The February issue of CyRide’s Signals newsletter includes a list of what they have requested with anticipated transit funding in the national economic stimulus package. A specific wish list has been determined early so once funds are allocated, CyRide will have a chance to get orders in ahead of larger transit agencies, with arrival times for new bus orders typically around 18 months. Included are:
> 10 – 40-foot Heavy-duty Diesel OR Hybrid Electric expansion buses
> 3 – MD Low-floor buses (Full funding to upgrade minibuses 949, 960,961 to MD low-floor buses)
> 3 – MD low-floor bus upgrade (Add funding for 859, 938,939 at MD status as opposed to LD)
> 13 – 40-foot Heavy-duty replacement buses (926, 927, 933, 934, 941, 942, 943, 967, 980, 981, 983, 985, 990)
It is a priority of CyRide to upgrade its fleet and keep up with increasing service demand. However, the garage is basically at capacity and the roof is too low to fit hybrid buses, except for a few newer lanes, part of more recent additions. With no more room to expand on site, a satellite garage is rumored to be CyRide’s next step in facility expansion. It will be interesting to see what happens if all or even part of CyRide’s capital requests are approved and they have addition buses arriving in the next two years.
Additionally, the Ames City Council approved $93,000 from local option sales tax revenue, for city-wide fare free service this summer. The vote passed 4-2, with council members Riad Mahayni and Jami Larson voting no. Mahayni, a former CRP professor of mine, was concerned with the fairness to ISU students who regularly ride for free, but pay for it through student fees. Larson wondered about the consequences of offering a one-time fare free period and the implications when the free service ends in the fall.
Ultimately I think the initiative will get some additional residents on the bus and maybe persuade a few to continue when fares resume. I had not considered the fairness to students issue before, but the opportunity to increase long term ridership and community support is probably worth it. For the summer, CyRide will be unique among Iowa public transit agencies in providing fare free service to all, excluding Cambus which is operated by the University of Iowa and does not extend service beyond campus.