Monday March 27th 2023

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Comparing Metro Transit to Des Moines DART



Unfortunately, this is a slow month for local transit news. However, since a friend of mine just moved to Des Moines. Iowa, I thought this would be a good time to compare our Metro Transit with Des Moines DART.

Des Moines is a fairly small city; their metro area is comparable to Saint Paul without Minneapolis and with a lot less suburbs. Like Saint Paul, it is the state capital and home to their state fair. Their downtown is slightly more lively than Saint Paul”™s. However, it is a conservative city in a conservative state, and that affects both funding for and public attitudes about transit.

Their local transit system is called DART, short for Des Moines Area Regional Transit. They have only regular buses, no light rail or bus rapid transit. There just isn”™t enough traffic at this time to justify either. There are 19 local routes, all except four converging on the downtown Central Station. (Having an enclosed transfer station is common for smaller transit systems.) There are seven express routes which use the freeways to take people between the suburbs and downtown at rush hour, but these stop on the downtown streets and don”™t go to the Station. There are also two free downtown shuttles, one serves a parking garage on the edge of downtown, and the other serves the State Capitol.

DART buses don”™t run very frequently or very late at night. Most routes are once every hour or half hour; the best one runs every 20 minutes. Service ends about 10 PM Monday through Saturday and about 6 PM on Sunday. DART does not run on major holidays. The fare is $1.75 local and $2.00 express. There is no rush hour tax like Twin Cities Metro Transit has.

As much as we may like complaining about Metro Transit, at least we have service till 1 AM every day and more frequently than every 20 minutes on major bus routes. We also have light rail and bus rapid transit, and those modes are being expanded over the next few years. The only things a transit user might envy about Des Moines are the lack of a rush hour tax and the enclosed building downtown to transfer and wait for buses in. Overall, small towns aren”™t great places if you”™re a transit dependent person.

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