Why I Use Public Transit in DSM
CONFESSION TIME: I do not own a vehicle, and I have no intention of buying one anytime soon. As a self-proclaimed “DART super-fan,” I ride the bus everywhere, and I have for the past three years.
I am a college student entering my final year of study at Drake University. When I first arrived in Greater Des Moines (DSM), I did not have a car. Relying on new friends for rides was not the most reliable form of transportation, and the cost of rideshare apps did not align with my college student budget. A few weeks into my first semester, I learned about Drake University’s free bus pass service. By showing my student ID, I could ride the DART bus — for free! Since then, I have taken the bus everywhere. I use public transit to get to class, travel to the store, commute to my internships and more.
When I tell people that I do not have a car, I am often met with confused looks and questions about my travel habits. I am always happy to share that I use DART as my main form of transportation, and I do so for three main reasons.
I am incredibly fortunate that Drake University partners with DART to offer free services, and many DSM-based businesses and organizations participate in DART’s Partner Program, fully or partially subsidizing public transit usage. Riding the DART bus (even at its full cost) is still significantly less expensive than owning or renting a vehicle. A monthly bus pass costs $48, which is markedly less than the combined costs of car payments, gas, insurance and maintenance, and the transit authority offers a variety of bus fare packages to suit individual transportation needs.
In my experience, one of the most common deterrents to riding the DART bus is the convenience factor. Buses run on a schedule that may not always align with individual calendars, and they travel along set routes that may not directly lead to a destination. I will be the first to admit that sometimes, taking public transportation requires careful planning.
Accounting for delayed or early buses and navigating different lines can be difficult. However, DART offers several tools to mitigate these challenges. My personal favorite is the Trip Planner, which curates a personalized travel plan to get from Point A to Point B. DART also has real-time bus tracking that is accurate within a two-minute window. Depending on location and transit needs, there are additional DART services that provide convenient alternatives to traditional local routes.
Riding the DART bus also eliminates many of the hassles of driving a vehicle. For instance, I never have to worry about finding or paying for parking, and frankly, I cannot think of a more convenient alternative to a giant multi-passenger vehicle that dominates the road taking me to and from my destination!
As a college student, it is very easy to stay within the campus bubble — we tend to stick to what we know. Riding along local routes has exposed me to parts of the community I would not have seen otherwise. I often pass shops or restaurants that pique my interest, and I am much more familiar with the area than many of my peers. Taking the DART bus is also a much more sustainable option than riding a car, giving back to the community in the form of an environmentally conscious decision.
At this point, it is important to note that the choice to ride the DART bus is a privilege. For many folks in the community, the DART bus is the only financially feasible method to travel to and from work and school and around the area. With this, there is a definite human component to using public transit, too. In terms of people, the DART bus drivers are some of the kindest people that I have met in DSM. I have had countless conversations with the drivers and other riders, learning more about the people that live and work in the area.
With all of this in mind, my call to action is this: try riding the DART bus. Try taking it to work this week, ride the bus to your next coffee or lunch meeting or hitch a ride downtown to the Historic East Village or Downtown Farmers’ Market!
Not sure how? Check out DART’s guide for tips and tricks to navigating Greater Des Moines’ (DSM’s) public transportation system.