darting around, episode 1: if you need a reason for a transit hub…

(Editor’s note: Please welcome Gary Barrett as a contributing author to the bus blog. Not only is he a regular DART rider; he’s also a longtime Iowa blogger and broadcast journalist. He will be posting pieces here from time to time, giving a rider’s point of view of DART. If you have comments, questions or ideas, he invites you to email him at iowareport@gmail.com. This is his first post.)

Wow.  We finally are having a few days where the high temperature is below 90 and the humidity doesn’t smack you in the face the minute you step out of an air-conditioned home or office building.  It’s been brutal. Especially if you have to change buses downtown.  And even more so if your bus doesn’t get to Locust Street for a lineup.

I take the #93 (NW 86th Express) bus INTO downtown Des Moines that leaves from Urbandale around 1:30 p.m.  It gets downtown around 2:10.  To get to work, I need to transfer downtown to the #11 westbound.  That means a wait of about a half hour until the next one comes around. Apparently others have the same wait, because it’s not unusual for me to see 20 people or more in front of Walgreens and Burger King waiting for the next lineup of buses at 2:40 to 2:45 p.m.  They’re all out in the heat waiting for the buses.

Understandably, the businesses in the area frown on lounging in their air-conditioned entryways or lobbies.  The bus shelters on the transit mall are really built for wintertime protection. While they provide a place to sit down, in the heat they just make things worse because they block the breeze that can help cool you down.

I’m really surprised there haven’t been more incidents of heat stroke among people standing and waiting for buses.  I guess having Burger King and the Kaleidoscope vendors nearby to get a soda or bottle of water helps prevent that — but it certainly makes it rough.

So if you look at the picture that sits atop this blog, you’ll see the answer to all of those problems.  DART now has funding for a transit hub that will be located two blocks away, south of Cherry Street between 6th and 7th. The buses will be able to line up there. And passengers can wait INSIDE in summertime air-conditioned comfort and wintertime heated comfort. There will be places to sit down. Even a place to buy bus passes and get refreshments.

In my mind, it can’t come soon enough. And I’m hoping DART will also look at the downtown shuttle routes so they pass through the new hub, so that office workers don’t have to stand at their normal bus stop in the cold or heat, but could hop aboard a shuttle to the hub and have a sheltered wait until their bus arrives.

I was glad to see the first round of funding for the hub. And I’m hopeful the final half of the funds will come quickly so this can be available as soon as possible!