WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - For about 350 riders a day, the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority - or DART - is how they get to and from the Valley West Mall.
But DART says in two weeks, its bus stop at the mall will be forced out, and calls the move a "safety concern" for its riders.
"We were notified by mall management a few weeks ago that they wanted DART's bus stop to move off of Valley West Mall property, and we serve more than 350 riders a day at that stop," said Amanda Wanke, communications officer for DART. "What we have been told is that DART has outgrown its stop at the mall and is acting too much like a hub, which would be almost like a transfer facility. And the stop has certainly grown - West Des Moines is growing."
Wanke says the mall's decision to remove the bus stop from mall property will create a safety hazard for riders, as DART will be forced to move the stop to the busy Westown Parkway - a street that sees more than 10,000 cars a day, according to DART.
"And safety is our number-one concern, and having to move off mall property means having to move to a street," Wanke said. "So, for those who are disabled or elderly, or those with small children, that's going to create a challenge, and we really are concerned for that."
For riders like Scott Smith, who plays piano at Von Maur at Valley West Mall as a part-time job three days a week, moving the bus stop off the mall's property will make it virtually impossible for him to commute; Smith uses a walker to assist in getting around.
"And the bus drops me off at the north entrance, so all I have to do is walk in the store, and I'm there," he said. "So, if they had to drop me off at any distance, it would not happen. I would not be able to walk that distance. Especially in the inclement weather, that's just an issue. A big issue."
Wanke says DART has made multiple efforts to schedule a face-to-face meeting with Valley West Mall management, but with no luck. Channel 13 has also reached out for comment, but has not heard back.
"We'd like to believe that bringing more people to the mall is a good thing, and that business can benefit from," Wanke said. "And if there are concerns that traffic brings, we have reached out to mall management with some options to try and alleviate any concerns."
For Smith, its an issue he believes the public could rally around to persuade mall management to reconsider.
"Obviously Valley West wants to do business, and I would think pressure from the public would be needed to achieve that."