New transit hub? Money from state says yes

Imagine, for a minute, what a new downtown transit hub would mean for DART riders. An indoor waiting area. Public restrooms. Face-to-face customer service. Even public art and bicycle storage.

DART’s planners have been trying to make this happen for years, and now it’s a real possibility. Gov. Chet Culver today signed an infrastructure spending bill that includes $4 million for the project.

The money covers 20 percent of the approximately $20 million project and, as importantly, represents the local match needed before the Federal Transit Administration would consider funding the remainder of the project. DART has already applied for federal grants.

Design work has begun by Des Moines firm Substance Architecture.

Those of you with a sense of irony will surely connect the timing of this bill being signed with the service reductions that DART just implemented and wonder why the money couldn’t be used to save service. The answer: This money comes with strings attached — to be spent on capital, not operations.

The feds will pay for things like buses and buildings — capital, they call it. But they want the locals to pay to run the system,  some of the largest costs being fuel and driver salaries. We don’t make the rules — just play by them.

— Gunnar Olson