CyRide’s name officially evolved in 1976 when a Dial-A-Ride door to door system began operations under contract by the Ames Taxi Company but would not emerge as CyRide as we know it today until August 1981. Federal revenue sharing funds were allocated for this Dial-A-Ride system. The services were provided under contractual arrangement between the City of Ames and the Ames Taxi Company, 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. On September 13, 1976, the new version of CyRide began with the City of Ames owning and operating the system. Mark Huddleston was the transit manager and Karen Martens (Jamison) was the first dispatcher. CyRide 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 fiscal year 1976.
On September 4, 1979, a third route was added which provided service from 6:25 a.m. to 6:25 p.m. on weekdays. All-day operation on all three core routes began September 4, 1979. Buses were routed through central campus. Experimental evening service was provided for a three-week period in December 1980. On January 12, 1981, CyRide hired its second Director of Transportation, Bob Bourne, whom built the system for the next 25 years from 3 routes to 10 routes carrying more than 4 million passengers.
On August 23, 1981, the CyRide system started by the City of Ames in 1976 was succeeded 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. This governing board of trustees was established on September 16, 1980, to undertake establishment, acquisition, operation, management, control and governance of transit services in and for the City of Ames. The agency officially assumed control of the CyRide system on July 1, 1981 marking a milestone in university and city cooperation. CyRide received funding from mandatory student tuition, an Iowa State University contribution, property tax levy, revenue sharing, advertising revenues, an Urban Mass Transportation Administration grant (now the Federal Transit Administration), an Iowa Department of Transportation grant, and passenger fares. The funding arrangement remains similar to this day. 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.
When CyRide began in 1981, additional frequency to the existing three routes was added with two new routes serving the Kate Michell School area (route #5) and Veterinary Medicine (route #4) area. This provided a total of five core routes. CyRide also began providing 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 October 12, 1981.
On August 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 (#23). Funding for the parking lot shuttle came from the Parking Systems Office at Iowa State University. 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 #1 Red, #2 Green and #3 Blue routes during the daytime hours.
On May 5, 1984, a 31,000-square foot storage building, maintenance facility and office was dedicated at 1700 W. Sixth Street. (Sixth Street now terminates at 6th/University Boulevard but used to travel directly north of CyRide’s facility to Iowa State University campus.) The land is owned by Iowa State University and leased to the Transit Agency for 99 years. Grants from the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (renamed Federal Transit Administration) paid 75 percent of the total $2 million construction cost of the facility, and an additional $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.
In August 24, 1985, adult fares increased to 60 cents for fixed route service with Dial-A-Ride fares for the elderly and disabled riders increasing to $1.50 each ride. Sunday morning service began thereafter. A 20 minute interval on the Red Route on weekends and a 20 minute interval on Blue Route on Saturdays was established. Fiscal-year 1986 was the first year that the Iowa Department of Transportation implemented a dedicated source of transit funding statewide. Mass transit in Iowa was now supported by 1/40th of the “use tax” sales taxes collected on sale of motor vehicles and accessory equipment to supplement the annual general fund appropriation for support of public transit.
A crisis in the insurance industry resulted in the bankruptcy of CyRide's insurance carrier in August 1986. This caused a 5 percent reduction in CyRide fixed route, Dial-A-Ride and administrative programs.
In fall 1988, evening Dial-A-Ride and Brown Route services were established. The Purple Route (#7) began in the fall of 1989 to provide rush hour-only service to newly constructed apartment buildings in southwest Ames with the initial service being subsidized by the apartment complex owner. Two mid-day trips were added in August 1991. Additional trips were added in August 1992.
In 1992, Dial-A-Ride service for elderly and passengers with disabilities was expanded to completely comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act operating these services ¾ of a mile from any existing fixed route while lowering fares to $1.50 or twice the fare of the fixed route service of 75 cents. Additional service on weekday, Saturday nights and Sundays was also provided.
In 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 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.
The Gray 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.
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.
CyRide experimented with an airport shuttle 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. Service was subsequently provided for 16 days per year over Iowa State University breaks when there were large numbers of people traveling to and from the airport. However in August 2009, CyRide discontinued the Airport Shuttle Service as a new private transportation provider, Executive Express, began providing daily service on a subscription basis to the Des Moines airport 365 days a year.
In February 2001, Iowa State University’s Government of the Student Body (GSB) approved a referendum to make CyRide fare-free for all ISU students. This proposal made CyRide more accessible to a broader base of students while also introducing new service to areas not currently served by buses. CyRide added the Gold route to serve the Greek community that was previously not served. ISU students now just show their ISU identification card and they are able to ride any CyRide route anywhere throughout the Ames community. Additionally, 2001-2002 brought fare-free services to all the campus circulators making the #21 Orange, #22 Gold and #23 Cardinal circulators all free to all Ames residents, commuters and visitors. Simply, passengers wanting to ride could just board and not show any form of fare media to the driver making these circulator services easier to access and travel through ISU campus. As a result, CyRide’s passengers increased from 3,044,456 in fiscal year 2001 to 4,787,637 million by the end of FY2004. Thereafter, ridership dropped during 2005 and 2006 but has steadily risen since 2006 from 4.1 million passengers to 5.4 million in FY2011.
In July 2006, CyRide’s Transportation Director Bob Bourne retired after 25 years of service at CyRide. Bob helped the system grow from a 12-bus, 3-route system with 331,000 riders to a 65-bus, 10-route system with 4.7 million riders. More importantly, Bob helped create the management programs and establish the core values of CyRide’s operation which are utilized every day at the organization: 1) Safety First 2) Wave to Other 3) Value Added Service and 4) Schedule Last. Sheri Kyras began as CyRide’s third Transportation Director in July 2006.
In 2006, CyRide started to plan and work with Iowa State University and the City of Ames to develop multi-modal transportation facility to be located in the center of the Ames community. For many years, the regional intercity carriers were located on the outskirts of east Ames over 3 miles from a CyRide transit route. CyRide worked diligently over four months to develop a project scope and subsequent formal grant application for the Ames Transportation Facility after the Department of Transportation announced stimulus funding as a potential source of funding for the project. The USDOT approved CyRide’s TIGER I grant application for $8.463 million on February 17, 2010 for Phase I of the Ames Intermodal Transportation Facility. For more information about this project, that is scheduled for substantial completion June 2012, click here.
In August 2010, CyRide welcomed our Cybrid fleet of buses to Ames community and currently has the largest hybrid fleet within the state of Iowa. The Cybrids were funded primarily through federal stimulus funding but also from state congestion mitigation and air quality funds. CyRide had an online contest for passengers to vote for their favorite new hybrid bus design. The Ames’ community chose the gold leaf design as the preferred option.
In May 2008, CyRide’s two-story administrative facility was completed achieving a Gold Leadership in Energy and Efficiency (LEED) accreditation. This facility marked the first transit gold facility in Iowa to be recognized with this honor. The facility is approximately 10,000 square feet or double the previous administrative facility. For more information on CyRide’s LEED building, click here.
On August 11, 2010, CyRide’s entire facility began to flood through storm drains inside the building as well as outside the building as the community ran out of sand. The water eventually surrounded CyRide with the water table the highest level in history. Approximately, 1-2 feet of water rose inside the bus storage, maintenance shop and administrative offices damaging the property. No buses were damaged as they were moved overnight from the facility to the Physical Plant area and then again to Fredrickson Court’s parking lot. The Ames community was divided for nearly two days as flood waters separated east Ames from west Ames. CyRide ran limited routes on Wednesday, August 11th, regular schedule with flood detours Thursday, August 12th but returned to normal operations on Friday, August 13th. Due to power outages at the facility, CyRide could not change their website but listed all detours on Facebook and Twitter. While service was only disrupted a few days, CyRide’s employees were not as lucky as the entire lower level could not be inhabited. Once the water receded, a disaster recovery firm was hired to tear out all the wet items (floor, walls, doors, cabinets, woodwork, etc) and clean/repair other items throughout the facility. CyRide’s operations, where drivers report for work, were temporarily moved to Ames City Hall for a week but were then moved back to the upper level of CyRide soon after clean up of the parking and maintenance areas were completed. CyRide staff shared the upper level of CyRide for the next four months while the lower level was completely gutted and reconstructed. Two trailers were brought in for extra room for the employee break room and conference room during this period. In December 2010, the facility was once again whole and CyRide employees moved back to the lower level of the facility. Staff was able to move back to their lower level offices in December 2010. Iowa State University classes began August 23, 2010 only 12 days after the flood.
In 2010, CyRide added two additional routes to its service for the first time in many years - the #8 Aqua route serving the new Furman Aquatic Center and the #10 Pink Route serving the east side of Ames to E. 13th/Dayton. Both of these routes were welcomed additions to the transit service in providing additional service to the community. In fall 2014, CyRide added additional servcie on the #4B Gray route between Duff/S. 16th and ISU campus serving the 2,000 residents living along the S. 16th corridor.
CyRide has had record breaking ridership since 2009, serving the most passengers ever in CyRide history of 6.6 million for FY2014. Detailed statistical information about CyRide and the buses owned by CyRide can be found under CyRide By The Numbers at www.cyride.com.