Young Professionals A screen grab from DART’s new Trip Planner online tool.

A screen grab from DART’s new Trip Planner online tool.

Will DART’s new Trip Planner spur more bus use by YPs?

Published on October 1st, 2013 | by Josh Hafner

The Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority unveiled its Trip Planner tool, an online application aimed at drawing young people out of cars and into buses.

The planner uses Google Maps and DART schedule information to let users plot out point-A-to-point-B bus trips across the metro using the authority’s site on Internet-enabled devices. DART plans to incorporate real-time data from GPS technology currently installed on its buses as the tool continues to develop next year, authority spokesman Gunnar Olson said.

“Bus schedules do have value but they’re kind of a telephone book in a Google age,” Olson said. “People of a younger generation want access (this) way. To me, one of the values is putting DART information out there where young people are and are looking for it.”

A DART survey earlier this year found its website to be the second overall most-used source for transit information by riders, second only to email, Olson said.

The authority also submitted the data behind its Trip Planner tool to Google and Bing, enabling the companies to add Des Moines’ bus options to their travel mapping applications.

The Trip Planner took two years to develop and was built by Trapeze, a global transit software developer. It cost $2.76 million overall and was funded by a combination of federal grants. A transit system the size of Des Moines’ is expected to have a digital scheduling tool, Olson said. The Ames/Iowa State University CyRide bus system has had a Google trip planner available for more than a year.

However, Olson said, DART’s Trip Planner will be among the first such tools nationwide to incorporate on-bus GPS devices when that data goes live next year, enabling users to see where their buses are in real time along routes. Temporary bus routes for special events, like the Iowa State Fair, will be included as well as some detours, Olson said.

Alexander Grgurich, 27, sits on DART’s Transit Rider Advisory Committee. He said while the Trip Planner is a welcome tool for transit users, he wishes DART would stick to an earlier plan the authority made to make the data behind the tool open to the public.

The authority told The Des Moines Register earlier this year that the Trip Planner’s data would be released publicly, enabling other parties to use their own innovation to promote Des Moines transit.

“If your goal is to move people around efficiently and increase their experience while they do that, the public — if you crowdsource this data — they’re going to be more innovative,” said Grgurich who is business lead at Fresk Interactive in Des Moines. Take Mars Cafe, he said: What if the Drake-area coffee shop had a screen that told you in real time when a bus was approaching?

Olson said that no final decision has been made on whether to release the data behind its Trip Planner, but that DART was interested in possible revenue it could make from the data using advertising. The decision will ultimately go before DART’s nine-member board, Olson said Tuesday, likely sometime within six months.

Share your thoughts: Will you be more likely to use the buses with Trip Planner? Should the data be open for developers?


About the Author

covers young professionals for The Des Moines Register. Josh can be reached at or on Twitter via @joshhafner.

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