Central Indiana Mayors Push For Better Mass Transit

Indianapolis-area legislators are holding hearings to evaluate possible improvements for mass transit.

Indianapolis Bus

Photo: Paul Sableman (Flickr)

Indianapolis currently has a public bus system. In addition to bus upgrades, rail options will be evaluated in the transit hearings.

A study committee of 16 Indianapolis-area legislators opened a series of summer hearings about what they say is the economic necessity of a public transportation system.

Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear says mass transit is a critical economic development tool.

“We are routinely asked to describe our public transportation choices when companies are thinking about locating to Noblesville,” Ditslear says. “We simply can’t compete with other cities on this point.”

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard says it is not just the executives of companies making the requests, but rank-and-file employees. He says a strong mass-transit system is one of the things that certifies a city as a destination for young professionals.

Legislators have been wary of the cost of a transit upgrade, and of the wisdom of a proposed Indianapolis-to-Noblesville rail line. The mayors emphasize the final plan may or may not include rail.

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard says legislators would be authorizing the ability of local governments to decide their own transit system.

“From a practical standpoint, we can’t go design this project before the funding is available,” Brainard says.

The cities have been asking legislators for permission to hold a referendum authorizing an income tax hike to pay for a transit upgrade.

Anderson Mayor Kevin S. Smith suggests legislators should look to public-private partnerships as a way to upgrade transit while minimizing the risk to taxpayers if demand is not as great as anticipated.

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  • WBTRR

    Indianapolis, Indiana needs to set a better example of using its mass transit resources. It has an existing rail mass transit corridor from Noblesville, to downtown Indianapolis, and there is additional rail capability to reach its airport from downtown. Rail Passenger Train equipment is available at resonable prices.

    Its FIRST STEP should be putting this resources to work, then focusing on alternative modes.
    The resources is owned by an existing authority.

    Indy is falling behind other cities includes Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Dallas, Portland, Nashville, and others.

  • shayloure

    Mass transit in Indianapolis has been studied and re-studied for the past 15 years. Plans have been drawn up and reconstructed periodically to fully represent the needs of the city today. There is no reason that legislators have waited this long to get this passed in Indianapolis. I agree with WBTRR in that the city is falling behind its peer cities. It’s one thing to have visitors come to the city a few times out of the year, but the goal should be for the city to have sustainable growth. That is not going to happen if the transit system isn’t upgraded. Mass transit brings that growth. Ask the CEO’s of Goldman Sachs if they would have even considered Salt Lake City as one of their locations if had not been for the city’s transit system. I worked for a nightclub during the week of the super bowl in 2012 and there were countless number of visitors who asked how to get to certain places that weren’t downtown. Everyone doesn’t want to have to wait for a cab. If someone’s visiting downtown but would like to go shop at Macy’s, the closest option is Glendale, in which the person would have to take the 10 and transfer to the 26. Simple? No, especially when you consider the that those routes run every 30 – 45 minutes. Those against the proposed plan say Indianapolis is too spread out, and you can get anywhere in 20 minutes. 20 minutes? Ask the people who commute from Noblesville to work in Castleton if their commute is 20 minutes. Ask the people who live in Lawrence and work downtown if their commute is 20 minutes. I have heard ignorant comments such as “only poor people can’t afford a car.” I wonder what those people were saying earlier this summer when gas was $4.30/gal. This plan would benefit all of central Indiana once it was fully implemented. Someone should research how many people turn down the opportunity to go to nearby colleges in small towns because of how far they are away from an actual city. Expanded transit would bring more students to Ball State, DePauw, IU, and Purdue because these students would have a convenient way of commuting back and forth to Indianapolis. Not to mention attendance at Pacer, Indians, and Colts games would increase because those living in nearby towns would have an easy way of getting to the game without worrying about parking or the cost of gas. The fact of the matter is, a 0.3% increase in taxes is as low as it gets for a system like this. People need to think of the all around benefit and how much money they will make from it in the future through enhanced property value and amenities.

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