Moonlight Express offers late night door-to-door service


Daniel Jacobi II

The sign of a CyRide bus shines the words “Moonlight Express” while parked at the Ames Middle School.

As she walks up and down the sidewalks on a late winter night, Izzy Tabbert is ready to go home. The only issue, however, is the 20-minute walk that stands ahead of her. The frigid temperature and looming darkness are not exactly ideal for a nighttime stroll. Instead of making the walk, Tabbert elects to ride on the Moonlight Express bus provided by Iowa State to make her journey home.

Along with Tabbert, many other Iowa State students utilize late-night transportation programs, such as the Moonlight Express and Safe Ride.

“I absolutely love the Moonlight Express,” Tabbert, a sophomore studying interior design, said. “It has helped me get home without feeling nervous about walking alone. It is also super helpful when it is freezing cold, and I am just trying to get to my destination.”

The Moonlight Express is a service operated by the university which offers students free and safe rides on late weekend nights. The shuttle bus operates between 10:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays during the fall and spring semesters.

The service began in August 1984 under the original name of Night Ride. It became the Moonlight Express in August 1993.

The bus was initially funded by Iowa State student fees until January 1998, when the city of Ames and Iowa State University joined in the funding, according to CyRide’s website. The website also includes a schedule for arrival times at each location.

As of Jan. 20, CyRide announced an update to the Moonlight Express, now offering door-to-door service to students. This service is available through the Ride Pingo app or by calling the service phone number at (515) 292-1100. Students can now also use Google Transit for planning their CyRide Trips.

“The new door-to-door service is great,” Jake Louis, a sophomore studying finance, said. “Before this service, the only downside of the CyRide was I didn’t know that it was able to pick me up and drop me off at specific locations.”

The Moonlight Express is popular among students because the service is free and easy.

“Knowing I can take the Moonlight Express at the end of the night makes me feel a lot safer,” said Jenna Hunter, a sophomore studying event management.

Unlike normal CyRide buses, student identification is not required to board the Moonlight Express. Beyond this, the shuttle operates very similarly.

SafeRide is another popular service for students trying to make it home after a long night. On a typical night, the SafeRide call center receives about 60 calls. During finals week, calls rise up to about 100 calls per night.

Iowa State’s SafeRide is operated through the ISU Police Department and is available throughout central campus and other university areas, including ISU-leased apartments, Greek parking lots and the basketball practice facility. It is available for free to anyone on campus, including visitors.

“Calls are first-come, first-served, but we do try our best to serve every caller,” Hillary Anderson, a dispatcher from the ISU Police Department, said. ”We only offer rides throughout campus, and most of the time, it is to and from the dorms as these are pretty far from each other.”

Unlike the Moonlight Express, SafeRide is operational 365 days a year from 6 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. However, Moonlight Express offers a wider travel zone than SafeRide, with stops available both on and off campus.

“[The Moonlight Express] runs from the west to east side of Ames, connecting with Campustown,” said Christine Crippen, assistant director of operations at CyRide. “We also offer door-to-door service.”

SafeRide’s purpose is to provide transportation to students who feel unsafe on campus at night. If students appear to be drunk while using SafeRide, the drivers may deny their services.

Students who are looking for a ride home after a night of drinking can turn to the Moonlight Express, which even has buckets on each vehicle to accommodate riders who feel nauseous.

For passengers with disabilities that prevent them from taking the Moonlight Express or SafeRide services, Iowa State offers Dial-A-Ride. This is a door-to-door service serving individuals with a disability within the city of Ames during all hours the fixed routes are running.

Students and their visitors must apply to use Dial-A-Ride. Eligibility requirements and further details on applying are listed on CyRide’s Website.