DES MOINES, Iowa - The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority is looking to the future - 2035, to be exact.
DART revealed a new draft of its Forward 2035 expansion plan Wednesday night, in celebration of its 10th birthday. The agency says its hoping to stay ahead of the curve with population and employment growth in Des Moines, as well as with technological trends like ridesharing, to make the public transit system work best for everyone.
DART's original long-term plan was announced five years ago, but agency representatives say rapid increases in Des Moines' population growth require a change. By 2020, the Greater Des Moines Metro Area is expected to reach 600,000 people - a number originally expected for Des Moines to reach by 2035, according to Amanda Wanke, communications officer with DART. Couple that with figures showing less teenagers in the area with driver's licenses, and more people in the urban core who don't own cars, and Wanke says a new strategy is necessary.
The agency wants both riders and non-riders to offer feedback on three separate scenarios. Wanke says DART wants to use its money and resources wisely, and public feedback is the only way of knowing what option is best. No matter the option, Wanke says more funding will be necessary for DART to function properly; that could be done through more city, state, and federal funding, higher fares, or increased taxes.
Three main scenarios are being considered: A minimal growth plan, costing $66.8 million annually
starting in 2035; a moderate growth plan, costing $94.8 million annually starting in 2035; and an expanded regional growth plan, costing $99.3 million annually starting in 2035. DART's current service is projected to cost $53.9 million in 2035.
All scenarios include some form of expansion in the following ways: A new central hub in the western suburbs, similar in its size and scope to the DART Central Station in downtown Des Moines; more shelters where riders can sit or stand outside of the elements, ranging from 30 to 250 new structures; expanded service hours; a bus/carpool lane on the freeway to expedite bus routes; and "mobility hubs" throughout the Metro which provide DART riders with access to bike and car rental corrals.
Full plans can be reviewed here. DART is seeking public feedback now and will close the survey on November 18. Users can also text DART2035 for more information. Public meetings where plans will be presented, with time for public feedback, are listed on DART's website, as well. A final plan will be formed and announced by late winter or early spring.