Posted on January, 30 2023
The end of January marks a major milestone for Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART). After 14 years of service, including 11 years as CEO, Elizabeth Presutti is leaving DART to join her husband who recently accepted a position at Collins Aerospace at their manufacturing facility in Monroe, North Carolina just outside of Charlotte.
Under Elizabeth’s leadership, DART’s footprint has expanded to include new innovative services—like DART On Demand and Flex Connect—technology tools to make riding DART easier, the opening of DART Central Station, and the completion of several long-term plans, including DART Forward 2035 and the Transit Optimization Study, just to name a few.
During her last week at DART, Elizabeth sat down with Chief External Affairs Officer, Erin Hockman, to reflect on her time in Greater Des Moines and share her optimistic vision for the future of DART.
Why did you move from Charlotte to Des Moines, to eventually become the CEO of DART?
A colleague of mine, that I had previously worked with at the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) happened to be the General Manager of DART at the time. And he had an opportunity that he thought I would be well suited for and invited me to interview for the Chief Development Officer position here in Des Moines.
I interviewed and fell in love with the organization! I really enjoyed the community. It has everything that you need, and if you want to travel a little bit further, you get the kind of amenities you can find in larger cities like in Minneapolis or Kansas City. It was a great fit.
When you reflect on your career at DART, what are you most proud of?
There's so much to be proud of! I don't know that I have just one thing.
I’m super proud of DART Central Station (DCS) because I got to work on that project start to finish. It was just a drawing on a piece of paper when I started at DART, and we were able to move it to being more than just that. Securing all the funding for it in a really short period of time and constructing the project was a huge success.
DCS was a real game changer for the community and elevated the perception of public transit in Greater Des Moines. Prior to having DART Central Station, we were on the Walnut Street Transit Mall, which was not particularly desirable and didn't portray transit in a positive way. DCS elevated the conversation around public transit here in Greater Des Moines and allowed us to do a lot of other exciting projects.
DART Forward 2035 was the first long-range plan for transit. The study was exciting to see adopted and implemented. The DART Commission recently adopted a new long-range plan, the Transit Optimization Study (TOS).
Finally, working with business and non-profit partners to reduce barriers to transportation and other essential services has been so rewarding.
You’ve expressed optimism about the future of DART. Why do you think DART will be successful in the future?
There's an amazing team here at DART that I know has a lot of care and desire to see DART be successful. The DART Commission is well poised and committed DART’s future.
The organization also has a lot of the building blocks in place. As we think about the advancements we've made in technology, where we are at from a service perspective, how we've been able work with the community, there is a lot of positive momentum.
What is one or two things you hope to see DART accomplish in the next five to ten years?
First, would be funding diversification—identifying another revenue source so DART does not have to rely solely on property taxes to fund service. This would reduce the property tax burden on DART member communities and allow for DART to have opportunities to expand and grow as we look to the future. As the region grows to one million people, transportation and mobility services will need to keep pace with that growth.
Secondly, would be the construction of a new Operations and Maintenance facility. We've also been working on this for several years as the current facility is well-beyond its useful life. Seeing this project come to fruition will be important for DART’s long-term sustainability.
What are you going to miss most about Greater Des Moines?
I'm going to miss the restaurants, like the Cheese Bar and the Cheese Shop. (laughs)
My husband and I will both miss knowing where our food comes from. It’s great you can get to know local farmers and have a personal relationship with them. That's something we've always really appreciated as we've lived here and something we'll miss.
The thing that I'm going to miss most about Greater Des Moines is the people. There's just been so many wonderful people I've gotten to work with at DART and in the community. There's just a real care and concern about the residents of the community and wanting to do best by them.
I’m really going to miss the people in Des Moines.
Greater Des Moines says "Farewell, Elizabeth!"
In the last few months, the community and organizations have reached out to express their gratitude for everything Elizabeth has done in our community. We decided to surprise Elizabeth with some of the messages we received to let her know who much she'll be missed!