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Is The City Of Bloomington Working Toward Eliminating Cars Downtown?

Cars in downtown Bloomington

City officials say they aim to see scooters, bikes, cars and pedestrians co-exist in Bloomington's downtown. (Tyler Lake, WTIU/WFIU News)

Efforts to attract visitors to Bloomington’s downtown have sparked contentious debate over how people should get there.

But some residents like Sara Batman say the city’s intentions are unclear. 

“I’m wondering are they going to make it harder for people like me who live on the westside to get into town and enjoy the benefits and amenities that they’ve put down here,” she says. 

Batman says a 20-minute commute by car is the most viable option for her to get downtown, but she feels cars are becoming less welcome as the area grows.

While cars are the most used method of getting to and from downtown, the city has shifted its focus in recent years toward more multi-modal transportation.

But city officials say eliminating cars downtown is not the goal.

“We certainly want to reduce single occupancy use of vehicles," says Planning & Transportation Assistant Director Scott Robinson. “We want to encourage more multimodal options for people to come to the downtown using different modes.”

Bloomington resident Sara Batman
Bloomington resident Sara Batman says she commutes downtown from the far west side. She's curious how the city is working to accommodate all modes of transportation equally. (Tyler Lake, WTIU/WFIU News)  

But the task is challenging. The debate about cars downtown has broadened into discussions on climate change, economic development, and upcoming city council elections.

The Fourth Street garage has become the focus. City officials closed the garage in January after determining it was structurally unsafe. Engineers say the garage has seen deterioration above and beyond what they initially expected, including rusted steel beams, cracked concrete and a number of other structural issues.

The council heard from more than 30 residents on the issue Wednesday. Some, like Uptown Café owner Michael Cassidy think the deteriorating garage should be torn down and rebuilt to last several decades.

“Downtown Bloomington needs more parking, we’ve needed more parking even when we had the garage, it’s ridiculously obvious,” he says. 

Others like resident Daniel Bingham say it should be repaired to last 5 years to buy the city some time to see how climate change affects the future of transportation.

“We’ve kicked the can on climate for 30 years. Our backs are literally against a wall now. We are about to drive over a cliff,” he says. 

But in the end, city council members voted to tear down and rebuild the garage. Which Robinson says is part of the city’s larger plan to accommodate cars while also pushing for increased use of bikes, scooters and other ways of getting around.

"A lot of people are dependent on their automobile. We’d like to make it an option that they don’t always have to depend on that automobile. That they have a very good viable choice for transit or for walking or for biking,” he says.

And that’s important for residents like Sara Batman who hope to see all forms of transportation welcomed in the city’s future.

“Making the access to the downtown equal for everybody, everybody that wants to drive, people that want to bus in, people that want to bike in," she says.

Batman says in the end it’s about keeping options open to everybody.

Have a question? Ask City Limits:

Our community is changing, from closing businesses to traffic and road construction to affordable housing, and we see the impact of these changes all around us.

We want to know: What questions do you have about how the Bloomington of tomorrow will impact your work, your personal life, your community and your future?

Here’s how it works: You submit a question you’d like us to explore about how Bloomington has changed over the past few decades, what you want to see for the city in the future and how ties with IU continue to shape the community.  

So: What do you wonder about how Bloomington is changing and how it impacts your life?

Interested in an ongoing conversation how Bloomington is changing? Join our Facebook group!

 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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