative programs.
Aug. 19, 1988: Evening Dial-A-Ride service and evening Brown Route service was established. The Purple Route (#7) was established in the fall of 1989 to provide only rush-hour service to newly constructed apartment buildings in southwest Ames. Initial service was subsidized by the owner of the apartment complex. Two midday trips were added in August 1991. Additional trips were added in August 1992.
Jan. 20, 1992: Dial-A-Ride service for elderly and passengers with disabilities was expanded to completely comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additional service on weekday and Saturday nights and Sundays was provided. Fares had been lowered Aug. 23, 1992, to $1.50 for Dial-A-Ride.
May 1993: Service levels were reduced in order to balance revenues with expenses. Fares were increased to 90 cents for adults and 40 cents for students. Expenses have increased significantly due to ADA regulations and revenues have not increased sufficiently. Federal operating revenue has been decreased and city revenue increases are constrained by the state-imposed property tax freeze. Dial-A-Ride service was restricted to passengers with disabilities.
Ridership decreased to 2,154,401 in FY94. CyRide refocused its services to meet a change in demand for service. Increased car ownership, decreased parking on campus due to new building construction, changes in class scheduling and decreases in cost of auto ownership, were major factors influencing ridership. ISU's Parking Systems provided funds to improve the free shuttle service on the Orange Route connecting the Iowa State Center parking lot with central campus. This increased total ridership, but decreased fare-paying riders on other routes.
An agreement with the ISU Department of Residence in FY95 allowed residents of the Towers Residence Association to ride the Brown Route for no charge. This increased ridership on the Brown Route from 87,449 in FY95 to 399,261 in FY99.
The Gray Route (Route #8) was started in FY98 with two round trips per day. Service has been gradually expanded to 17 round trips per day in FY00. This provides service to new housing areas in the northern part of Ames and service will continue to be added as the area grows. This is part of the strategy of providing adequate service as people move into the area, and when they are most likely to make a mode choice for their work trips. This is much more effective than trying to change travel habits after people have moved and are accustomed to using their automobiles.
Cy-Ride also experimented with service between Ames and Des Moines Airport in December 1997. No subsidies were provided and the service was required to cover all operating costs from the farebox. Thereafter, a service route was provided on 16 days per year when there are large numbers of people traveling to and from the airport. In June 2009, CyRide's board opted to discontinue the route in lieu of a private operator, Executive Express, providing nine trips 365 days a year between Ames and the Des Moines Airport. CyRide continued to work with Executive Express toward housing them in the new Ames Intermodal Facility in campustown along with Burlington Trailways and Jefferson Lines after the facility opens in July 2012.
In the fall of 2002, all ISU students paying tuition started riding CyRide for free by showing their student ID card. A portion of their tuition to the Government of Student Body started subsidizing CyRide. Since that time, ridership has grown dramatically and several routes have began throughout the Ames community including the #7 Purple, #21 Cardinal, #22 Gold, #6A Brown Towers and #6B Brown Mall. In addition, frequencies of several routes were increased during this timeframe to handle demand to ride the bus. Fares were increased in March 2004 to $1.00 per ride and remains that to this day. CyRide finalized construction on the first transit Leadership in Energy Efficiency & Design (LEED) Gold facility in Iowa in May 2008. In summer 2009, CyRide operated free to everyone for three months achieving a 27% ridership increase during that timeframe of which the effects were realized each month for the following year in record breaking monthly ridership. Fifteen minute frequencies were implemented on two core routes, Red and Blue, in FY2009 to even out passengers loads and improve overall safety on these services. CyRide also added 12 hybrid buses to its fleet, dubbed Cybrids, in August 2010 which operate primarily off of stored energy from braking as opposed to biodiesel fuel. Overall, ridership has increased by 57.3% since the start of ISU fare free in FY2002 (3,418,078 passengers) through FY2010 (5,377,155 passengers). Ridership continues to increase for CyRide into FY2011 and is estimated to achieve 5.5 million passengers this next fiscal year.
Detailed statistical information about Cy-Ride and the buses owned by Cy-Ride can be found at www.cyride.com.