DES MOINES, Iowa -- If you use the Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART) services, expect a lot of changes starting this week. DART is making its largest route and system change since 2012.
It's all in an effort to better serve the entire Des Moines metro. While you’ll notice changes to a lot of routes, the biggest differences will be felt in the western and northern suburbs.
DART’s marketing and communications manager, Erin Hockman, said after a thorough analysis of all its services DART found areas where there was a need for service, but also areas that their services were under-utilized. So they revamped some routes to reflect that.
DART is hoping with these changes the whole metro will be more accessible for everyone. One of the bigger changes will be consolidating trips on some of their express routes to free up buses and money for routes further north and west.
Not only are they wanting to give access to a lot of retail, grocery stores, and things like public libraries and city halls, but they also want to make sure they are helping out those who rely on public transit to get to and from work.
“We hope it will be a huge help for folks. We've heard from a lot of people who are excited about the changes and we know workforce is a huge need for our community right now,” Hockman dais. “We know a lot of people who aren't working do need access to public transit and employers are hearing that and calling us and saying what can we do.”
For example, DART is extending a local route service along University Blvd. in Clive and to the Walmart in Windsor Heights. Hockman said a lot of businesses along that stretch have employees who in the past were walking a long way to get to a bus stop and that will no longer be the case with these new service changes.
One of the other changes includes a new pilot program coming to Urbandale called Flex Connect. It combines Uber and taxis with DART.
It's an on-demand service that provides DART a creative way to serve those in the Urbandale area without having a fixed bus route that is not only costly but sometimes underutilized. DART said they have residents in Urbandale who regularly use their services, but it isn't as busy as other parts of the metro.
They are testing this new one-year pilot program in a particular zone in Urbandale. The zone is north of Hickman Rd., south of Interstate 80/35, and in between Merle Hay Road and 86th St. In that zone anyone can book an Uber, Yellow Cab Company taxi, or a DART accessible vehicle to take them to and from three stops in Urbandale.
The stops are at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Buccaneer Arena, and Merle Hay Mall. These bus stops then can take riders to main DART bus routes around the metro.
During this year-long pilot program, the Flex Connect Uber or taxi ride is free so riders can test the service and give feedback on what DART hopes is a sensible solution for all.
“Ideally it is a better service because it is on-demand,” Hockman said. “It meets what their schedule needs, they have options from Uber, taxis, and an accessible DART vehicle, but at lower costs overall and that's partially what's allowing us to then expand services in other areas.”
As long as you live in that designated flex zone, you can be picked up from your home and taken straight to a bus stop.
If you have a smartphone, you need the Uber app and you can get a voucher for free Uber rides by clicking here. If you don't have a smartphone, you can then call 515-283-8100 to get a taxi or DART accessible vehicle.
All riders should expect changes to their routes. Click here for updated schedules and maps. Celebrating all these changes, this whole week riders can use all DART local, express, and on-call services for free.