Photo by Gunnar Olson
DART, the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority, is in the works of implementing a new bus system. In addition to the bus system in place now, this would include a fleet of eight new buses that would cover University Avenue, Ingersoll Avenue and the downtown area.
This new system would be faster, would stop only at designated stops and would include a variety of new technological features. The buses will have GPS trackers, which are used for three main reasons. The first is the signal controller, and buses will take priority over cars at stoplights.
The second is the real time arrival information screens that will be at every station. Passengers can look at the digital screen and see exactly how many minutes it will take to catch the next bus. Thirdly, online maps and information on where the bus is will be improved and compatible with smart phones.
Gunnar Olson, the public information officer for DART, said that the implementation of technology would allow students to become more informed and more connected to the program.
There are 20 stations planned along the route, with amenities such as rails to lean on, shelters, benches, and the real-time arrival and departure signs. In February, citizens will have the chance to speak their minds about details such as bus and station design, fares and hours. Olson led a discussion about the changes in Olmsted Center last Thursday afternoon, and he said that this new system will be “easy, frequent, familiar and reliable.”
The financial side of things is a bit more complicated. Jim Tishim, the planning director at DART, said that the changes will cost about $25 million. The Federal Transit Association has a budget for starting projects like these. If awarded this federal grant, 80 percent, about $20 million, will be covered. There are hopes that corporations and private donations will cover a majority of the remaining $5 million.
This new DART system has been discussed in previous local meetings, and the above plan was chosen from a few other options. It is called the “locally preferred alternative.” There will be a series of meetings in February where the public can have an influence on final decisions. If all goes well and DART is awarded the federal grant, implementation of this program will take up to three years to complete.
How would all of this affect Drake students? A Drake teacher who attended the meeting stated that students would use DART more often if the buses ran for longer hours. Currently, the buses run until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and 5:30 p.m. on weekends.
When planning the route, Drake was greatly considered, and there are several stops along University Avenue. The DART presenters encouraged Drake students to come to the meetings in February to voice their opinions about the new bus system design.
For more information about this new system, meeting information or for current bus and route information, visit the DART website.
GPS on the bus
GPS trackers in buses have several benefits:
1. Buses take priority over cars at stoplights
2. Allows digital screens to know approximately when a bus will arrive at each station
3. Online maps and information will be able to be accessed on smart phones