Iowa Poll: Iowans favor state spending on passenger rail

Good morning, readers.

A majority of Iowans favor state financial support for establishing passenger train service between Chicago and Iowa City, according to an Iowa Poll.

The Des Moines Register reported this weekend that the poll, in which 800 adults participated in mid-February, found that 56 percent favored the state’s backing of the project, while 39 percent opposed it and 5 percent were unsure.

“They’re saying, ‘We want trains,'” pollster J. Ann Selzer is quoted as saying.

Click here for the complete story, which includes further breakdown of the numbers by age, gender and political party.

Another interesting finding related to Iowa’s transportation spending priorities: 70 percent oppose raising the gas tax to pay for road and bridge repairs.



debate over iowa passenger rail

Good morning, riders.

A lot has been written about last week’s announcement of a $230 million grant for passenger rail from Chicago to Iowa City — some critical, some hopeful. Here are two notable pieces, in case you missed either of them:

The Des Moines Register on Monday published a front-page article posing the question: Is rail expansion in Iowa worth the wait? Reporter William Petroski concluded that the service would neither be the cheapest nor the fastest way to travel to Chicago when compared to other modes, including flying, driving or private charter bus. The comparison uses today’s travel times, fares and gasoline costs. The passenger line will open in five years at the earliest. Click here to read the full story.

Among the 54 selected for funding, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood chose to highlight the grant for the Iowa City project, by paying a visit to the city to present a big check and by writing about it in his blog, The Fast Lane. Secretary LaHood called the projects “building blocks of high-speed corridors” and the Iowa City project “a first step toward introducing passenger rail service on an emerging high-speed rail corridor.” Click here to read his full blog post.



this just in: feds fund passenger rail to iowa city


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 The complete Chicago to Iowa City application is available at


des moines celebrity transit advocates? why, yes indeed

Good afternoon, riders.

To the question raised last week by a blog post shared by rider Alexander Grgurich, the bus blog has an answer: Yes, Des Moines does indeed have celebrity transit advocates.

The Nadas.

You may know Jason Walsmith as a singer and guitarist in the Des Moines band. He is also a freelance photographer on the side, and yesterday DART hired him to shoot photos of riders in buses, trolleys and RideShare vans to replenish its stock of photos for marketing materials, the website, et cetera.  (With thanks the volunteers who came out to be in the photos.)

Afterward, he shared this little tidbit: This year the band is touring the country by Amtrak rail, with one of the reasons being to draw attention to the effort to bring passenger rail to Des Moines.

Click here to visit The Nadas’ Facebook event page about the tour, which features living room concerts.

Does anyone know of a good living room in Des Moines that’s close to a DART line? Just asking …


study: depot near transit hub should reopen for passenger rail


The Rock Island Lines depot, near DART’s future Transit Hub in downtown Des Moines, would be restored as the city’s station for passenger rail between Chicago and Omaha if the recommendations of a new report come to fruition.

The study by the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization was reported this morning by The Des Moines Register. Click here for the full article.

Downtown Community Alliance President Glenn Lyons told the newspaper: “When you think about it, it’s an obvious conclusion.”

The study is reaffirming for DART officials, who believe the historic depot’s proximity to the future Transit Hub would benefit the customers of both DART and Amtrak. The depot is approximately one block east and one block south of the Transit Hub site south of Cherry between 6th Avenue and 7th Street.

By centralizing public transit and passenger rail in one area, the city would effectively create a “transportation campus.” As mentioned in previous posts, the campus would also include a kiosk at the Transit Hub for new B-cycle bike-sharing program.

transit for megaregions

Here’s another entry under the category of good reading, a New York Times piece about a proposed 30-year plan for Chicago, including its public transit network.

One noteworthy point to Des Moines: The plan treats Chicago not as a stand-alone city but a so-called megaregion, which among other things means a regional hub for passenger rail.

Check out this map, courtesy of Transportation for America, an advocacy group that calls the nation’s transportation network “half a century behind” and proposes a passenger rail network composed of 11 megaregions.

Click here for the full map.