Big Day: Breaking Ground on Transit Facility, Unveiling New Name

Good morning, readers.

The big day is finally upon us: We’re breaking ground on the new transit facility in downtown Des Moines. Please join us.

11 a.m. Friday, May 20th

620 Cherry Street (South of Cherry Street between 6th Avenue and 7th Street)

We will be announcing the new name of the facility, which you so kindly helped pick out by offering suggestions and ranking finalists in a survey.

See you on the bus, and hope to see you on Friday.

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What’s in a transit hub name? Function before form

Good morning, readers.

Nearly 600 people have completed an online survey this week asking DART’s riders to rank the eight possible new names for the soon-to-be-built transit hub. The candidates:

  • Cherry Street Central Station
  • Cherry Street Transit Center
  • Cherry Street Transit Connector
  • Cherry Street Transit Hub
  • DART Central Station
  • DART Transit Center
  • DART Transit Hub
  • Downtown Transit Center

The deadline to complete the survey is today. If you haven’t completed it yet, please take a minute to do so:

www.surveymonkey.com/s/newtransithubname

Your editor of The Bus Blog has been privy to the results as they come in. A couple of the names are emerging as favorites, but I’ll wait until next week to report on the results so as not to mess with the survey before the deadline has passed.

I will address some of the comments now, however. More than one of those surveyed said the choices were all bland and lacking originality. Some complained that the choices for being too similar to one another and they wished there were more creative choices from which to choose.

Fair criticisms, both, although I for one happen to like some of the finalists.

There were a lot of clever suggestions that weren’t selected as finalists. One was “Cherub,” which is a mash-up of Cherry Street and Transit Hub. Another was “BOB,” for its simplicity. Others made plays on words, such as “The Cherry Pit” and “The DART Board” (the latter of which is the name of the agency newsletter).

But none made the list of finalists, for one simple reason: If you heard the name and you weren’t in the know, you would have little clue what kind of facility it was referring to.  “The Cherry Pit” sounds more like a dive bar than it does a transit facility. And “Bob”? Reminds me of an uncle.

I don’t mean to trash these suggestions — they were very creative, indeed. But we have to remember what it is we’re naming. This will be the primary public transit facility in Greater Des Moines, and its name needs to reflect that, not only to regular riders but to visitors, as well.

Any of the eight finalists passes this crucial test.  Which of them is the most creative — or, if you rather, the least boring — is what we’re attempting to gauge with the survey.

I’m looking forward to seeing the total results and meeting next week with the Transit Riders Advisory Committee, which will be recommending a favorite to the DART Commission. So stay tuned — we’ll have a new name shortly.

A little fun at DART’s expense, Marc Hansen style

Good morning, readers.

If you haven’t already, check out Des Moines Register columnist Marc Hansen’s column this morning about the effort underway to name the new transit hub. Click here for the full column.

True to Hansen’s style, he pokes a bit of fun at DART but keeps it in pretty good humor. From his opening:

For lack of anything better, the bus bosses at the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority have taken to calling it the “Sustainable Multi-Modal Transit Hub,” which wobbles off the tongue like a flat tire. It’s Marion Michael Morrison starring in a Hollywood western instead of John Wayne.

The jabs are pretty light throughout. The one at the end, a they-said-it-not-me allusion to past pedestrian accidents, stung a bit. But hey, DART can handle a good ribbing once in a while.

Especially on a warm winter day like today when nothing can seem to get you down. Enjoy the weather while it lasts!

2010 in review: Year of big changes at DART

Good morning, readers.

Below is a column of mine that appeared in the December issue of DART’s newsletter:

DART faced a great deal of uncertainty at this time last year. The latest pedestrian accident was less than six months behind us. A budget shortfall lay ahead. The Transit Hub existed on paper but there was no money to build it. And the City of Grimes wanted out of DART.

Now look at where we are.

The accident rate is low and the only serious accident involving a pedestrian (actually, a kid on a bike) was completely unavoidable by DART’s operator and was covered as such by the media. The Transit Hub received not one, not two, but three grants in the past year — enough to build it start to finish. And Grimes decided to stick with DART after the launch of a Park and Ride lot at a new Walmart there.

Not to mention this year’s discovery of Ron Cheatem, who is becoming a household name since he started doing a morning segment on WHO-TV on how the buses are running, reporting live from dispatch each weekday morning with his smooth baritone.

Of course 2010 wasn’t perfect — let us not forget the service cuts in April — and there could still be surprises before next year arrives. But I can’t help but look toward 2011.

We’ll be launching a big-picture planning study, dubbed DART Forward 2035, that will see the system map redrawn from scratch.

We’ll start installing GPS technology on the buses, which will translate to real-time departure and arrival information for customers.

We’ll break ground on the new Transit Hub in the spring and construction won’t stop until it’s finished, likely in 2012.

So where will we be at this time next year?

I don’t know, either. But I do know that we’ll have a better idea of what is in store for DART’s future, as all of these plans inch closer to becoming realities.

If this past year is any clue, it’s going to be another sweet view next year.

Happy New Year!

Stats show B-cycle is off to a solid start

Good morning, readers.

Some impressive stats for you today from Des Moines B-cycle, only the fifth bicycle-sharing program in the country when it launched September 1.

DART received an update yesterday as a partner in the program (DART staff field B-cycle’s customer service calls). Highlights include:

  • 359 members
  • 736 trips
  • 6,018 pounds carbon offset
  • 253,398 calories burned
  • 13th and Grand is busiest kiosk
  • Very low vandalism — one slashed tire and two deflated tires

From the letter from Carl Voss of the Des Moines Bicycle Collective:

Our B-cycle program caught the eyes of many. From San Francisco and Seattle to Greenville and Boston, we filed calls from a variety of communities seeking our start-up advice. I can’t tell you how pleasing it was to share insights with Seattle, which will spend more money on consultants than we invested in a pilot program. In Des Moines, we just did it.

We have learned and adapted and are now ready to expand. When spring rolls around, we’d like to see 100 bikes and 10 or more kiosks — a real network — in downtown Des Moines. And yes, we’ve already fielded inquiries about a satellite network in West Des Moines.

DART has already committed to locating a B-cycle kiosk at the new Transit Hub when it opens in late 2012.

this just in: feds fund passenger rail to iowa city

Riders:

This just in from the Office of Governor Chet Culver:

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver received word this morning that the Iowa and Illinois departments of transportation will be receiving $230 million from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to initiate intercity passenger rail service on a route from Chicago to Iowa City via the Quad Cities.

“The Green Line between Chicago to Iowa City—and, in the near future, on to Des Moines and to western Iowa—which has been funded today in an extraordinarily tough competition with passenger rail proposals across America, will set a new national standard for reliable, cost-effective, fuel-efficient passenger rail service in the United States,” Culver said. “This will not only create jobs and spur development, but will work toward the Culver-Judge Administration’s goal of making Iowa the best-connected state in America. Iowa’s families and business travelers deserve world-class travel options—and passenger rail service needs to be one of those options.”

Passenger rail to Iowa City is a crucial first step to bringing it to Des Moines, and today’s news follows last week’s announcement of a complete funding package for the new Transit Hub, which will be a block from the proposed Des Moines rail station. Taken together, these developments show that Des Moines is closer than ever to creating a public transportation campus on the southern edge of downtown Des Moines that includes local public transit, passenger rail and also the B-Cycle bicycle-sharing program.

Here’s more from the Governor’s press release:

The 219.5-mile route will provide twice-daily, round-trip service at maximum speeds of 79 mph, and have an expected trip time of less than five hours. The Amtrak trains will operate on a route that begins at Chicago’s Union Station and travels on BNSF Railway’s line to Wyanet, Ill., and then the Iowa Interstate Railroad’s line from Wyanet to Iowa City, Iowa. Each train can accommodate 230 passengers and offers coach seating and food service. First-year ridership is projected to be 246,800 persons. New stations will be established at Geneseo and Moline, Ill., and Iowa City, Iowa.

The Illinois and Iowa departments of transportation submitted a joint $248-million application under the FRA’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program. The total cost of the project is $310 million; the federal grant will provide $230 million. Each state will be required to provide a prorated share of the required match, based on the share of investment in each state.

A total of 20 applications from 10 states were submitted to the FRA, totaling approximately $7.8 billion in rail projects. Funds available in this round of the program were $2.1 billion.

The HSIPR funding will support continued environmental impact analyses, track infrastructure construction and improvements, layover facility construction, equipment acquisition, and station improvements to implement services.

Iowa’s share of funding will come from a combination of state appropriations and local funding. The legislature appropriated $3 million for fiscal year 2010, $2 million for 2011 and $6.5 million for 2012. Lawmakers also approved intent language to provide up to $20 million over four years to help fund Iowa’s commitment for matching federal passenger rail funding.

Iowa is among nine states that have been working together for several years to develop a regional intercity passenger rail system with Chicago serving as the hub.

For additional information about Iowa’s rail system and intercity passenger rail service, visit the Iowa DOT’s website atwww.iowadot.gov/iowarail. The complete Chicago to Iowa City application is available athttp://www.iowadot.gov/IowaPassengerRail/highspeedintercity.htm.

 

nation’s top transit official in des moines for grant announcement

Good morning, riders.

Please join the bus blog in welcoming Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff to Des Moines for the official announcement today of the $10 million grant for DART’s new Transit Hub.

He’s the country’s top public transit official,  so please forgive your editor for fussing over his being here today. Among other things, Mr. Rogoff has been an advisor to policymakers on the operating and capital needs of Amtrak passenger rail and on financing dozens of new transit rail and bus-rapid-transit projects across the nation.

Today’s visit to Des Moines comes complete with a ceremonial Big Check. The Transit Hub is, at long last, fully funded.

Come out for the event, if you can get away. It’s at 3:30 p.m. at the site of the Transit Hub, south of Cherry Street between 6th and 7th in downtown Des Moines.