Just a phone call away

Erin Hardy

One can see small Cy-Ride buses shuttle around town, but rarely do they stop at bus stops.

Dial-A-Ride is a service geared toward the elderly and the disabled. It is a door-to-door transportation service operating within the Ames city limits.

All buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts and specially trained drivers to assist with passenger needs.

Dial-A-Ride has been in service since Sept. 13, 1976, when Cy-Ride began operation. The type of service offered by Dial-A-Ride was started by a taxi service in Ames in January, 1976.

“Then the city took over the operation, and that’s how the transportation department started,” said Karen Jamison, operations supervisor at Cy-Ride that has worked for Cy-Ride from the start.

All Cy-Ride drivers go through passenger assistance training (PAT), Jamison said, soon after they are hired. “PAT training shows drivers how to handle a wheelchair properly and to have sensitivity for different situations and disabilities that drivers may encounter,” Jamison said.

There are seven shifts of Dial-A-Ride per day, with three shifts designated for full-time drivers of Dial-A-Ride. A total of 14,489 rode Cy-Ride in 1996.

In 1992, Dial-A-Ride service was expanded to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. At its start, Dial-A-Ride was a same-day call-in service.

Now with the new requirements, Jamison said, passengers are required to make a reservation at least one day in advance.

Jamison feels this makes passengers plan ahead, instead of going out during the day on the spur of the moment.

One reason Jamison likes Dial-A-Ride so much is there is more personal contact with the passengers than on the fixed route. “It’s a more personal service.”

“I love driving Dial-A-Ride,” said Deb Damstrom, a driver at Cy-Ride for over four years, who has been driving for Dial-A-Ride for one year.

“The people are real fun, you get to know them real well.”

Mary Wren, an Ames resident since 1945, rides Dial-A-Ride. She said it helps her immensely. “It gives me independence; without it I would be stranded.”

In 1982, she started on the fixed route, then changed to Dial-A-Ride. She especially likes all the drivers of Dial-A-Ride. She said she keeps up conversation with them so that her trips are not quite so boring. “Talking to the young people makes me young again. And if the weather is bad, many of the drivers will help you to the door.”

One of the reasons Wren likes Dial-A-Ride so much is that “they stay on time. It is wonderful to know it is coming within a certain time period.”

Many of the passengers who ride Dial-A-Ride have their doctorates and some teach at Iowa State. One passenger is even a bowling Hall of Famer. One passenger has been nominated for an Emmy.

Eric Dahle, a Cy-Ride fixed route and Dial-A-Ride driver for over two years, said passengers on the route are quite active.

“Although the passengers are not able to ride the fixed route and need special assistance, they are far from lacking in ability,” he said.