Monday, November 4, 2019

With the assistance of federal grant money, Cambus was recently able to purchase three new 40’ buses.  Cambus will retire two 1997 Gillig buses that have been operating for over 20 years as a result of the new bus purchase.  The purchase of buses 120, 121, and 122 presented the opportunity to evaluate adding new features and upgrades to the vehicles.

New Features

New or updated features to the buses include design, rider comfort, and safety enhancements. These new buses offer a bolder, updated look while still resembling the current design. Aspects of the new design includes modernized logotype and prominent dome graphic. The design also highlights that the service is student operated. New ergonomic door handles were included for driver comfort. Larger passenger seats are included to offer a more comfortable ride. In terms of safety, a new curbside light near the back tire and headlights that brighten when the corresponding turn signal is activated have been added for increased visibility at night.

Funding and Purchasing

Purchasing new buses with the assistance of federal grant money has several requirements and conditions that must be met.  Transit buses are considered to have a “useful life” of 12 years.  A bus is not eligible for replacement with federal grant money until after 12 years of service.  In the state of Iowa, once this requirement is met, buses are placed on a funding wait list.

From there, the Iowa Department of Transportation uses a formula to determine which buses in Iowa are next in line for replacement with the federal funding. Because of the limited amount of federal funding available, the number of buses eligible for replacement exceeds the funding Iowa has available. This funding gap means that buses are not typically replaced until they are 15 or more years old.

Federal funding does not cover all costs related to the purchase of new buses (approximately $450,000 each). Federal grant money covers roughly 80% of a new bus costs and the university funds the remaining 20% cost.

CAMBUS new bus funding sources - box outline shaded in 20% with gold and labeled with university logo , 80% shaded black and labeled with Federal Transit Administration

When grant money is provided to fund a new bus, the process of ordering the bus is started. Two of the three new buses are replacements for buses 83 and 85, which were originally from 1997. After over 20 years and over 1,000,000 miles of combined service, buses 83 and 85 were accepted for funding in 2018 and the order for buses 120-122 was placed in December 2018. Features and design were finalized in May 2019, and the buses went into production in September 2019.  The new buses arrived at Cambus in late September.  

Almost a year after placing the order, the new buses have arrived on the campus and they will be ready for service in November 2019. The maintenance team is currently completing various on-site installations and inspections - including surveillance systems and license and registration -  before these buses can become road ready.

Maintaining the Fleet 

All buses are required to receive routine maintenance which allows the buses to operate safely for many years. Buses receive daily maintenance that includes interior and exterior cleaning and checking and filling fluids.  Buses receive monthly maintenance that includes ADA ramp inspection, tire inspections, light checks, and equipment inspections.  Buses receive preventative maintenance every 5,000 miles (approx. every 2 months), every 15,000 miles (approx. every 6 months), and every 30,000 miles (approx. every 12 months).

Preventative maintenance includes tire rotations, steam cleaning, oil changes, thorough inspections of all mechanical and electrical components, and changing various fluids and filters.  Annually, each bus also has the entire wheelchair ramp removed and repaired as needed, and a thorough inspection and repair of the AC and HVAC units is completed.

Retiring the two oldest buses in the fleet, which tend to have frequent mechanical needs or failures, improves the reliability of service. Following the retirement of buses 83 and 85, the fleets’ oldest buses will be from 2008. Looking forward, Cambus will have twelve buses (94-105) that will become eligible for replacement in 2020.


About CAMBUS  

CAMBUS is the University of Iowa’s student operated, no fare public transit system that provides fixed-route service throughout campus and demand-response paratransit services for qualifying persons with disabilities. CAMBUS works in collaboration with other Parking and Transportation Department units to provide and support access and mobility for students, faculty, staff, patients, and visitors. For more information about our services visit or call (319) 335-8633.