Monday, September 12, 2022

C. Douglas Couto (BBA72) was a sophomore at Iowa in 1970 and talking with fellow members of the Associated Residence Halls, a student group that mostly sponsored dorm events like movies or pizza parties. This time, he said they wanted to think big.

“Some of us thought we should do something more useful, and we came up with the idea to run a school bus between the dorms,” Couto said. It would be a quick and free way for students to get across campus, especially helpful in nasty weather, so they started running a single school bus across campus in fall 1970.

“It was always popular and full beyond capacity,” he said.

With university support, that one-bus brainstorm would grow into CAMBUS, one of the university’s most enduring symbols that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Today, CAMBUS runs 34 vehicles and gives more than 3 million rides a year on 14 routes that stretch as far as the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex and the Oakdale Research Park in Coralville. It employs 160 students who hold driving, training, dispatching, route planning, support, vehicle maintenance, and supervisor positions. Only 10 non-student employees work for CAMBUS.

“We’re proud to be student-operated and having students in leadership positions making day-to-day decisions,” said Mia Brunelli (BBA14), operations manager for CAMBUS. “It gives them an experience that’s applicable in most any major and is great on a resume.”