Three new Cambuses to begin service this month

New Cambus models feature improved safety features and a new design.


Katina Zentz

A Cambus passes by the Main Library on Thursday, September 26, 2019.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

A new Cambus will hit the streets of Iowa City in the coming weeks, bringing a fresh look to three of the classic yellow models.

The transit buses are planned to operate for 12 years, and the models that the new buses will replace are 20 years old, Cambus Operations Supervisor Mia Brunelli said.

Eighty percent of the cost of the new buses is covered through a federal grant program, which pays for the replacement cost of buses once they celebrate 12 years of service, Brunelli said. The total cost of each new bus is around $450,000, she added.

The buses are also more energy-efficient and updated to comply with Clean Air Act standards, Brunelli said. The last time Cambus added a new model was in 2018.

The new fleet buses will replace the 1997 models, which Brunelli said were becoming unsafe and overly expensive to operate.

As the 2008 Cambus models become eligible for replacement in 2020, Brunelli said there are plans to keep those models in operation in addition to any new ones.

“We’ll probably keep them around for a while, which we’re allowed to do. That helps us to expand our fleet if we want to expand services,” Brunelli said. “With the university growing, we definitely have an interest to do [so] as long as we can keep safely operating [buses] and get parts for them.”

As Johnson County prepares to conduct a transit study, Cambus is not looking to increase ridership, but seeks to determine how the existing fleet can be used to better serve riders, said UI Parking and Transportation Communications Manager April Wells.

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“During morning hours — peak hours — we [are] really at capacity in terms of our fleet size,” Wells said. “Setting a goal to increase ridership is not something we could accommodate at this time, based on our current model.”

Brunelli said she is excited about the design changes with the new buses.

“We just wanted to update our design,” she said. “It’s been the same since the ‘80s or ‘90s. We wanted a bolder update.”

The new buses feature an updated look that reflects new UI branding, including the new UI “Iowa” logo. The buses also feature a new slogan that reads, “Student driven. Driven students” — a nod to the fact that Cambus is mostly operated by student employees.

Brunelli said the new design is intended to give Cambus a fresh look while fostering a feeling of nostalgia.

Other updates to the bus include new safety features, Brunelli said, including bright headlights that activate when the turn signal is on.

She added that the new models do not require a significant amount of additional training for Cambus drivers.

“As far as our drivers go, they’re going to drive pretty much the same,” she said. “The only thing drivers will notice, as far as the lighting, is that it’s improved.”

UI student and Mayflower Hall resident Brianna Robertson relies on Cambus to get to class every day. She says the older models can be frustrating, especially in the summer, as they are not equipped with air conditioning.

“I think it’s pretty exciting,” Robertson said. “As a student who takes the bus all the time, I think it’s pretty cool, and I think it’s neat to see our campus try to update these buses that someone like me uses very often.”