Photo: Paul Sableman (Flickr)
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.