CyRide is the public transportation system in Ames, Iowa. CyRide replaced the privately-owned bus and taxi services which had evolved after the end of the streetcar era (1906 to 1929). As early as 1890, Ames had been connected to the Iowa State College campus by a railroad called "The Dinkey" which ran until 1907. Currently, CyRide is run by the Ames Transit Agency which is governed by a Board of Transit Trustees. The Board is comprised of one city council member, the Ames city manager, an Iowa State University (ISU) vice president, a student appointed by the Government of the Student Body (GSB), one GSB senator, and a person appointed by the mayor. This cooperative effort by the City of Ames, ISU, and GSB helps to make CyRide a top-class public transportation system.

CyRide was owned and operated solely by the City of Ames when it began September 13, 1976. In addition to the two fixed routes (Red and Green), CyRide offered Dial-A-Ride, city taxi, and services for handicapped and elderly people. In the first fiscal year, more than 86,000 people used CyRide.

In fall of 1979, a third route (Blue) was added and buses began to run through the campus of ISU. Two years later, control of the organization passed permanently to the Ames Transit Agency. The cooperative system between the City and the University was set up, whereby CyRide received funding from a combination of student tuition, university contributions, a property tax levy, advertising revenue, and various grants from the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) and the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT). Passenger fares also supplied some revenue. Services were expanded with two additional routes (Yellow and Orange) that covered southeast Ames and shuttled students around the large ISU campus. Evening and weekend service on most routes was provided.

During much of the 1980s, CyRide continued to expand, adding new routes and purchasing both new and refurbished buses. The sixth route (Brown) was initiated in 1983, and a parking lot shuttle, funded by the university's Parking Systems Office, connected the Iowa State Center with central campus. A thirty-one thousand square foot storage building and maintenance facility was dedicated August 22, 1983. It was built on the east edge of the campus, on land leased from ISU for 99 years. UMTA grants paid for 75 % of the construction costs (which totaled two million USD) as well as 400,000 USD worth of tools and equipment. In 1985, the IDOT began to contribute 1/40 of annual state license plate fees to mass transit systems, including CyRide. Bad luck hit the following year when CyRide's insurance carrier declared bankruptcy and resulted in a 5 % reduction in services and administrative programs. By 1988, however, enough recovery had occurred to add evening Dial-A-Ride and extend the hours of Brown Route service. The seventh route (Purple), during rush hours only, was established to provide transportation to and from new apartment complexes in southwest Ames. The cost of this route was partially subsidized by the owner of the apartments. Later, the Purple Route schedule was expanded (in 1991 and 1992).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required CyRide to upgrade much of its Dial-A-Ride service in 1992. Existing revenues could not balance the greater cost of expanded ADA service, so some regular services were reduced. The next new route (Gray) was not added until 1998, when CyRide began to offer two trips per day to north Ames where much new housing had been built.

The original fare for the fixed routes was 50 cents, which increased to 60 cents in 1985 (25 cents for ISU students, who continue to subsidize CyRide with part of their tuition). In response to the ADA-required upgrades, fares were changed to 90 cents for adults and 40 cents for students during fiscal year 1993. By 2001, the adult fare had stabilized at 75 cents while students rode the bus for 35 cents (25 cents after peak hours). Since 1995, student residents of the Towers dormitories (located about one mile south of campus) have ridden Brown route to campus at no charge. In March, 2001, ISU students passed the Fare-Free CyRide referendum (79 % For, 21 % Against) which provided students with free rides on any route boarded on campus. The Gold route was established to circulate through campus during the day. In August of 2002, all CyRide routes will operate free to students (in return for a larger chunk of mandatory student tuition and fees), and another new fixed route (Cardinal) will begin service to the new campus housing areas. Bus passes (for various time periods) and ticket books offer reduced fares to non-student riders.

Ridership on CyRide has increased rapidly over the years, despite the parallel increase in student-owned cars on campus. In 1976, 86,368 passengers rode the bus; this improved to 331,365 in 1981, and 902,711 in 1982. With the inception of the parking lot shuttle in 1983, ridership jumped to more than two million, reaching 2,447,273 in 1989. In 1995, when the route became free to Towers residents, Brown served over 300,000 passengers more than in the previous year. More than three million people rode CyRide in 2001, and the 50 millionth recorded passenger was awarded a 500 USD gift certificate (to a local store) on January 29, 2002.

Besides the fixed routes which operate 362 days a year (excepting only Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Days), CyRide continues to offer Dial-A-Ride to disabled and elderly residents with its fleet of eight minibuses equipped with wheelchair lifts. Since 1984, Moonlight Express has provided late Friday and Saturday night transportation to thousands of people each year. Special service between Ames and the Des Moines airport has also been offered since 1997 to ISU students and others sixteen days per year (at the beginning and ending of the each semester). The partnership with ISU has provided transportation for people attending large conferences on campus, including shuttles to motels, dormitories, and convention activities.

CyRide owns over 50 buses of various size and employs about 100 full- or part-time drivers, as well as almost twenty maintenance and administrative staff. Its operating expenses for fiscal year 2001 were 4,035,423 USD. Information about routes (including a map), fares, and detailed statistics are available on the official CyRide website1 along with contact information and job openings.

Awards won by CyRide include:
All-America City Award, 1983
UMTA Outstanding Public Service Award, 1989
APTA Neil E. Goldschmidt Silver Safety Award Finalist, 1991, 1993, 1999
APTA Neil E. Goldschmidt Silver Safety Award Winner, 1995, 1997
Public Risk Management Administration Achievement Award, 1992
APTA AdWheels Award, 1996
9 State Bus Roadeo Winners


Information in this article came from and, as well as the author's personal experience.