More than 23 million rides are provided annually by Iowa's transit systems. Public transit service is provided in every county in Iowa. Iowa transit systems rely on state and federal transit assistance to make rides available and affordable for Iowans. Local support such as tax revenue, fares, and donations provide a large share of agencies' operating budgets.

Hybrid funding solution could be the answer for DART

Monday, October 09, 2017

Hybrid funding solution could be the answer for DART

By Kent Darr | Senior Staff Writer

Placed in the Business Record

Property tax collections will help the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority buy more time as it seeks a long-term funding solution, but ultimately a hybrid formula that includes changes in state law could be the answer, a transportation consultant said.

Chris Kopp, with consulting firm HNTB Corp., wrapped the last of three workshops with local leaders Thursday and came away convinced that there is widespread support to find a solution, as well as for pressing ahead with an expansion of DART services.

He will return later this month or in early November with final recommendations for short-term and long-term funding. DART can maintain some growth by continuing to rely on property taxes, but several communities are nearing their state-mandated cap of 95 cents per $1,000 of valuation, Kopp said.

Even with legislative help, say in the form of using some percentage of sales taxes to generate revenues, there is little support for scrapping a property tax component, Kopp said.

Several concepts are in play, including the possibility that some businesses could subsidize routes, he said.

Kopp and HNTB representatives have held three meetings since July with a group that includes chief finance officers, elected leaders, business officials and advocacy organizations, among others.

He stressed that the funding issues confronting DART cannot be attributed to careless management.

"DART is above average in controlling costs," he said.

Efforts at the local level can help ease some of the pain. The form-based zoning code that is under review in Des Moines, with its emphasis on encouraging mixed-use development along existing transportation corridors, is one such example. (Read more about that here.)

Overall, there is agreement that mobility solutions have to be found for people to be able to get to their jobs.

"It's a funding issue about getting people to jobs, providing mobility for people who don't have cars," Kopp said.

Ultimately, the recently expanded DART commission, which now includes representatives from every member community, will take up the debate.