Funding Our Future

full bus photo

Greater Des Moines’ public transit system could face major service cuts without an increase in funding. Elected leaders need to hear from you as they consider whether to increase funding or cut service. This page will share updated information as conversations about DART’s future funding and service planning continue.  

Investing in DART means investing in critical infrastructure that attracts business, grows our workforce, and ensures central Iowans can access opportunities that support a quality life. With stable funding, we can focus on how DART meets our communities’ needs for the future.

Get Involved

Contact Your Leaders

Send an email or call your local elected leaders and share 1) What does public transit mean to you? and 2) How would possible cuts to bus services affect you? Here's how you can connect with your elected leaders: 

  • If you are a City of Des Moines resident, type your address here and scroll down to find who your elected representatives are and their contact information. Request to speak at an upcoming city council meeting. If you live in another community, visit your city's website and find your city council members. 
  • Attend a DART Board of Commissioners meeting and provide up to 3 minutes of public comment. Meetings occur on the first Tuesday of the month at noon, with options to attend virtually or in person.

Share Your Story:

Tell us what DART means to you! Share your story by clicking here and filling out the form.

Participate in Public Input

DART will seek public input starting mid-November on possible bus service cuts in the City of Des Moines. Sign up to receive updates on DART funding and service planning discussions as they continue over the next year.

DART's Funding Challenge

Most of DART’s operating revenue (62 percent) comes from property taxes, the local funding tool set by the Iowa Legislature. The property tax levy has not increased in four of the past seven years, while costs to provide transit services have increased significantly. 

Like many U.S. transit agencies, COVID relief dollars have filled a gap in revenue for the past few years, but these one-time funds are no longer available next year. Without an increase in revenue from DART member communities in the next fiscal year (July 2024-June 2025), DART cannot provide services at the current level. 

In addition, the City of Des Moines contribution to DART significantly exceeds its $.95 transit levy cap and will continue to increase as a new funding formula is implemented across all member communities. When the new formula is fully implemented by 2029, all DART member communities will continue to invest in a regional transit system, but the City of Des Moines will contribute the most significant portion  49 percent  of the total local taxes DART collects because it receives the most services. 

Learn more about how DART is funded and why more diverse and sustainable funding options are needed. View the FY 2024 DART Budget Book


Possible Solutions

  • All Communities: The DART Commission has agreed to fund the gap in revenue in fiscal year 2025 and will consider a redesign of suburban services ahead of fiscal year 2026 budget discussions. DART will use $2.5 million in one-time funds to reduce the increase in local property taxes. This means DART’s 12 member communities will cover an increase of $3 million to maintain public transit services in suburban communities next year. A homeowner of a $200,000 home will see their property tax bill increase in the range of $1.16-$7.99. 
  • The City of Des Moines must decide whether to contribute additional revenue above what it can collect through its property tax levy. The City Council can increase its franchise fee by up to 2.5% to maintain service – a unique funding option the Iowa Legislature provided only to the City of Des Moines during the 2023 legislative session. Elected leaders are expected to consider this option to fully fund existing DART services in early 2024. 


Why It Matters

Without additional revenue from the City of Des Moines, DART will need to reduce services by $7.7 million over the next five years to balance its budget, resulting in the most significant reductions to its bus services in the history of the organization. This means thousands of riders would have longer commute times and less access to jobs, childcare, education, healthcare and other essential needs. 

  • Most DART riders do not have a valid driver’s license (61%) and do not have a working vehicle in their household (61%). 
  • The No. 1 reason people ride is for work (57%) followed by shopping and education/school.

We also know that Greater Des Moines has unmet transit needs. DART regularly receives requests for service to new places and for additional service on nights and weekends. The region’s population has grown 24% since 2009 while DART service has grown 1%. 

Our community is known for coming together to solve problems and we believe we can do that again. By investing in our public transit system, we can help Greater Des Moines grow and thrive – making our region stronger. 


How You Can Help

Share with your elected officials why public transit is important to you. If you’re a DART rider, let them know how you use bus service and how cutting service would impact you. You can find your elected representatives on your city website. 

Sign up to receive updates on other opportunities to share your perspective. Follow us on Facebook to read stories and learn about the value of public transit. 


Frequently Asked Questions

What is DART's vision?

DART’s vision is to facilitate affordable, seamless mobility options that support economic prosperity for all. 

We have an opportunity to decide what we want our public transit to be – do we fund just enough transit service for those who have no other option, or do we want a transit system that can drive the economic and social vibrancy of the region? We believe Greater Des Moines can join many other communities, including Omaha and Indianapolis, that have made the decision to invest in public transit as an economic driver.

We have heard from our elected leaders and central Iowans that people value a regional public transit system. DART looks forward to community conversations about how to provide robust transportation options that meet our region's needs today and support future growth. 

How is DART governed?

DART is represented by a board of 12 Commissioners, one from each member government we serve. Each Commissioner is an elected official from each member government. The DART Commission is a volunteer group that sets policy and oversees DART’s budget. DART’s staff manages and carries out system planning and day-to-day operations. Learn more.

How is DART funded? 

A mix of federal, state and local dollars allows DART to provide a regional transit system that gives 3.2 million rides each year. Learn more

What you should know: 

  • All U.S. transit systems receive public funding because public transit is a public service, just like parks, roads, bridges, trails and other infrastructure. Anyone can use DART services!
  • The percentage of local funding DART receives (62 percent of DART’s total budget) aligns with what other transit agencies receive from local funding.
  • Most transit systems of DART’s size are funded with sales tax, not property tax. Property tax is the only funding mechanism authorized by the Iowa Legislature for member communities to use, except in the City of Des Moines. 
  • The City of Des Moines was given the option of also collecting a franchise fee of up to 2.5 percent that could go toward public transit. The City of Des Moines will need to vote on whether to increase its franchise fee to fund public transit. 
What is DART's total operating budget? 

DART’S operating budget is $42.2 million in the current fiscal year ending June 30, 2024. This budget covers the cost of providing services to 12 member communities in Greater Des Moines. 

Supply chain challenges, workforce shortages, and inflation through the pandemic have increased the cost of providing services. As communities expand farther away from our region’s center, DART is spending more to provide the same level of services to a wider area. Even with these challenges, DART has strived to limit annual revenue growth to 3 percent through efficiencies. 

How much do taxpayers contribute to DART?

The amount member communities contribute is 1-2 percent of homeowners' total property taxes. This ranges from about $50-$100 per year for someone who owns a $200,000 home. Most DART communities spend less on public transit than other services funded by property taxes, including libraries, parks and recreation, and public health. Plus, public transit is the connector that allows people to access these public amenities. 

Here is a look at the total contribution by member community and the estimated increase in cost for property owners: 

Member Community

FY24 Community Contribution to DART

FY24 Taxpayer Contribution ($200,000 home)

FY25 Community Contribution to DART

FY25 Taxpayer Contribution ($200,000 home)

Estimated increase for taxpayer ($200,000 home)

























Des Moines


$103.84 (at cap)


$103.84 (at cap)

At cap













Pleasant Hill












West Des Moines







Windsor Heights




$103.84 (at cap) 

$1.21 (at cap)

Polk County






Total Local Funding






Why don’t we charge more for people to ride? 

An owner of a $200,000 home in one of DART’s member communities contributes between $50-100 each year in taxes to DART. A full year of monthly bus passes costs between $576-$696. Most DART customers pay both property taxes (either directly or indirectly through rent) and fare to use DART services.

Increasing bus fare would likely result in fewer people riding DART as a lot of people in our community already struggle to pay their bus fare. Our half-fare program now has 800 people living in poverty signed up. This is a small percentage of the one-third of central Iowans who do not earn enough to cover a basic household budget. The ALICE Report shares more about poverty in Iowa. 

People’s budgets continue to be stretched as the cost of living has increased. More than 60% of current riders have an annual income of less than $30,000, while most of our riders are using the bus system to get to work. 

What can DART do to address these funding shortages through efficiencies?

Public transit is one of the most efficient and effective public services funded with our tax dollars. DART carries a higher-than-average number of passengers per hour at a lower cost per boarding on average than similar size transit systems around the country. Per capita spending on public transit in Greater Des Moines is less than many of the midwestern cities we compete with for talent and economic development opportunities. 

DART has worked hard to make our services more efficient and innovative, including purchasing smaller vehicles and providing new services like Flex Connect and DART On Demand that are connecting riders, especially in suburban centers, to bus routes and to services they need within their neighborhoods. Partnerships with organizations, such as the Principal Foundation, allow DART to add additional services at no cost to taxpayers. 

Fixed-route service is still the most cost-effective way of providing public transit services. DART Fixed Route services average 17 passengers per hour. Some of DART’s busiest routes average up to 27 passengers per hour. 

DART will continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently with the resources available. 

What would make funding public transit more sustainable? 

DART and its Board of Commissioners have advocated for several years with Iowa lawmakers to provide options to diversify revenue and reduce reliance on property tax. Other transit agencies are funded through methods, such as a sales tax, income tax or a motor vehicle tax. DART will continue to educate elected officials on these other options for funding public transit. 

Who does DART serve?

For most riders, public transit is the only means they have to get to work and to access services and opportunities in our communities. Most riders have one or no working vehicles (86%) in their household and an annual income less than $30,000 (64%). Learn more.

In addition to providing day-to-day essential services, DART also supports the community with its pressing needs. For example, when temperatures are dangerously high, we provide free rides to cooling centers. When big events happen – like the Iowa State Fair – we connect tens of thousands of Iowans safely and efficiently to these opportunities.

How many people ride DART? 

DART provides approximately 12,000 rides on average each weekday. Ridership has grown significantly in the past two years and is at about 70 percent of DART’s pre-pandemic level. DART ridership has recovered at a faster rate than most peer transit agencies. 

Last year, DART provided 3.2 million rides. In comparison, the Des Moines Airport serviced just under 3 million passengers. 

Learn more about the benefits of public transit and follow us on social media at @ridedart.  

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