LAST DAY: DART Closes Walnut Street Transit Mall

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Today is the last day buses will line up on Walnut Street in downtown Des Moines.  After 18 months of construction, the new DART Central Station is just hours from opening day.   Bus service at the new facility is one of the changes for riders.

“This is a different way for operating in and out of downtown.   All the routing through downtown is changed,” says Gunnar Olson with DART.

The new station has 15 bus platforms with covered walkways.  There are signs with information on them and indoor waiting areas, customer service areas, public restrooms.  There`s no question the new facility is a major improvement to the outdoor mall.  That isn't the source of some riders concern.

“We`re calling it a bus funeral,” says Linda Reynolds.  “I`m in mourning.  I`m losing my buses and everyone else is and it makes me sad.”

The regular bus rider organized a small protest at the soon-to-be closed downtown hub.  Reynolds says the changes will cut service to some riders who need it the most.

“The bus that I regularly ride is the #7.  I live out near County Line Road and they`re going to stop midday service on the #7,” says Reynolds.

Reynolds says she isn't alone.

“People on the south side especially and the #5 going to the eastside.   They need buses to get to work, they need to get to the doctor, they need to go to the store,” she says.

DART added two new routes and expanded existing service to some of the most heavily traveled areas.  But it also cut service on some of the least used routes.

“With the growth comes growing pains and we are in effect retiring the old network of bus route system.  So there are some riders who are adversely affected and I think they`re just kind of marking the end,” says Olson.

While it`s the end of one era, it`s the beginning of another.

There is no bus service on Thanksgiving.  The first bus will leave DART Central Station Friday morning.  DART is offering free rides on opening day and again on Saturday and Sunday.  The routes will be operating on a weekend schedule.  The new DART central station is located at 620 Cherry Street.