Bus Rapid Transit Update

It’s been a while since we’ve given you an update on DART’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. We have some breaking news to share that will affect the timing of project.

As you may recall, DART is planning to apply for a $20 million dollar federal grant for the capital improvements associated with the Ingersoll/University proposed BRT route. As part of our requirements for that application, DART needs to find a $5 million local match. There was a possibility of receiving $2 million in local match from the state legislature.

In budget negotiations this past weekend, that funding was removed from the budget and there’s no longer any reasonable hope for its restoration, at least not this year.

So far, between the City of Des Moines, Polk County, Nationwide and several other companies, DART had already raised about 30% of the total. The money from the State of Iowa would have got us to our goal more quickly.

The project is not dead, just delayed. DART still has plenty of support for the project and BRT is still a goal for us. And in the meantime, we have a lot of groundwork to lay and documentation to gather for the FTA Very Small Starts grant application. So we’re still marching in that direction, we just won’t be able to file the grant as soon as we thought.

The DART Commission is still supportive of the idea and we’ll redouble our efforts to raise the local match. It’s a great project with a ton of benefits for the citizens of Des Moines and employers to boot. So, stay tuned and we will let you know what happens. Or, follow the local coverage in the news for the most recent updates. Here’s a recent blog post in the Register.

Thanks to all of you DART supporters out there who came to public meetings to support the idea. We’re still committed to making Bus Rapid Transit a reality in Greater Des Moines.


‘subway on the street’

Good morning.

Rider Alexander Grgurich of Foundry Coworking sent some good reading our way this week: “Subway on the Street” by Robert Sullivan in New York magazine.

The piece looks at the future of public transit in New York City, a way of operating buses that transit folk like to call “bus rapid transit” — something being considered for Greater Des Moines.

Broadly speaking, bus rapid transit refers to any bus system that is set up to operate more like light rail. However, there are variations on the theme.

Some have entire roadbeds dedicated exclusively to buses. Others share the same pavement with cars but enjoy dedicated lanes, usually painted a different color to symbol that they’re for bus traffic only. Still others share lanes with cars, but are equipped with technology that make them faster with and more convenient than traditional city bus service, including real-time arrival information at bus stops and the capability on buses to trigger stoplights to turn green.

DART’s Chief Development Officer, Elizabeth Presutti, says this last variety is most likely the best fit for a market the size of Des Moines. She said a good comparison is the MAX in Kansas City.

This video gives you a good idea what it’s like:

If and when this comes to Des Moines remains still unclear, but DART will explore the possibility as part of the big-picture planning study that will get underway this fall. At this point, University Avenue is the most probable location to start a bus rapid transit line.