Please join the discussion: Future of Greater Des Moines transit is being decided now

Dear Readers,

Now is a great time to be a transit advocate in Greater Des Moines.

Starting next week, the public is being asked to help DART and a team of nationally recognized transit planning consultants develop a long-range regional transit plan called DART Forward 2035. When complete later this year, the plan will serve as a guide for the DART Commission on near- and long-term investments in public transit in Greater Des Moines over the next 25 years.

We hope you join the discussion. We will be holding four public meetings in the first week of April to gather public input. Basically, we’re asking what you think the transit system of the future should look like.

  • Des Moines Central Library, 1000 Grand Avenue
    • 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 5• 5:30 p.m.
    • Wednesday, April 6
  • Urbandale Public Library, 3520 86th Street
    • 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, April 5
  • Ankeny City Hall, 410 West First Street
    • 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7

In addition, we would encourage you to also fill out a survey:

The information gathered from these meetings and the survey will be used to develop specific recommendations for updating DART’s transit system. Those recommendations will be complete by this summer, and a second round of public meetings will follow for the public to give feedback.

More information about the planning study is available online at‐forward‐2035.cfm.


happening now: online petition drive for investing in public transit

Good morning, riders.

Allow me to pass along a petition that landed in my inbox yesterday afternoon favoring  more federal investment in public transit. It was from the American Public Transportation Association and read: “Join us in urging Congress to increase federal funding by passing a long-term surface transportation bill by signing the national public transportation petition. APTA will present the petition to members of Congress Wednesday, September 22. So hurry and sign today.”

Click here to sign the petition. It asks for your name; city, state and zip code;  email address; and, if you wish, a brief comment. This is what I wrote when I signed: “It saves my family money, reduces my carbon footprint and eliminates the stress from my morning commute.”

I have to say, it feels good to express an opinion publicly. Back when I was a reporter for The Des Moines Register, I wouldn’t even think of signing a petition or in any way airing my views. Join a Facebook Group dedicated to reading banned books? Sorry, I might be reporting on someone trying to ban books from a local library. But now I am free to stand up for what I believe in, and I won’t take for granted the chance to do so.

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.

businesses seeking ‘creative class’ want better public transit, APTA president says

The private sector is leading the charge to improve public transit in many American cities where businesses hope to attract members of the so-called creative class, American Public Transportation Association President Bill Millar said.

“The business community knows that their success relies on making their community a very attractive place,” Millar said.

“And part of that environment is good public transportation.”

Millar made the remark during a question-and-answer style interview with the Des Moines Business Record. Click here for the full story by reporter Chris Conetzkey.

a transit guy, at a highway conference?

Good afternoon, riders.

Here’s a seemingly odd pairing: the nation’s top transit advocate speaking at a highway conference.

That’s what we’ll have here in Des Moines this week, when Bill Millar, the president of the American Public Transportation Association, will be in town for the 2010 annual meeting of the Mississippi Valley Conference of the American Association of State Highway and  Transportation Officials (AASHTO). He will be speaking Thursday morning on the future of public transportation.

It isn’t that odd, when you think about it. Transit isn’t the enemy of roads any more than sidewalks or bike paths or airports are. They’re all a part of the same transportation network, and they are stronger as a whole than as individual parts.

Without roads, transit couldn’t use park-and-ride lots to increase ridership. A bus system couldn’t even exist without roads. But without buses, roads would have to accommodate thousands more cars every day, increasing carbon monoxide emissions and the wear and tear of the roads, to say nothing of the money needed to maintain or widen existing roads.

So really, it’s in everyone’s best interest if the highway and transit folks play nice.

Millar will also be speaking Friday morning at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Check back here for a report on his remarks.

Here’s his bio, courtesy of APTA:

William Millar is the president of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). Since coming to APTA in 1996, Bill has sought to expand APTA’s reach and effectiveness, guiding it to legislative victories and dramatically increasing federal investment in public transportation.

Bill is a longtime advocate for high-speed rail; under his leadership, the High-Speed Ground Transportation Association became part of APTA in 2006. APTA has created the Center for High-Speed Rail to bring together the expertise and resources of its members to realize the vision for high-speed rail in the United States.

Prior to APTA, Bill served 19 years at the Port Authority of Allegheny County, the principal transit operator serving Pittsburgh, PA.  As its executive director from 1983-1996, he oversaw the development and operation of bus, busway, light rail, paratransit and inclined plane service.  He is the founder of Pittsburgh’s award-winning ACCESS paratransit service.

From 1973-77, Bill worked for the Pennsylvania DOT, where he developed and managed Pennsylvania’s Free Transit Program for Senior Citizens and led the Penn DOT’s rural public and community transit efforts.  He began his career as the county transportation planner in Lancaster, PA.

Mr. Millar is a strong supporter of transportation research and is the recipient of the Founding Father Award for his leadership in establishing the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP).  He has been a member of the executive committee of the Transportation Research Board for many years and served as its chair in 1992.  He also serves on advisory committees of several university transportation research institutes.

A well-known expert in the field of public transportation and transportation policy, Bill has published numerous articles and has often testified before the U.S. Congress. He is a frequent speaker and lecturer at conferences and seminars and is an adjunct professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.

Mr. Millar is the recipient of many awards, including APTA’s Jesse Haugh Award for Transit Manager of the Year (1987), the Transportation Research Board’s W. N. Carey, Jr. Distinguished Service Award (1999); Pattison Partnership Award from the Intermodal Passenger Institute (2001); and Railway Age’s Graham Claytor Award (2006).

Bill has a BA from Northwestern University and an MA from the University of Iowa majoring in urban transportation planning and policy analysis.  He lives in Falls Church, VA with his wife and two children and commutes to work on Washington’s Metrorail.

LaHood: Passenger rail is coming to U.S.

It’ll be 20 years in the making, but intercity passenger rail is coming to the United States, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood  said today in Des Moines.

Secretary LaHood refrained from making promises about when Iowans might expect passenger rail between Chicago and Omaha, although he noted that the mayor of Des Moines, Frank Cownie, pressed him while he was in town on the importance of bringing passenger rail through Iowa.

LaHood made his prediction at the 2010 NASCO Conference, where he spoke to a crowd of transportation officials in the public and private sectors from Mexico, Canada and the United States. While he touched on other topics, he returned to passenger rail several times in his 30-minute speech.

The way he sees it, passenger rail in the United States is today where the interstate highway system was when President Eisenhower championed its creation more than a half a century ago — a vision slowly becoming a reality.

“Not all of the lines are on the map and we don’t know where the money is coming from,” he said. But: “Two decades from now there will be intercity rail.”

He noted that while Europeans’ passenger rail is the envy of Americans, America has a superior freight rail system. And, he said, he’s talked with freight rail industry executives who are open to expanding into passenger rail service.

LaHood also pointed out that foreign passenger rail companies are setting up shop in the United States, which they view as a growing market.

During a brief press conference after his speech, reporters pushed LaHood for particulars on funding passenger rail through Iowa. He said he wouldn’t make any promises, but he did say that applications for federal money to pay for passenger rail in Iowa were competitive, noting that there is a larger degree of local support for passenger rail here than elsewhere in the country.

Sorry for the crummy Blackberry photo.

U.S. Transportation Secretary to speak in Des Moines

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected in downtown Des Moines today to speak at the 2010 NASCO Conference.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

The conference is by North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition, which focuses on the trade corridors between Mexico, United States and Canada. His speech is titled “The Role of Transportation in North America: The Song Remains the Same.”

Here’s a link to the conference agenda: