With 3.7 million rides last year, 750,000 annual miles traveled, and 74,000 hours in service each year, Cambus has become an indispensable, black-and-gold fixture on the University of Iowa campus. But maybe most impressive, it’s run almost entirely by students.
“Cambus is all about busses on the road, and students provide that service,” says Brian McClatchey, who as Cambus manager is one of only five non-student employees with the program. For the other 160, Cambus offers a flexible way to balance work and study.
Everyone starts as a driver, eligible for promotion after six months. From there, students can become dispatchers, trainers, and supervisors. “These are real jobs with significant responsibilities,” McClatchey says.
“When I came back to campus, I knew I definitely wanted to work here again,” says Justin Denman, a Cambus veteran who rejoined the staff upon returning to the University for another degree. Today he’s one of six student supervisors charged with hiring, training, evaluating employees, and participating in management decisions.
Students have always made Cambus run. In fact, they started the service in the early 1970s, hauling peers between the west side residence halls and the Pentacrest in second-hand school busses. The trial service proved so popular that it’s continued to expand, supported largely by student fees.
Today, about 40 percent of the Cambus budget comes from student fees. University, state, and federal transit funds provide the rest. The service remains free to riders and open to the public.
If students hadn’t invented Cambus, the University might have had to. “In some ways, parts of campus developed around the bus service,” McClatchey says. When the University built parking lots at Hancher and near Carver Hawkeye Arena, Cambus started shuttling commuters to work.
While campus bus systems are common, McClatchey says, university-owned and –operated systems are not. The student-centered nature of the operation makes Cambus virtually unique.
Thanks to an infusion of federal funds, Cambus expects to add 12 new busses, low-floor models that will let riders in wheelchairs roll straight on and off. McClatchey also hopes a new fueling station will let the fleet switch from 10 to 20 percent biodiesel.
A steady influx of new students keeps Cambus an exciting place to work for McClatchey and colleagues. For students, a Cambus job brings good pay, a sense of community, and other rewards.
“We’re serious about safety and service, but this is a fun place to work,” Denman says. “Plus, everyone feels good about getting people where they need to go.”
Parking and Transportation
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