Use of public transit is on the rise in Greater Des Moines, DART ridership data show. DART’s ridership increased more than 7 percent in the first six months of fiscal year 2014, compared to the same period of fiscal year 2013. Ridership totaled 347,213 in December – a 15 percent increase over December 2012.
Ridership figures for the month of December are especially significant, because December is the first reporting period for which year-over-year comparisons can be made on all of DART’s individual routes after the network redesign of 2012.
“The region’s investment in public transit is paying off,” said Steve Van Oort, Polk County supervisor and chair of the DART Commission. “People told us they would ride DART more often if the bus went more places, more frequently, with faster travel times – and that’s what we’re seeing happen in the numbers.”
The ridership gains follow significant investments into the region’s public transit system:
- The $21 million DART Central Station opened in November 2012 in downtown Des Moines, providing riders with a much-improved experience over the former Walnut Street Transit Mall;
- A redesigned and expanded network of bus routes was implemented in June and November of 2012 as part of the DART Forward 2035 Plan;
- Service improvements, including frequency additions, a new route and later hours, were made in August 2013;
- Technology enhancements such as the MyDART Trip Planner BETA were launched in October 2013, making it easier for people to plan their trips on transit. People can now also search for transit directions using Google Maps and Bing Maps.
Additional improvements will be made in the coming year as part of the DART Forward 2035 Plan. Real-time bus location information will become available later in 2014. A new fare collection system with smart cards will be added in late 2015.
DART promoted the improved routes in October during Try Transit Week, a seven-day promotion that resulted in 108,000 rides – a 20 percent increase over the previous week’s total of more than 90,000 rides. In February, DART will host “DART Date Night” on Friday, February 14, offering free rides after 5 p.m. for Valentine’s Day.