DART hits the bulls-eye for saving gas money

When gas prices jumping over 70 cents about a month ago, many students started to find a more fuel-efficient way to get to school. I decided that I would try riding DART to Ankeny from Altoona.

Deciding on the perfect bus route from Altoona to Ankeny took a lot of planning.

I printed out the different routes and had to find one that would bring me from Altoona to Des Moines, then find another route that would get me from Des Moines to Ankeny before class.

But that planning process will soon become a whole lot easier.

“We are getting close to launch an online trip planner,” DART Public Information Officer, Gunnar Olson said. The online trip planner will be launched sometime this spring, which will work on mobile platforms along with traditional.

The trip planner will allow riders to enter a time and destination and the planner will find the best routes, according to Olson.

The system will start out just as a trip planner but they are also working to include bus GPS locations to riders in real time through Google Maps. DART busses are currently equipped with GPS but bus locations are not publicly available.

I soon realized as I matched up the bus routes that I was going to have a hard time getting to school quickly. Little did I know that my normal commute of 20 minutes would become 2 hours. The number of busses leaving Altoona for Des Moines, and Des Moines to Ankeny is very limited.

DART has recently increased service to Ankeny and Altoona, which has made it more accessible to make it to DMACC, according to Olson.

The Altoona Express leaves three times in the morning but only one of them will make it for the Ankeny Express, which goes from Downtown Des Moines to Ankeny six times between 6:40 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

No matter how I arranged the routes I would have 45 minutes sitting in Downtown Des Moines.

After my first day of sitting in the cold I noticed Keller’s Breads on the same corner that the Altoona and Ankeny Expresses stop. Keller’s is a deli on the corner of Seventh and Grand, which recently started to serve breakfast.

Keller’s was a great place to pass the time, and so is a walk around the magnificent skywalk system in Des Moines. In the future though this time could be cut down. DART’s goal is to increase frequency.

“There is still room for improvement,” Olson said.

Route 99 from Altoona to Des Moines was full of very professional people, dressed up ready for their day at the office.

The later bus from Altoona, route 17, was a different story; I was the only one on it from Altoona. As the bus passed through the east side of Des Moines more and more people looking scruffy and dirty came onto the bus.

As I rode the bus I really enjoyed the time to catch up on a good book, or do some homework. If I were able to get right onto the Ankeny Express from the Altoona Express I would ride the bus everyday.

It is a great way to not have to stress over a parking spot, traffic or gas.

Although it did save money the days I rode it, the times did not work for me to make it to my Tuesday and Thursday classes. At the end of the experience I learned riding the bus was not for me.

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