Braille Monitor                                                                                February 1986



Transit Mall Revitalizes
Downtown Des Moines

The following article was sent to us by Mike Cramer--who, as Federationists know, is one of the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois. He is also Customer Assistance Coordinator for the Chicago Transit Authority.

In his cover letter Mike says:

Attached is some material of interest which appeared in the December 9, 1985, issue of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the transit industry. It is published by The American Public Transit Association (APTA) of Washington, D.C.

As a Federationist and a professional in the transit industry, it is certainly a pleasure to see both what we as blind people are doing with the transit authority of Des Moines and that APTA, the association of transit systems, recognizes this. This publication goes to many individuals at practically every transit system in the country as well as systems around the world.


DES MOINES, IOWA--The official grand opening of the Walnut Street Transit Mall in downtown Des Moines took place on November 27, culminating three years of planning and preparation by the Des Moines Metropolitan Transit Authority and the city of Des Moines.

Featured speakers included U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), U.S. Representative Neal Smith (D-Iowa), Governor Terry Branstad, and Mayor Pete Crivaro. The grand opening festivities featured the longest ribbon cutting Des Moines has ever seen, with nearly 900 feet of ceremonial ribbon draped across the mall.

"We're very excited about the opening of the transit mall. It is just one more sign of the life and vitality being pumped back into downtown Des Moines through the community's revitalization projects. The Metro is proud to be part of that revitalization," Metro General Manager K. Stephen Spade said.

Among the almost 1,000 Iowans who braved near-zero temperatures to attend the grand opening were officials of the Des Moines Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. At the request of the Metro staff, the Federation provided important input into the planning of the transit mall.

"Some public bodies forget that 'accessibility' in its most basic sense involves access to the decision-making process as equals," said Curtis Willoughby, Des Moines Chapter Vice President.

"But not the Metro general manager and staff. The ink was barely dry on the initial set of blueprints when we were invited to comment and propose any changes we thought were necessary."

According to Spade, the Federation's review of the transit mall plans not only guaranteed better accessibility for the blind, but saved the transit system "a lot of money" by pointing out some planned features that were unnecessary.

The five-block, pedestrian/transit mall is designed to offer downtown workers, local residents and shoppers, and visitors improved accessibility to bus service. The mall also is expected to stimulate business for downtown merchants, hotels, and restaurants.