It’s Official: State Cuts D-Line Funding

Good morning, readers.

Governor Terry Branstad yesterday signed HF45, which among other things eliminates the state’s funding of the D-Line Downtown Shuttle.

The downtown shuttle isn’t going away. The remaining partners in the public private partnership — Operation Downtown and DART — are committed to seeing its operation continue.

However, the route will be shortened on the east end, effective Monday, March 14. The shuttle will continue to operate on its east-west route on Grand Avenue and Locust Street between the Western Gateway and the East Village, but it will no longer travel up and down the hill to and from the Capitol. It will instead turn around on East Sixth.

A public hearing on the change has been scheduled:

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Thursday, March 10

Iowa Capitol Building, Room 116

 

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D-Line will cease to serve the Capitol

Good afternoon, readers.

The following press release was just issued from DART:

D-Line Downtown Shuttle Will No Longer Service Capitol; Public Hearing Set

The D-Line Downtown Shuttle will cease to serve the Iowa Capitol Complex beginning Monday, March 14, due to the State of Iowa withdrawing its portion of the funding for the service.

The downtown shuttle will continue to operate on its east-west route on Grand Avenue and Locust Street between the Western Gateway and the East Village. Under the altered route, the trolley will no longer travel up and down the hill to and from the Capitol; it will instead turn around at East Sixth Street.

The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority has scheduled a public hearing in advance of the service change:

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Thursday, March 10

Iowa Capitol Building Room 116

The State of Iowa was one of the original partners in the public-private partnership that launched the downtown shuttle in 2008. The shuttle has averaged 16,000 rides monthly and more than 200,000 annually. Each legislative session, DART rerouted the D-Line to provide closer access to the Capitol.

Now, the Iowa House and Senate have passed a bill that would cut state funding for the D-Line, including funds previously committed to the service for the current fiscal year. Governor Terry Branstad is expected to sign the bill into law. In response, DART is moving quickly to cut the D-Line’s operating expenses proportionately, by way of shortening the route.

“We fought to keep the D-Line running to the Capitol, because providing an easy connection between downtown and the Capitol is of great value to businesses, employees and constituents who want to visit their elected representatives,” said Angela Connolly, Polk County Supervisor and Chair of the DART Commission. “So we deeply regret having to cut D-Line service to the Capitol.”

The other partners in the public-private partnership, including DART and the business community via Operation Downtown, have committed to the continued operation of the D-Line on the remaining portion of the route.

The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority is the public transportation provider that serves Polk County.  DART operates a family of transportation services that makes getting around the Greater Des Moines area easier and more convenient. For more information about DART services, schedules, route changes, or directions to the nearest DART stop, visit our website at www.ridedart.com or call 515.283.8100.

 

DART takes early steps toward shortening D-Line route

Good afternoon, readers.

The DART Commissioners will consider a pair of meaty issues at their meeting on Tuesday.

DART moves toward shortening D-Line route

DART staff is taking the first step toward shortening the route of the D-Line Downtown Shuttle, in anticipation of losing state funding for it, by recommending that the Commission vote to set a public hearing on the matter. DART is required by federal law to hold a public hearing prior to eliminating service.

If approved by the Commission, the hearing would be held at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 8, at the Central Public Library. Then, if the state withdraws its portion of funding for the D-Line, the route would be truncated on the eastern end as early as 30 days after the public hearing. The altered route would extend between the Western Gateway and the East Village but no longer up the hill to the Capitol.

The other two partners in the public-private partnership that pay to operate the D-Line — DART and the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Operation Downtown, which represents downtown businesses — have committed to continue their support of the D-line.

Budget: No fare or tax increases, no service cuts

DART would maintain its current level of service in the coming year under the proposed budget. Staff is recommending neither service cuts (except to the D-Line, possibly) nor increases in taxes or fares. The Commission will vote on the budget at Tuesday’s meeting.

A few budget highlights:

  • Expenses are increasing faster than revenues, including a projected 25 percent increase in fuel prices.
  • DART faces a budget gap in future budget years.
  • DART is proposing to use $1.35 million in reserves to balance this year’s budget.

For more background on staff’s approach to this year’s budget, click here to read the Des Moines Business Records interview with DART General Manager Brad Miller.

 

 

D-Line route would shorten if state cuts funding

Good morning, readers.

DART faces the possibility of having to scale back service on the D-Line Downtown Shuttle if the State of Iowa cuts funding for public transportation. The D-Line would continue to operate through downtown and in the East Village, but without state funding, it would no longer travel up the hill to the Capitol and through the Capitol Complex.

In addition, state employees might lose their benefit of free public transit on DART if the state ends its participation in DART’s Unlimited Access program. The program enables several of the region’s largest employees to give their employees an incentive to use alternative transportation as a means to improve the environment and reduce traffic congestion throughout the metro.

These cuts to public transportation funding have been proposed, among others, in a bill from the House Appropriations Committee. There’s a public hearing on the bill tonight:

TIME: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

DATE: Tuesday, January 18th

PLACE: House Chambers, Iowa Capitol (second floor of the north side)

The committee will also accept written testimony.

CONTACT: lioinfo@legis.state.ia.us

The D-Line is currently funded through a public-private partnership between DART, the State of Iowa, and the business community through the Downtown Community Alliance. Its success has been sustained since its launch in 2008, with average monthly ridership exceeding 15,000 rides. Local business owners say the D-Line has improved their sales by making it easier for people to get travel throughout downtown without the time and hassle of taking short car trips.

The state identified a daytime shuttle such as the D-Line in its Iowa Capitol Complex Master Plan as a means for achieving its objective of increasing mobility on the complex, where available parking spots few and far between. By traveling up the hill, the D-Line connects multiple parking garages throughout downtown and in the East Village with the Capitol Complex.


From the Commission meeting: land purchase, new legislative priorities, budget forecast

Good afternoon, readers.

Some news for you from the November 30 DART Commission meeting:

Ready to make offer on Transit Hub parcel

The DART Commission voted unanimously to offer $650,000 for a 0.58-acre parcel of the site of the future Transit Hub. The parcel is currently owned by Wells Fargo and used as a parking lot.

The price tag was arrived at through an appraisal this fall of the assessed value — which is what federal law dictates the offer be. The price is within budget.

The largest parcel for the Transit Hub is owned by Polk County and will be made available to DART through a long-term, no-cost lease.

New legislative priorities

The DART Commission voted unanimously to approve new legislative priorities. For years, the top priority has been funding the Transit Hub, which as you all know was achieved in full this year. Among the new priorities:

  • Continued state funding for the D-Line downtown shuttle.
  • Support state legislation to stiffen penalties for those who assault bus operators, as has happened to DART drivers on several occasions in recent years.
  • Seek federal funds for an advanced “smart card” reader and fare payment system for DART’s buses.
  • Support the Iowa Department of Transportation’s request for $15 million in federal funding for bus replacement throughout the state.

Good news/bad news on next year’s budget

The good news: DART’s finances are healthy enough in the short term to put together a budget for next year that maintains current service levels, General Manager Brad Miller said. At this time last year, DART was looking at cutting service as a means to balance its budget.

The bad news: In the longer term, DART’s expenses appear to be out-pacing its revenues. That would mean a couple of tight years, followed by budget short falls — if the projections prove true, that is.

Obviously, the forecast could look different another year from now. Plus, by then, DART will have its strategic plan for growing service, which could guide future budget decisions.

The Commission took no action on next year’s budget at the November meeting. Staff will present a more detailed budget proposal at the December meeting.

Click here for the full agenda.

ingersoll d-line gives 509 rides on first night

Good afternoon, readers.

The first night of ridership on the Ingersoll D-Line reached 509 — more than one passenger a minute from 5 p.m. to midnight.

Tomorrow evening is night two of the limited-time-only service, which extends the downtown D-Line shuttle west out onto Ingersoll Avenue to 39th each Friday night through December 3. On the east end, the shuttle turns around in the East Village, as opposed to the Capitol. It still runs on Grand and Locust through downtown, still runs every 10 minutes, and is still free to ride.

Your editor has been asked by reporters whether this is a test. The answer: DART launched the service because of the backing of the Ingersoll business community, but that being said, all options are on the table if the service is a success.

(An earlier version of this post had the headline “Ingersoll D-Line hits 509 riders on first night.” Your editor is deeply embarrassed by the poor choice of wording.)

two firsts: d-line runs ’til midnight — out to ingersoll

Good morning, riders.

And good news this Friday for those of you who like to stick around downtown after quitting time: For the first time since the D-Line’s launch in 2008, the free downtown shuttle will run well past 6 p.m., not stopping until midnight tonight. Also for the first time, the D-Line route will extend past the Western Gateway out along Ingersoll to 39th Street, starting at 5 p.m.

This is for a limited time only — for six weeks this fall.

And it’s only on Friday nights — today through December 3.

Still. With a free-to-ride shuttle coming by every 10 minutes, the walkable downtown has just been stretched 22 blocks to the west during some of the best times for shopping, eating out and, a-hem, having a good time. The D-Line won’t run out the Capitol on the east end after 6 p.m., but it’ll still go through the East Village. So you can ditch the car and still hit all of the best spots on both ends of downtown.

This, thanks to the Ingersoll Business Association and the Des Moines West Side Chamber of Commerce, which teamed with DART to offer the service.