Ridership on Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) buses was up 15 percent year-over-year in December, officials announced Tuesday.


December ridership totaled 347,213 passengers. The increase is significant because December is the first month for which year-over-year comparisons can be made after DART added or changed a number of routes in November 2012.


The fastest growing route has been the new Route 60 loop between Ingersoll Ave. and University Ave. that goes through downtown. It grew from 15,763 riders in December of 2012 to 26,354 riders in December of 2013, a 67 percent increase. DART would like to make that route into a bus rapid transit, or rail-like bus service line, in the future.


DART officials are keeping a close eye on ridership numbers now that there are direct year-over-year comparisons with the new and changed routes, a DART spokesman told the Business Record earlier this month.


In addition to the route changes, DART opened its $21 million Central Station in November of 2012; added frequency and later hours to some routes and has launched a beta version of a trip planner. Riders can now also search for public transit directions using Google Maps and Bing Maps.


"The region's investment in public transit is paying off," said Steve Van Oort, Polk County supervisor and chairman of the DART Commission.