Busing: Easy, Inexpensive + Environmentally Friendly
Wallet, water bottle, sunscreen, umbrella. I check the weather app on my phone; it feels like it’s 50 degrees. I throw my old high school swim jacket into my olive backpack before zippering it shut. You never know what you’ll need, given that the fickle weather of the Midwest can change by the hour. Lastly, I pull up the MyDart app on my phone, navigating to the “Trip Planner” section. It looks like I can catch Route 60 — University/Ingersoll — at stop 2556 in a few minutes and arrive a little before 8 a.m. After tucking away my phone and locking up, I stroll from my apartment building, cross the intersection and make my way to the orange and purple bus stop sign marked 2556.
Like clockwork, I spot the indigo bus passing through the Drake neighborhood toward the bus stop a few moments later. After greeting the bus driver and showing him my Drake University student ID hanging from the lanyard draped around my neck, I take my seat. Around 7:55 a.m., the bus rolls into DART Central Station and comes to rest at Platform K. Exiting the bus, I cross the street toward the lofty Polk County Courthouse.
The streets in front of the courthouse are lined with the Downtown Farmers’ Market vendors’ tents and booths on either side, streams of families, friends and dogs in the middle. The clock tower bell from the dome of the courthouse announces that it is 8 a.m. Looking around at all the vendors’ wares — from fresh produce to baked goods to handmade crafts — and smiling faces, I’m excited to begin my shift at the Market Information Booth. I love the vibrant energy of the Market as well as being able to support local business owners and meet other Greater Des Moines (DSM) residents.
Working at The Market is one of the many things I do as an Event Intern for the Greater Des Moines Partnership. When I’m not working in the Downtown office, I’m on-site somewhere else in the city helping with an event like Out to Lunch. As an intern, I’ve had the opportunity to explore DSM, help out with fun events — like The Market and Out to Lunch — and meet wonderful people. However, I’m not sure I would have been an intern or had these opportunities without DART given that I need to get downtown for my job but don’t own a car. Thanks to DART, busing has been my easy, inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to travel around the DSM area on my days on and off of work.
It’s Easy to Bus (Even For Ex-Suburbanites Like Me)
As someone who had only ever ridden the school bus, I was a little nervous about using the DART bus system. How would I find the right bus stop and bus? What if I missed my bus and was late to work? What if I got lost? How would I know which stop to get off? Thankfully, it’s very easy to plan a bus trip and ride the bus.
Part of this ease is thanks to the free MyDart app. All I have to do is punch in my current location and where I want to go in order to find which bus stop I need to go to and which bus I need to take. Additionally, you can plan a trip hours or days in advance by setting a trip alarm.
Once on the bus, you can use the app to see all the stops in between where you started and your final destination. When you reach your destination, all you have to do is pull the yellow cord above your bus seat to signal the driver that you would like to get off.
However, after using the bus to get to and from work for the past few months, I’ve more or less memorized where my bus stops are and which routes I can take. For instance, if I miss the 60, I know I can take the 3 which will pass by a few minutes later.
What’s A Better Deal Than Free?: DART’s Unlimited Access Program
These days, it can feel like we’re reliving the ‘70s. Unfortunately, we’re not wearing groovy bell-bottom jeans or boogying to disco. Rather, the blast from the past has hit our gas stations with skyrocketing fuel prices. Similarly, prices for new and used cars have been increasing.
As any city dweller can attest to, parking can be costly too. In addition to metered parking fees and parking garage fees, my car-owning friends who live in my apartment building must also pay a hefty sum for their parking passes.
Thankfully, I haven’t had to set aside a single dime for transportation in 2022 thanks to DART’s Unlimited Access Program. My university — along with other organizations such as the City of Des Moines, Des Moines Public Schools, Principal Financial Group and UnityPoint Health – Des Moines (to name a few) — is a part of the program which allows an organization’s members or employees to ride DART buses for free. All I have to do to board the bus is show the driver my Drake ID. Not a part of the Unlimited Access Program? Consider that an adult one-way ticket is $1.75 whereas a gallon of gas in DSM costs about $3.00 to $4.00 these days.
The Benefits of Busing for the DSM Community
On my campus, I’ll often hear professors and peers express a desire to live more environmentally sustainable lifestyles. One way to live a more sustainable life as well as help to contribute to the flourishing of the DSM community is by busing instead of driving. By choosing the bus over a car, you significantly reduce your carbon footprint. A smaller carbon footprint contributes to cleaner air and clearer skies in DSM for you and your neighbors to enjoy. Additionally, if more people bus than drive, you and your neighbors will also reap the benefits of less road congestion and noise pollution.
Environmentally conscious DSM residents might also be excited to hear that DART added several new all electric buses to their fleet. These gas-free buses produce zero emissions and are powered by batteries that run on renewable energy provided by MidAmerican Energy. Since this fleet is currently running on Route 60, I often ride on an electric bus to and from work. Not only do I prefer to travel on the electric buses because they are better for the environment, but also because they are quieter.
Named one of 10 Best Cities for High Salaries and Low Cost of Living in the Midwest and a Top 10 Place Where It’s Easiest to Save for Your First Home, Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a region where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.
Emma Nutter is a student at Drake University studying Public Relations and Communications expected to graduate in May 2023.