Mar 2, 2022 - News

The future of DART in the suburbs

Monthly fixed route DART ridership, 2019-2021
Data: DART; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

As the pandemic continues to subdue the number of workers who need to head downtown, DART is analyzing how its services can remain relevant, especially for suburban riders.

Driving the news: DART is reducing its express routes, which have typically been used by suburban commuters to come into Des Moines.

Yes, but: The express route reduction isn't purely a budget cut, said Luis Montoya, chief planning officer for DART.

  • The transportation organization plans on re-allocating funds into services that better fit the 2022 DART rider.

State of play: While ridership ticked back up in 2021, "it's still persistently, significantly lower," compared to prepandemic years, said Montoya.

  • Current express route ridership is at 25% of its prepandemic levels. In comparison, total ridership has returned to about 60%.

Zoom in: One new pilot program that has taken off is "DART on-demand," Montoya said.

  • The program is being tested out in Ankeny and allows users to request a ride in real-time within the suburb. Similar to Uber, riders can request a ride from DART via their app and add additional passengers.
  • The pilot launched in November and continues to see upticks each month in riders — reaching more than 300 passengers in February.

What's next: DART is requesting feedback as it determines what routes to cut down, which will go into effect in June.

Thought bubble: Evolving to be useful to suburban riders will be critical for DART, especially since 60%+ of its funding relies on property tax revenue from the cities and counties that opt into it.


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