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DART transportation receives mixed review

Story by Avery Gregurich

It is difficult to drive, bike or walk the streets of Des Moines without spotting a large cumbersome purple beast of a bus hurtling one way or the other. They race seemingly without regard for pedestrians, bicyclists or Iowa traffic laws on their unwavering journeys to the next Minnesota Vikings-esque purple and gold half-moon sign. These beasts pick up Des Moines residents of all ages, shapes and sizes and shuttle them throughout the city, from the downtown area all the way out to the suburbs.

On the back of any Drake student ID, the words “Ride DART Free” are printed on a bright yellow sticker. Of course, “free” in this instance means included in our tuition, but let us close our eyes to this fact. So, does anybody actually take advantage of this gratis human shipping opportunity?

Sophomore public relations and politics double major Madison Dockter is an avid rider of the Des Moines Area Reginal Transit buses, riding them at least two days out of the week. Devoid of an automobile, Dockter uses the bus to take her to downtown Des Moines where she works at the Young Women’s Resource Center. It isn’t all business in Dockter’s relationship with DART, however. As a freshman, she rode the buses to Valley West Mall and Wal-Mart consistently. This has carried over into this year, taking them to Target and various other locations around Des Moines.

On these bus rides, Dockter doesn’t see many Drake students, which she sees as a waste of a great opportunity.

“Definitely more students could take advantage of it. It saves money on gas and it gets you anywhere,” Dockter said.

As far as complaints go, Dockter holds the universal gripe of buses being late on occasion, but couldn’t think of anything else. She also made a point to put down any doubts about safety concerns on this purple public transporter, saying she felt “completely safe on the bus.” She believes that students tend to “stigmatize” typical bus riders into menacing characters that they simply aren’t. On the contrary, Dockter finds her co-passengers rather “interesting,” as only people watching allows.

Freshman biology major Carly Gelderman isn’t quite as avid a rider as Dackter, only riding the bus two or three times in her first semester at Drake. She did, however, echo Dockter’s feelings about Drake students.

“I think a lot of students don’t consider using the DART system. Most of my friends just ask a friend for a ride somewhere,” Gelderman said.

The few students that she knows who actually take advantage of the system are “education majors that use the DART bus to get to their school for practicums and student teaching.”

As an incoming freshman, she was led to believe that the DART system was a resource that was tapped into often by Drake students.

“In reality,” Gelderman said, “it is very underused by students.” But, Gelderman is painfully aware that sometimes the busing system isn’t quite right for the crammed schedule of a college student. Her own tragic tale has her missing a returning bus last semester, leaving her stranded, bags in hand outside of Target for 45 minutes.

The biggest issues that she sees surrounding the entire topic of the DART busses are that students are simply uninformed and slightly scared.

“I think most students never have had to use the busing system before and are therefore nervous,”Gelderman said.

She also reiterated Dockter’s statements about the fearful perception of typical bus riders, especially from the impoverished communities surrounding Drake’s campus.

It turns out that there are a few money-savvy and resourceful bus riders doubling as college students on Drake’s campus. But, these riders seem to be few and far between. How is it possible to increase college passengers? Dockter said, there has been talk recently of a possible extension of hours for buses running to downtown Des Moines. This move is geared at giving those college students planning a late night/early morning trip to the watering holes downtown a safe way of arriving back on campus. And, what better marketing tool to entice a group of unconvinced college students than an ice-cold alcoholic beverage?

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