CyRide considers steps to accomodate growth

Virginia Zantow

CyRide presented the results of a transit feasibility study to the Ames City Council at a workshop Tuesday, which revealed its ideas about possibly acquiring new buses or lengthening routes.

Out of the seven areas examined in the study, two were identified as locations of greatest need for some form of improvement in the bus system, while an additional two locations may need improvement, depending on development that has yet to occur.

The Orange route was determined by URS Corporation, the engineering consultant hired by CyRide, as the most problematic route.

Currently, the Orange route, which runs from the Iowa State Center and Commuter Lot area through campus as a circulator, carries an average of 8,000 riders per day during fall and spring semesters, according to the study.

The route has the heaviest passenger load out of all of the CyRide routes, and in order to better meet bus users’ needs, URS recommended purchasing four “articulated buses” that are 60 feet long and can carry up to 120 passengers, as opposed to the current capacity of 70 to 80 passengers.

CyRide’s challenge in purchasing the new vehicles, however, lies in the capacity of its maintenance and storage building, which would only allow, at best, for two of the articulated buses.

When Sheri Kyras, CyRide director of transportation, was asked about discarding buses in order to accommodate for the needed space the new buses would need, she said it was probably not a realistic option.

“In the last two years, we have only replaced two vehicles,” Kyras said.

She said that although CyRide has purchased new vehicles with the intent of replacing old ones, the need for extra buses because of passenger demand has not allowed all of the old buses to be discarded.

The second area of need was identified at Mortensen Road, where extra buses often have to be sent because of the number of riders.

URS suggested purchasing three articulated buses for Mortensen Road, which is currently reached by the No. 7 Purple route and the No. 1 Red route.

Rick Nau, representative for URS, said the Mortensen Road location “came in a close second” to the needs identified for the Orange route.

Again, CyRide faces the difficulty of the limited space in its maintenance and storage facility. One possibility discussed at the meeting was sharing a storage facility with Heartland Senior Services, 205 S. Walnut Ave.

The articulated buses, which would cost approximately $500,000 each, would allow for a decrease in operating costs, largely because of the need for fewer drivers, Nau and Kyras said.

The two locations URS also recommended for possible improvement was a route extending to the proposed new mall, which could mean an extension of the Red or Blue routes, as well as an improvement in northwest Ames, where future development is planned.

However, both of these improvements depend on the future of the sites and the growth anticipated at each.

In order to further determine the need and refine the ideas for all of these recommended improvements, CyRide plans to continue to communicate with the community and the city council.