City plan includes CyRide improvements


A student waits to get on CyRide, the public transit system available to students in Ames.

Christie Smith

City Council discussed budgeting for CyRide during its review of the Capital Improvement Plan at an Ames City Council meeting Tuesday night.

The Capital Improvement Plan is a five-year plan to improve infrastructure in Ames. City manager Steve Schainker presented his recommendations for the 2016-2021 plan during the meeting.

The Council will have a public hearing on the plan at its meeting Tuesday and vote on the Capital Improvement Plan on Feb. 9.

Ames has experienced unprecedented growth in the past five years, according to the city manager’s letter to the council. Iowa State has contributed to Ames’s growth with this year’s record enrollment and years of enrollment growth prior to 2015.

Since 2011, Ames has expanded its city limits by more than 600 acres.

“We have a daunting task before us to meet the obligation to extend city infrastructure into newly-developed areas,” Schainker said in the presentation, “as well as maintain the existing infrastructure where age has taken its toll on these facilities.”

The plan is organized in four categories: public safety, utilities, transportation and community betterment.

The presentation included budgets for projects to improve fire stations; assist in water treatment; create shared-use paths for bicyclists, runners and walkers; and to create handicap accessible parks, to name a few.

One of the projects outlined in the plan that directly affects ISU students is the CyRide Vehicle Replacement Program. At current record enrollment, the demand on CyRide has never been higher, according to Schainker’s proposal.

“With more students at Iowa State, and with students accounting for 93 percent of all CyRide ridership, there are obviously more students on the buses than in years past,” said Sam Schulte, senior in biochemistry and ex-officio City Council representative at a meeting of the CyRide Board in October.

CyRide provides as many rides per capita as transportation systems in cities as large as Boston, According to the Transit Board of Trustees.

Federal funding for CyRide has decreased, leaving the burden of CyRide funding on the city and the university. ISU students currently pay 66 percent of local funding for CyRide, and the university pays an additional 10 percent.

The Capital Improvement Plan includes city budgeting for the purchase of 13 new buses and 25 used buses by 2021.

The city manager also recommends dedicating more than $2.3 million to update the CyRide storage building. The proposed plan suggests improving bus stops by installing up to three new shelters each year, during the next five years.

Schainker said that many of the projects in the plan focus on utilities that are important to the quality of life in Ames such as flood mitigation and water treatment.

While these projects are important, Schainker said they are less visible to the public than others, like those dedicated to public parks, swimming pools and CyRide.

The full plan can be viewed on the city of Ames website. An abridged version of the city manager’s recommendations in his letter to the council can be found here.