Mon August 07 2006
Posted Aug 7, 2006
SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER
August 7, 2006
As newcomers to the Des Moines area, my family and I have been continually and pleasantly surprised to find not only a great place to raise a family, but also an urban progressiveness that defies the rumors that Iowa is only a land of corn.
We've experienced the classically Iowan Urbandale Fourth of July parade and the Des Moines Farmers Market. We've also enjoyed the modern Science Center and the new Central Library. Greater Des Moines offers the choice of experiencing the great aspects of rural living as well as a vibrant, metropolitan city.
As the new head of the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART), my top priority is to offer a similar choice for citizens when it comes to making their transportation decisions. As gas prices approach $3 a gallon (now it's less expensive to ride the bus, even compared to commuting in my hybrid car!), and the I-235 construction causes challenges to commuters, we need to make public transportation a viable choice for more people.
Is everyone going to be able to ride the bus or a vanpool? Certainly not. Many people may never choose to ride. But it's my goal to make riding public transportation a cost-effective and convenient choice for the people of central Iowa, as well as its communities and businesses. Here's how we're going to work for you:
- Installing 3,000 new bus-stop signs with route and contact information on each of them.
- Increasing the number of downtown businesses that pay for their employees' transit passes, the way Principal and Allied do.
- Offering bike racks, installed last fall on every bus, which already have seen record usage.
- New routes, such as an express route to Johnston starting Aug. 21.
- Sunday service for workers with weekend shifts.
- New specialized transportation to the rural communities of Polk County.
- A downtown shuttle to support the transportation needs of the 60,000-plus business and Statehouse employees.
Planning for future
- Study the feasibility of a rapid transit service such as Bus Rapid Transit, or another high-speed line.
- Relocate the downtown Transit Mall to a hub facility, where transit customers can make more efficient connections.
- Work with businesses, governments and developers to encourage and promote transit-supportive developments and policies that give citizens the choice to walk, bike or ride public transportation and to preserve open space. Ankeny's Prairie Trail development is already leading the way in this arena.
Thousands of people every day, from Principal employees on express routes, to Valley West Mall employees on the University Avenue route, to the thousands who ride our shuttles to the State Fair, are already making the choice to save money and experience a more relaxing commute.
The choice made by all 19 municipalities in Polk County to create a regional transit authority and expand public transportation services demonstrates an ongoing commitment to make our region one of the most vibrant in the Midwest.
BRAD MILLER is general manager of the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority.
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