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DART PLANS: Future Routes Planned

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For a $1.75, you can get from one side of the Metro to the other.

Soon more metro residents will be able to take advantage of that cheap deal as the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority adds more routes to attract more riders.

From buses to trains, communities across the country are setting records for the number of people using public transportation.

Here in the metro, DART service is up nearly ten percent with more than 4.5 million riders.

It's a trend officials hope continues with the addition of new routes out of the new dart central station.

For those without wheels, the bus will get you around… If you have a little patience.

Samie Smith said, “Usually I don`t run my errands because the buses are too slow and they don`t run often enough in my area.”

Gunnar Olson with DART said, “People have been asking for more service for a long time.”

Olson said DART is listening and starting this month, riders will see additional service in the metro.

The newly unveiled DART central station opens for business November 23rd.  The latest route and schedule changes take effect that same day.

Olson said, “Right now, DART is very much a hub and spoke system which means there is a central hub and then spokes along it and one of the things that we`re going to be doing over the next few years is making it more grid like.”

Olson said Des Moines still won`t have a true grid system like Chicago.  There, routes follow a set north-south and east-west loop.  But over time, riders won`t always come to the downtown hub to hop on a connecting bus.

Olson said, “We`re launching a new route 42 that will take you directly from downtown with one stop in Valley West Mall and then over to Jordan Creek and that whole trip should take approximately a half hour.”

Right now, the same trip takes twice as long. DART's new route 60 isn't designed to cut down on the ride time.  Instead, service will run more often to heavily traveled destinations like Drake and the local hospitals.

On this route, buses will run simultaneously in both directions.

The new "Express Route 98" offers extended day service to and from Ankeny to Downtown Des Moines.  

The line connects DMACC's Urban and Ankeny campuses.

Olson said, “This is really the beginning of this major expansion. We`re going to have buses on the streets 13% more this year or 22,000 hours more of service in the coming year.”

The expansion is designed to increase ridership.  But there`s no denying that a few riders will be lost along the way.

Stefanie King says, “I`d get on roughly at Fleur and Watrous at 6:20-6:15 in the morning.  Take that downtown, then take the #11 at 6:45 out to here and then catch my on call pretty much right at the bus stop and then that would take me to work.”

King was willing to deal with the nearly two hour one-way commute.  But starting November 23rd she said, “With all the changes, it`s just impossible.”

This summer, a year after she started riding the bus, DART discontinued part of her route.  Stefanie either had to walk an extra two miles round trip or get a car.

Stefanie said, “Riding the bus was saving quite a bit of money, but when it came down to it, I really needed a car to drive.” 

Now her commute is down to 20 minutes.  But it comes with a price.  Stefanie says she`s working more hours at her second job.

She said, “It`s nice, but the expense that comes along with it can sometimes not be so nice.”

DART can’t go everywhere.  Officials know that`s the biggest deterrent to riding the bus. 

But there are other reasons.  Navigating the schedule can be confusing to new riders.

Olson said, “It is a learning curve but I think once you figure it out it`s not too bad.”

He adds, “While we think dart has provided a good service over the years, we do recognize that it needs to be better.”

That`s why even farther down the road, DART plans to go more places, more often and get you there faster.

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