They show up at the bus stops, and they get students and faculty where we need to go on time and in one piece. “They” are the CyRide drivers. These staffers serve a purpose for more than one reason, and with the strange occurrences that can happen to these drivers, many of them have a story to tell.
Veteran CyRide driver Nathan Shimanek and student driver Amanda Veen share stories, facts and tips about the CyRide bus system to keep students in the know. Shimanek has been with CyRide for the last 13 years and started as a part-time driver while attending Iowa State for a degree in forestry. Shimanek said most of the long-term employees started part-time during college and kept it as their career.
Veen, senior in interdisciplinary studies, began working for CyRide in May 2011 and recommends CyRide as a great part-time job that works well with all student schedules.
With the overflow of students, Shimanek said CyRide has kept up by increasing morning circulation. At 7:40 a.m., 63 buses are on the route, sometimes in pairs, to pick up the extras and help keep the routes on schedule. With that many buses out, Veen said students need to be aware of their surroundings to stay safe.
“People don’t walk in crosswalks or look before they cross the street, and it’s harder for a bus to stop really fast just because it’s so big,” Veen said. “There are also a lot of bikers that just kind of weave in and out and it’s really dangerous so we have to stay really aware of that as a driver.”
Shimanek said the reason for an increase in a lack of awareness is due to society’s addiction to technology.
“The more we get plugged in, the less people are aware of their surroundings,” Shimanek said. “It’s so scary to see people almost get hit.”
Rumors have been swirling around for years that if a student gets hit by a CyRide then they automatically get free tuition, but Shimanek and Veen laughed off that idea.
“I definitely wouldn’t try it,” Veen said with a laugh.
Shimanek fully agreed.
“Yeah, that’s probably false,” Shimanek said.
Apart from the daily routes that occur throughout the week, CyRide also features its Moonlight Express buses, which the student body often refers to as the “drunk bus.” Shimanek said he does not mind the nickname as long as people remember this service is for the students’ safety first and not shenanigans.
“You get so used to just everything being weird that it no longer occurs to you that it’s weird,” Shimanek said. “It amazes me that people are oblivious that they are on a public space.”
Although Shimanek is used to the strangeness that can step onto CyRide after dark, some incidents that have occurred occasionally involve the police.
“On the Moonlight [Express], people really forget that they are with other people in the community,” Shimanek explained. “You see fights; people urinating in buckets; yeah, they go to jail.”
After each shift, drivers inspect their CyRide for lost items which has created a stockpile of lost and found at the CyRide depot. Several phones, books, umbrellas, gloves and even bicycles are waiting unclaimed at the bus depot.
“It’s amazing how much stuff is left on the bus,” Shimanek said. “There are boxes and boxes of black umbrellas and black gloves. You should buy a colored umbrella, something unique.”
Shimanek also warned that if a person’s phone has a passcode, while it’s good security, it is nearly impossible to return it unless the owner comes in and claims it.
Many people have witnessed the student who runs for the bus as it pulls away. Sometimes a driver will stop and wait while other times they pull away. Shimanek said there is a reason for that.
“It depends on the route,” Shimanek said. “With an Orange, you might know there’s another 1, 2 minutes behind you and you need to keep going but if it’s a green route with a 20 minute wait then you would wait. I know it’s really frustrating for some people that are running, but most drivers are accommodating.”
Training is important when joining the CyRide team. Shimanek, the usual trainer for all newbies, said the entire process takes around 100 hours which includes video training, passing a commercial driver’s license test and route training.
Veen said CyRide is a great part-time job with very flexible schedules for student drivers.
“You pick what runs you’re going to drive around your class schedule,” Veen said. “I’m an ROTC cadet and so I have a lot of stuff to do with that, and CyRide is really good about giving me time off with training.”
During Finals Week, all student employees bring in their finals exam schedule so that CyRide can make sure their shift is covered.
Shimanek said another good thing CyRide stresses is safety and respect.
“Our priority is always safety,” Shimanek said. “Our goal is that everyone always gets a ride on the trip they want.”