bus gps, big-picture planning and Grimes’ withdrawal — a busy Commission meeting

Riders:

DART’s Commissioners will be busy when they meet Tuesday, and you’ll be interested to hear some of the things on their agenda:

Bus GPS

Employing GPS technology on DART’s buses has been long in the coming, but the time has come to pick a contractor and get the project started.

After months of reviewing proposals and interviewing prospective firms, staff is recommending contracting Trapeze ITS of Cedar Rapids to install what is called an automatic vehicle location system on DART’s fleet.

This will enable DART to track the exact whereabouts of every bus in the fleet and analyze the overall system performance. More importantly for you, dear riders, is that this real-time information can be fed to your cell phones. As in, you text the number of your usual bus stop to DART, and the system will automatically text back the arrival time of the next bus. It takes the guess work out of catching a ride.

The same technology can also be used for electronic signs with real-time arrival and departure times, something that would go nicely in DART’s new Transit Hub or at local businesses that want to take advantage of their proximity to bus routes.

It will likely be 2012 before the technology is ready to use. The cost is not to exceed $2.5 million. The money for this is coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Big-Picture Plan

This is another example of something long overdue that DART can finally get started on: Developing a big-picture plan for the future of transit in Greater Des Moines.

Again, staff has solicited proposals and interviewed firms, and is now ready to recommend a consultant to help DART develop such a plan — Transportation Management & Design, which has a regional office in Kansas City. Work will get underway this fall and a plan could be ready by fall 2011.

This will be crucial to creating a better transit system. Right now it’s hard to build support for expanding service when there’s no comprehensive plan for doing so. There’s nothing to point to and say, See, this is our future.

The study will include:

— Data collection, including a full passenger count, how closely to schedule DART’s buses run, where passengers are traveling to and from and where riders are transferring to.

— A 2035 Regional Transit Services Plan, including an evaluation of existing service, an analysis of demand outside DART’s current service area, a route-performance monitoring system and service recommendations for the next one to three, four to six and seven to 10 years.

— Alternative analysis, which will explore where Des Moines could support a “bus-rapid transit” line, which you may recall reading about in this previous post: Click here to read more.

— Public participation, which means there will be plenty of opportunity for you to have your say in what transit needs to be in Greater Des Moines.

The project will cost about $707,000, of which 80 percent is being paid for with state and federal grant money.

Grimes

You may remember from past media accounts that the city of Grimes has filed to withdraw its membership from DART. On Tuesday, the Commission will consider voting to approve Grimes’ withdrawal.

The withdrawal wouldn’t happen immediately, however. The soonest it would take effect is July 1, 2011.

DART recently finalized plans to add three Park & Ride Lots, including one at the new Walmart on Highway 141 in Grimes that will allow DART to expand On Call service there.

Whether that changes anything on Grimes’ withdrawal remains to be seen. DART General Manager Brad Miller and Commissioner Steve Van Oort are scheduled to talk with the Grimes City Council at the Aug. 24 council meeting.