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Plans For Transit In Bloomington: Protected Bike Lanes And Bus Route Changes

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: This is NOON EDITION on WFIU. I'm your host, Bob Zaltsberg with WFIU news bureau chief Sara Wittmeyer. This week, we're going to do an update on plans for transportation in Bloomington and talk about the general idea of sustainable transportation. We have four guests with us joining us by Zoom. Beth Rosenbarger is planning and services manager for the city of Bloomington, and she is the main contact person for the Seven line. Lew May is general manager of Bloomington Transit. Matt Flaherty is a Bloomington City Council member. And Austin Gibble is going to join us. He is joining us from Indianapolis. He is transportation planning administrator for Indianapolis and, before that, was an IndyGo project developer. You can follow us on Twitter at @noonedition and you can send us your questions there. You can also send us questions for the show at Thank you all for being here with us. I know we've got some - I think three of the four of you have been with us before. Austin, welcome. You're our newcomer today. I want to start with Beth Rosenbarger. Beth, I know that you are very closely involved with planning for the Seven line, and could you just explain what that is and why it's sort of coming up in conversation these days? 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: Yeah, sure. Thank you. So the Seven line is a multi-modal transportation project, and this phase of it goes from the B line running east to Woodlawn on campus. And it's all along Seventh Street. The project includes a - what's called a two-way protected bike lane, and that means people bicycling are separated from the motor vehicle lane with a protected physical barrier. So it's not just a painted stripe on the ground, but it's more - just something concrete to help you feel and be safer. It includes pedestrian improvements, such as improving curb ramps along the project so that they're all ADA compliant and accessible. And it also includes some raised crosswalks which help with pedestrian safety and visibility as well. And we've worked with Bloomington Transit on the project to improve the bus stops along the project, and these will look pretty different on the south side of the street from other bus stops we see in town because they will be bus islands so that the bike lane will go behind the bus stop. So that's kind of an overview of what it looks like And I'm happy to tell you how it came about, if you'd like that background too. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Let's get to that in just a minute. I do want to follow up and ask - so I looked at some of the renderings today. It seems as if that - the barrier between the motorized vehicles and the bicycles - it looked like on the renderings it would be, like, a tree plot. Is that correct? 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: So, yes, that's correct in part. It varies throughout the project because the amount of right of way that the city owns varies through the project, so - or through the street. So in some parts, it is more like a median with space for tree plantations and such. And then in other areas, it's a bit more it's smaller and like a curb. So when there's more space available, we definitely use it to add some trees to to have more shade and tree canopy. And when there's less space, we have to go with the smaller separation. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Well, let's bring Matt in, because Matt's a member of the city council, and I think this probably suits the city council pretty well in terms of overall goals for transportation in the city. Am I right about that? 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: Yes, of course. And thanks for having me on today. The city council approved a package of bicentennial bonds - I think it was in 2018 or 2019 - that included this project. And that's absolutely right, that it helps us to move forward and meet a lot of the goals that we have in our comprehensive plan around transportation, like improving the bicycle industry and network, increasing sustainability and improving public transit as well. And then also this particular project is called out as a phase one project in our transportation plan, which was targeted to have a one to three-year timeline of implementation. So I would say really this is one piece of us following through on the adopted city goals and plans that were developed as a community and, of course, you know, by elected officials and experts in the city as well. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So what is the timeline, Matt? I mean, when do you think this will get started? 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: You know, I would have deferred to Ms. Rosenbarger to answer that. 


>>MATT FLAHERTY: I think - I'm not sure what the final completion timeline is for the project, but I think sometime in the next year or so. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Beth, you want to answer that? 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: Yes. We are planning to start construction right after IU graduation. So sometime - it won't start sooner than IU graduation, but as soon as possible after IU graduation. So possibly May 10. And I'll add with that that we will be sending out letters to all the property owners and properties along the street and hosting sort of a preconstruction public - virtual public meeting about the project on Thursday, April 29 at 5:30 p.m., and that information will be posted on our website. But just to to let you know that there'll be more information about what construction will look like, especially for people residing and having businesses along that portion of street. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. I think we'll have a few more questions about this later, but I want to bring Lew May in. Lew's general manager of Bloomington Transit. So how will this affect the bus lines that go from downtown and use Seventh Street? 

>>LEW MAY: Well, thank you for having me, Bob. I think it's an important development for transit in that Seventh Street is an important transit corridor that we use at Bloomington Transit to connect the downtown area with campus. And, of course, we have many students who are now living in the downtown area within the number of student apartment complexes that have been developed in the last decade or so. And students use transit in big numbers, and so this is the most direct path from the downtown area to campus. We have a major route that runs down Seventh Street and serves the Indiana Memorial Union bus stop, which is one of the busier bus stops, and then goes up Woodlawn to 10th Street. One of the issues that - or one of the challenges that we've had with the Seventh Street corridor in past years - of course, in parts of the corridor we've had on street parking, and in some places it's on both sides of the street, and that tends to narrow the lanes. And over the years, we've had a number of minor fender bender accidents with parked cars there. Again, with the narrowness of the lanes and parked cars on both sides, it makes for a challenge sometimes to get through there. So as we understand the design, most of that on-street parking will be removed. That's going to eliminate that hazard that we have with parked cars throughout the corridor there and just make it a little safer and faster for the service to navigate the corridor. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Austin, we wanted to bring you on today because, you know, Bloomington is not the only city in the state of Indiana. There are a lot of places that are dealing with transportation issues and, you know, you are a transportation planning administrator in Indianapolis, and I know you have had efforts at sustainable transportation as well. So could you just talk a little bit in general about what Indianapolis has been doing in this area? 

>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: Of course. And first of all, thank you very much for having me on the show. I really appreciate the time allocated here. Indianapolis has been engaging pretty heavily in our transportation future as it relates to public transportation, bikes, pedestrian, and as well as land use and development patterns. The IndyGo public transportation system - our local transit provider passed a referendum in 2016 for transit improvements that included the opening of our first of three bus rapid transit lines, known as the Red Line, that runs from Broad Ripple Village to the University of Indianapolis. And there was also be an effort to restructure our local bus networks so it's less of a radial hub and spoke system coming in and out of downtown and more of a gridded network of buses that are coming every 15 minutes or better to facilitate trips that are across town. Additionally, we have major plans as it relates to the bike  - or the Pedal Indy bike plan, as well as our thoroughfares plan. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Do you have the protected bike lanes like this in areas of Indianapolis? 

>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: Absolutely. We have several miles of protected bike lanes throughout Indianapolis and we also have what is known as the cultural trail, which is our downtown protected bike way network that connects our major greenways and bike lanes from the outer neighborhoods into the city center. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And what's been your experience with those? Has it been, you know, positive? Have any of the, you know, concerns about them that maybe were aired beforehand come to pass? Or has it been a very positive experience? 

>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: None of the - as far as I'm aware, none of the concerns about them have come to pass. Where - we do see that, where we installed protected bike lanes, there is a general increase in bicycling because they provide that safe experience - a certain degree of comfort that those who may not be as experienced with riding bikes are introduced to. And they're also just the backbone of connective tissue that links neighborhoods to major business districts and job centers. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Thank you. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: We got a question from Amy on Twitter. And Matt, maybe you can take this one first. The question is how sincere is the city about improving bike use if they're also building a parking garage downtown? 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: I think, probably, reasonable minds can differ on that question. You know, I think - let me pull up a goal here from the comprehensive plan, which is to optimize public space for parking. To me, I do think we need to move away from subsidizing single-occupancy vehicle use and parking with public dollars and moving to more of a market-based pricing - that is, charging what it will cost to park. And that's not something we've done historically. The decision to use TIF funding - tax increment finance funds - for the construction of new parking garages came before I was on council and I was opposed to that, actually, as a citizen. And, you know, I think that's a reasonable question. I think the city spending reflects our values and our priorities, and I don't think we always get it right, and that's an instance where I didn't think we did. I think using things like transportation demand management and more creative differential pricing of zones and/or the parking garages that we already had in existence probably could have alleviated the kind of few pinch points of constrained supply that we had. Generally speaking, we have plenty of parking downtown per the studies that we've actually done. You can see that data. And I'll tie this in actually to the Seven line as well, which is that - you know, Lew May mentioned that we'll be removing some on street parking on Seventh Street, and I can imagine that for folks who may not be a fan of bike lanes or transit prioritization, that - you know, that feels like a loss, moving those parking spaces. But in actuality, those spaces are only occupied about a third of the time. And there's also other spaces on neighboring streets - the north-south streets, as well as Sixth and eighth, where folks can also park. So it's not so much a loss as it is just moving where that activity happens. So, you know, I think the short answer for me is I still think we need to be doing more to prioritize transit, pedestrian access and bicycling per our comprehensive plan and transportation plan than we've always done at the city. But such is, you know, an elected body and elected officials working together with diverse viewpoints on things, you know, working towards our visions and goals over time. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I will say Matt's been very diplomatic there. I think there was quite a debate about whether to build that garage and just how to build that garage, and it did wind up with the construction that you now see. Wanted to follow up with you, Matt, about transportation demand management. You - you know, the term sort of slipped off your tongue very smoothly there, but I think I'd like to have a definition of that for me. 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: For sure. Again, I would say probably the planning and transportation experts on the call probably have a better ready, at-hand definition than I would. But I would say you're trying to manage the demand side of transportation. So - whereas providing new supply infrastructure, like the Seven line - that would be a supply-side type of investment. But the demand side looks kind of at the existing network and use patterns that you have and tries to incentivize or prioritize the modes that reflect our values and our adopted plans. So that can look like a lot of things. At the city of Bloomington, for instance, for a number of years now, there's been discussion of having what's called a parking cash-out policy. So right now, everybody just sort of has the ability to get a parking permit to park at City Hall for next to nothing if you work there. But if you are someone who takes the bus or walks or bikes to work, that is not a benefit that you get to avail yourself to. So if you choose not to have or use a car or need a parking space, then you can get that cash benefit instead. And things like that that shift the demand for different modes of transportation, both within the government sector but also partnering with folks in the business community to try to shift behavior, again, in line with the directions that we're trying to go per our adopted plans. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Beth Rosenbarger, do you have anything to add to that about transportation demand management? 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: No, I think that - I think that's a good overview. It's something the city is pursuing. There's a new transportation demand management position that was just added, and so I think that's on our radar at the city and that's something we'll be seeing more of. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK, what would that - what will that position - will it be someone who's going to study the issue? 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: Good question. So - well, yes, plus implementing programs. So we - the city had a transportation demand management plan put together. During COVID now I keep messing up when things happened. I believe that got approved like a year ago - or not approved, I'm sorry, it was kind of adopted via resolution with council. And so that plan laid out a lot of programs that the city can pursue, both as an employer, as us as city hall, and then as city throughout the whole community. So that position will be leading and implementing the many recommended programs from the transportation demand management plan. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Austin, do you have anything to add to that in terms of, you know, a big urban community like you're in? 

>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: No, I think that was a pretty solid explanation of transportation demand management as well as parking cash-out, which has proven to be a very effective policy throughout the United States, and I'm thrilled to see the city of Bloomington pursuing that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Can you talk about the Indianapolis strategy for trying to - you know, I know downtown Indianapolis can be a very busy place and there are a lot of parking garages, some privately owned. I don't know about the ownership of the garages downtown. But how are you trying to incentivize people to be able to take more mass transit downtown or to be even be able to bike downtown? 

>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: Most of our parking garages and downtown are privately owned. There are not very - I can't think of any off the top of my head that are owned by the city of Indianapolis or Marion County. Currently, I think our best options for encouraging individuals to take mass transit is, one, working with various employers, which I know our transit agency is currently doing, as well as providing better service, which is part of the Marion County transit plan. And we have found that, as we increase frequency of service and provide infrastructure changes to make transit service faster and more reliable, there is a dramatic increase of public transit usage. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So I want to ask you and Lew both to talk about transit usage, you know, during a time of a pandemic. I mean, I'm sure that that created additional challenges for you. Lew, why don't you go first? 

>>LEW MAY: Yeah, the COVID-19 pandemic has really been unparalleled. Really no one saw this coming. There's been no playbook for how to navigate through the pandemic. So it's been unexpected and we're - we've often been making decisions on the fly during the process there. And - but, you know - and I say this, social distancing and mass transit aren't very compatible terms. You know, mass transit is trying to move large numbers of people together. And again, that doesn't work very well in the midst of a pandemic. And we've certainly seen the impacts of the pandemic here at Bloomington Transit. You know, our transit ridership - students represent about two-thirds of our total ridership, and when the university made the decision to go to an online class format about a year ago, that greatly impacted the numbers of student riders that were using Bloomington Transit and also Indiana University employees who are big users of Bloomington Transit being the largest employer in town. And so that greatly impacted our transit ridership. We've been seeing about 20% of normal - on a typical weekday, we're running about 20% of what we would have been running a year ago if there was no pandemic in place. And that's not unique to Bloomington Transit. All transit systems in the country and around the world, for that matter, are being greatly impacted by the pandemic. And it's going to take a while, I think, for people to adjust and to change. And until we get back to some sense of normalcy within our society, I think transit ridership is going to suffer. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Austin, what do you do to bring that back? 

>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: That's a very good question. And right now there are so many unknowns that it's kind of hard to say. It really depends on industry response. I think each city and region is unique and it really depends on each agency's service structure. I think agencies that are currently structured to serve commuters are going to continue to suffer the most, but agencies that focus more on community connections and facilitating the other trips that are not for commuting places - getting to entertainment, the doctor, educational opportunities and so on and so forth may fare better in the long run. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. If you want to join us on the program today, we're talking about transportation issues in the short term and the long term for Bloomington and Indianapolis. You can follow us on Twitter at @noonedition. You can send us questions there and you can also send us questions for the show at 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Lew, I wanted to ask you just about the future of transit, because I know - as we had done a lot of reporting on the route optimization study and some changes you all were thinking about, and then COVID happened. So where does that stand and what do you think about any sort of route changes given that ridership, I think it's fair to say, is in flux? 

>>LEW MAY: Yeah, great question. A year ago, we had wrapped up our route optimization study, as you mentioned there, and we were kind of in the homestretch preparing for implementation of a number of service changes that affected almost every route in our system. And then the pandemic hit in mid-March last year, and very quickly it was apparent that this was going to be with us for a while. And so our board of directors, our policymaking body, made the difficult decision that, you know, we need to postpone implementation of these service changes until we can have a better idea of what the future is going to be. And now the pandemic has persisted for a year and it's apparent it's going to go on a little bit longer here, so there's still a lot of uncertainty as to when we move forward with these changes. We're starting to see some improvement in the number of new cases. And just here in the last week or two, we're seeing the numbers start to tick up again in terms of COVID-19 - new cases, and that's a little troubling there. There's some talk about maybe a fourth wave that might impact the country. But on the more optimistic side, more and more people are taking the vaccine and it's now available to all adults in our community age 16 and older. So I think that has a lot of promise to help protect people. And hopefully we will soon be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel with regard to getting back to normal, but we're not quite there yet. And until we can kind of see that light at the end of the tunnel, you know, there's still a lot of uncertainty as to what next steps are. Right now, I think it's probably unlikely that we're going to implement these service changes this year. It may be next year before we do that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Want to bring both Matt Flaherty and Beth Rosenbarger in again to talk about the Seven Line, because - I guess my question is - and I'll ask Beth first and then, Matt, you can follow up - is, you know, what kind of measures will you have or what kind of metrics will you have to say, you know, three years down the road or, you know, a year after this is fully implemented, whether it's been successful? I mean, what are the data points you're looking at to try to say, you know, we've increased bike ridership, we've decreased single cars or - you know, what are you looking at? 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: This is a great question. Thank you. So we have the ability to look at bicycle counts. We have existing bicycle counters on Seventh Street, and those are permanently installed in the street. So with bicycle use along that street, we'll be able to have before and after data as to how many people we see bicycling on that street every day. With transit, we would be looking at transit ridership along the corridor. And I think we would - we'll definitely connect with Lew and Bloomington Transit also about bus timing, because I know sometimes there are challenges along that corridor. So our first round would definitely be about use and usage of the street for people walking, people bicycling, which we can track with numbers, and people using transit, which we can track with numbers. And then I think we'll see some - we'll look more toward quality of life as well. So how are people using the corridor? How do residents and businesses interact with it? And we'll want to check in with people who live and work along that border to see what it - what that looks like for them. And I'll add, additionally, this is the first phase of the project. The whole plan will be Seventh Street from Adams to 446. So this is a major east-west connection throughout the community. The design will vary according to the context of the space, but we will be making this a major east-west connection. And it was funded with a bicentennial bond, which is really exciting. So we plan to keep tracking it and see how this gift to the future keeps paying off for our community now and in the future. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We already have a couple of bike lanes that - and a pedestrian path that goes around the auditorium, right? 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: Yes. So the part along campus we will be working with IU, but the part from Woodlawn to Union of Seventh Street belongs to IU, but they already have that great connection on the north side of the auditorium that you just described, Bob, yeah. 



>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Matt, what will the council be looking at? 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: You know, I think that does a great job - Ms. Rosenbarger did in describing kind of the particular metrics one would look at with the Seven Line specifically. When I think of the role of council and how we fit into this type of planning and visioning, it's always at kind of more of a systems level. So zooming out a little bit, thinking about our plans, thinking about our goals of, yes, shifting what modes people use to get around, whether it's to their jobs or other cultural and basic amenities, like grocery stores. So we're trying to reduce single-occupancy vehicle use. We're trying to increase the share of people that are walking, biking and taking transit to where they're going. And, you know, the research is very clear and very good on this - that to attract new users and increase that mode share, specifically with biking, for instance, you need to have safer, high comfort facilities. It's a very small percentage of people who would feel comfortable biking in the existing bike networks that we have - a striped lane on the ground or some what are called sharrows - sort of share the road type of indications are really just not - you're not going to get past this certain very low threshold of users. So this type of infrastructure is critical to us meeting our goals of increasing mode share of more sustainable modes. And all of that is critical to meeting our climate goals. We are part of the - we are still in delegation on the Paris agreement. And, of course, the U.S. as a whole is now back into that agreement. Transportation emissions are the biggest sector of emissions, both in the U.S. and locally here in Bloomington. They make up 27% of our greenhouse gas emissions. So we - to move in a more sustainable direction, of course, electrification of vehicles and things like that will help over time, but it's also lower cost, more equitable and really crucial that increased bicycle, pedestrian and transit users are part of that equation. So I think that's kind of the system's context and this is an important piece. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Austin, I'll ask you a similar question about Indianapolis and Marion County. What are the data points that you look at? And can you point to some successes that you've had in recent years? 

>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: Yeah, absolutely. And first of all, I actually want to commend my friends down in Bloomington on their work on this side of the line. It provides some really strong, meaningful connections in the town - or in the city of Bloomington, and I think that it's a very exciting project and I look forward to seeing it roll out. In the city of Indianapolis, we put a lot of effort into community engagement and input and doing a lot of data-driven analysis. So when we look at where we think there are really broad infrastructure needs for bicycling, public transit, pedestrian improvements, we take a look at where there are existing high rates of crashes, where there may be what we call dis - or communities of concern, which have disproportionately high populations of maybe those who are either too young to drive or maybe they're elderly, have higher concentrations of individuals who are differently abled or have zero-car households or are in poverty. But we also want to make sure that what we do provides a transportation system that is safe, that is comfortable and really provides a meaningful connection to neighborhood centers and job centers and really serves as that connective tissue between neighborhoods to one another and to opportunities for employment. I do want to say that I think one of the most recent major successes has been the cultural trail where we really provided this dense network of safe and comfortable bikeways into the city center that has dramatically improved bike usage into downtown. And also, while it's still very, very young and we've been - the agency has been working through a pandemic, the Red Line BRT is also now in our top three busiest bus routes throughout the 800 miles of bus routes that we have in the 404 square mile area of Marion County. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Wanted to ask if there - and I don't know if there's a good answer to this, but are there characteristics of certain neighborhoods where this connectivity has worked better than others? You know, there - are there characteristics of the neighborhoods themselves? 

>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: Yeah. If you're referring to, say, the built environment, neighborhoods that are more walkable, dense or have things that are probably - mixed uses that are in closer proximity to one another. Those tend to have a higher degree of pedestrian and bike usage and transit usage as transportation than, say, a neighborhood that is out on the edge, doesn't have sidewalks and is typically comprised of exclusively single-family houses on cul de sacs. 


>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: If we're talking more about demographics, we do tend to find that neighborhoods that are of lower income, maybe can't afford a second car or can't afford a car at all - these are neighborhoods that are heavily reliant on public transportation, walking and bicycling as transportation because they are so low cost and have the opportunity to provide a degree of accessibility that they may not otherwise be able to have. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I know Sara has a question, but I wanted to follow up with my Bloomington colleagues about what Austin just said. Some of the neighborhoods in Bloomington are lower income and people don't have a second car. How does - how will this plan - I know the seven line will go further west. But also just how are you addressing the issue of trying to make sure to get these connections into neighborhoods that are perhaps lower income than the East Side neighborhoods that this one is going to in the first phase? 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: I'll start with that. I think that's a great question and it's something we're just constantly looking at demographics as we make transportation plans and look which - to which projects we can implement. So population density is one big factor that Austin mentioned that we have to, when we're focusing on transit, look at areas where there are enough people who will be served by it. But additionally, we do want to look at where we have our communities of concern to make and improve connections. So I would just say we use that as a tool into viewing what projects we have in our transportation plan and into viewing which projects we are implementing. And in particular, there are - oh, I forget. It's almost like 10% of households or 8% of households in Bloomington have no car. And there are more households in Bloomington with zero or one car than there are households with two or more vehicles. So this is a lot of our community. And the more that we can continue to build an entire network, the more we are serving all residents and especially communities of concern, because each segment is worthwhile and is a really important piece. But a network of connectivity is worth more than the sum of its parts. And so we're trying to work on both in terms of where we prioritize those investments and then building out a network that can really help to serve people. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Matt, could you talk about some of the other areas in town that, you know, if you look at a map, what are the other areas that really could use improved connectivity? 

>>MATT FLAHERTY: Sure. You know, I think the style of development from about post-World War 2 until the last few decades has certainly created some real challenges for connectivity. You know, everywhere in this country, we kind of got away from the traditional gridded street network and to this more kind of podular or suburban, perhaps, development style with large arterial streets that carry a lot of traffic because it's collecting traffic from, you know, areas with cul de sac streets or without good internal connectivity. So, yeah. The context changes a lot. And if we're going to look at - you know, Bloomington isn't a real big city in terms of it's just geographic footprint. You know, it's a few miles across north, south, or east, west. So in theory, it's accessible, you know, walking and biking and with transit. But it's kind of the connections that are tricky. So I think in, you know, some of the - we have to be really strategic about how we use things like parks for transportation purposes. Certainly the B line is a great example of that. But we've got additional connections coming through the RCA Park area near Broadview, for instance, that will be yet another connector to an area that will develop with more housing and connects to some existing housing. So when use those types of opportunities for multiple use paths for parks to help build out a network, I think that's really critical. And I'll just echo that I think, yes, the social equity component of all of our transportation projects is incredibly important. I know that's a lens that city staff and city council both use in looking at what to fund and where to put projects. It's increasingly been central to how we prioritize sidewalk funding and how these types of decisions are made. I would imagine the same is true for transit as well. 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: I'd like to follow up on that one really quickly. I sort of even made the classic transportation mistake when answering the question. So we tend to focus on the transportation network when we talk about these connections. But the other important factor about really helping provide connectivity throughout our community is that it's also where people live. So that depends on what housing is available and where people can afford to live. And that is part of our strategy at the city as well. We really - there are lots of great walkable places in Bloomington. And allowing housing and allowing a greater diversity of people to live in different areas of our community is another tool in transportation. So usually with housing, we try to talk about the cost of housing plus the cost of transportation. And that's true for everybody. And especially if you're lower income, if you can pay a little bit more for housing, but then spend a lot less on transportation, it's a much better situation. So that is one of our strategies as well to really increase the diversity of housing options and allow people to live in areas that are already well-served and already walkable. 


>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah, thanks for bringing that up, Beth. Housing is certainly a big issue. We've had shows on it before. I'm sure we'll have more shows on it in the future. If you have a question or a comment about transportation planning for Bloomington, Indianapolis or anywhere else, I'm sure our guests would answer those as well. You can send us questions on Twitter @noonedition. You can also send us a question to I want to bring Austin and Lew back in to talk about the - President Biden's new commitment to an infrastructure plan. He's announced a very large infrastructure plan, which includes everything from - I would assume, from bus funding to streets and highways, to broadband and railroads and everything else. So what do you hope for, Lew, in terms of additional funding for bus services? 

>>LEW MAY: Yeah. Thanks for making that point, Bob. We're really excited about the prospect for a once-in-a-generation infrastructure bill for transportation. I think everyone would agree. In this country, we have perhaps the best roads and highway network anywhere. And - but it requires the ability to own a car and to be able to afford to maintain it and operate it. And as was just said by the previous - in the previous discussion, not everyone has the ability to afford and own and operate a car. So it's important that alternative means of transportation are provided. And public transportation is one of those ways that people get around - ways that they have mobility to go to the grocery store, to access medical services or to get an education there. And in our country, as I said, we have some of the best road and highway networks. But our public transportation systems tend to be really third class or second class compared to what you see in the rest of the world. And there's no doubt that the automobile has a major impact on our environment. It's contributing to climate change and the warming of our climate. And so there's better ways that we can use our public resources to facilitate travel within our nation. The - President Biden's infrastructure plan, we're just starting to hear some of the details about it. But from everything we're hearing, it's going to have much more focus on alternative modes of travel, such as public transportation. And that to us is exciting, that there's the real prospect or potential for increased public investment in our transit systems around this country and so that we can become, you know, a more balanced transportation system where we can provide transportation access to people regardless of their ability to afford a car there. So, again, we're really excited. We think it has a lot of potential to improve public transportation in the U.S. and bring us up to par with what we see in the rest of the developed world. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So, Lew, you can dream a little bit. So you get a big check from - for the infrastructure plan, what would be your priorities for using it? More buses? Do you - is the size of bus the right size? I mean, what would you want to spend it on? 

>>LEW MAY: Well, I think first and foremost, we want to improve the quantity and the level of service, transit service, that we're providing in the community. For example, you know, we have very little Sunday service. We have bus routes that run on 60-minute frequencies. There's areas of our community that have no public transportation. So we want to beef up our service. We want to provide service seven days a week, many hours during the day and including late into the evening. We want to serve areas that don't have any transit service, and we want to provide frequencies that will be attractive to people that will encourage them to use public transportation. And it - so those are the operating costs that go with improving transit. There's also a capital cost that goes with that. And as you mentioned, we would have to grow and expand our bus fleet and our facilities in order to provide that service. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Austin, a similar question to you. If you look at the infrastructure plan, you know what's on your wish list for the city of Indianapolis? 

>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: Yeah, the infrastructure plan is very exciting. And I tell you what, this is my first week as the transportation planning administrator for Indianapolis. I've really hit the ground running with this plan dropping on Tuesday, day two. But I think there's some unanswered policy questions that would make my wish list. And we just don't know the details yet. Some of it is very exciting - like two new identified Amtrak corridors that would provide new, meaningful, frequent connections to Louisville, Cincinnati and Chicago from Indianapolis. I think one of the big unanswered questions is if some of those transit dollars could be used for operations in the larger cities. The federal government has not funded operations of transit services above a certain threshold in terms of population per city that Indianapolis is well above since the 1980s. So we've been entirely reliant on local funding sources to run frequent service. And in a city like Indianapolis, which is very reliant on the service sector, which has taken a huge hit and income tax revenues to fund our transit operations, there's a big need to fill that gap after we've been hit from COVID-19. But I think I would reiterate the wish list of having more local dollars, not only for capital improvements to achieve our accessibility and sustainability goals, but also to our local transit agency so they can provide better service to our various neighborhoods as we come out of the pandemic. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. I'm going to... 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: I have a question really for all of you. And Lew, maybe you can start. But just what are some of the obstacles you face in getting people to use public transit? I mean, certainly now there's Covid, but even before that, what are some of the ongoing issues that people might have that make them reluctant? 

>>LEW MAY: Well, I think the number one issue is convenience. When you can get in your car and drive directly to where it is you're going and do it in, you know, a very expedient manner and versus getting on a bus and it might take twice as long to get from point A to point B, you can understand how people are going to be more attracted to using a car as opposed to mass transit there. So - and a lot of time, transit systems, their dollars are so limited, they're trying to be all things to all people. And in doing so, their services sometimes aren't very direct. They're not very streamlined, and it can take a lot longer to get from point A to point B on transit. So anything that we as transit operators can do that makes our service more convenient and more comfortable, I think is going to go a long way in getting people to use mass transit. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Austin, do you have anything to add? 

>>AUSTIN GIBBLE: Yeah. I share the sentiment as it relates to frequency of service and convenience. And also there we - just a lot of transit agencies and transportation departments in general face a challenge as it relates to the legacy of decades of policy that have really put suburban development and the speed of motor vehicles at the forefront of housing and transportation policy nationwide. Things like parking minimums and performance metrics on streets and highways that measure how quickly motor vehicles can travel versus any other method of transportation has really given quite the challenge to any agency that's looking towards moving the broader population to using public transportation, bicycling or walking as transportation. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. We have just about two minutes to go. I wanted to ask Beth if you could sort of start on the west end of the seven line and tell us what it's going to look like when it's fully built out. 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: Sure. So the portion that we're building right now is the part I can describe. So the real west end of it is over by Adams. But the starting point for this phase is at the B line. So it will look like you think of a protected bike lane mostly as a sidewalk for bicyclists, so it's about - and most of the time 10 feet wide. There'll be a little line down the middle so you know which lane to be in when you're a bicyclist, that you stay on the right because it's both directions to travel. And the bicycle facility will be separated from the street with a median. There are some breaks in the median for several of the driveways along the corridor, although we've worked with property owners to really minimize those. And we've really appreciated the efforts of our neighbors in doing that. So from the B line, you'll start out in your 10-plus foot bike lane. You've got the median, and you've got both travel lanes for motor vehicles on the other side of that. And really, it just continues in that format with the main difference being the width of the median as it goes from the B line all the way to Woodlawn. And along that route, you'll see several bus islands. And when you - when bicyclists approach the bus island, sometimes the bicycle lane narrows a little bit. And there's a little bit of a speed bump in there in order to provide a really good connection for pedestrians from the sidewalk to the bus island and to provide a clue, just a design element, to tell bicyclists to be cautious because you have to yield to pedestrians crossing that facility as they enter the bus island. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: Without a visual, I think that's the best I can do for now. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: You've done a great job. And it's going to start at Adams. And ultimately, it'll end all the way out at 446 or 46th, right? 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: Yes, that's correct. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Ultimately. 


>>BOB ZALTSBERG: ...All three phases. 

>>BETH ROSENBARGER: Yeah. Yes. And, you know, it is inspired by the B line because that has been so successful. And in transportation, we talk about induced demand, which is mostly if you build it, they will come. And it's mainly talked about in the negative because we've continued - we, the United States, to expand highways. And that has not solved congestion but just attracted more users. But the flip side is when we build really good, comfortable and safe walking, bicycling and transit facilities, we also induce demand. We've seen that from the B line, which is a major success. And so we're excited to see what this project brings for our community and what type of demand it induces both - all for walking, bicycling and transit as well. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. That's a great answer. And that's the last answer we have time for today. I want to thank you, Beth Rosenbarger, Planning and Services Manager for the city of Bloomington, also Lew May, General Manager of Bloomington Transit, Matt Flaherty, a Bloomington City Council member, and Austin Gibble, Transportation Planning Administrator for Indianapolis. For producer Bente Bouthier and engineer - today we have engineer Aaron Cain on with us - for Sara Wittmeyer, I'm Bob Zaltsberg. Thanks for listening.

bloomington transit

Projected image of Seventh and Walnut intersection after the 7-Line is complete. (Courtesy of The City of Bloomington Website)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

A protected bike lane, called the 7-Line, is set to begin construction in Bloomington in May. The first phase of the project will extend about three-quarters of a mile from the B-Line trail to Woodlawn Avenue. 

The project is meant to build on transit connectivity started by the B-Line in Bloomington and decrease traffic congestion on Seventh Street.

A protected bike lane offers a physical barrier between bicyclists and cars.

To make space for the lane, on-street parking will be removed on Seventh Street from College Avenue to Indiana Avenue. Spaces will be added on North Dunn Street, and a parking garage on Fourth Street is being built. 

Efforts by urban and transit planners to improve connectivity and decrease congestion are not new, and have seen varying degrees of success. 

A report from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy says residents’ proximity to automobile alternatives, work, and home are key factors in sustainable transit options such as bike and rapid transit succeeding.

Bloomington Transit also has resumed conversations to revise bus route routes after postponing talks at the start of the pandemic.

BT General Manager Lew May says ridership is down right now, so it is an ideal time to implement changes.

According to a report from the American Public Transportation Association, ridership was down 62 percent in the third quarter of 2020 from what it was before the pandemic. 

This week, we’re getting an update on transit changes in Bloomington, the 7-Line project, and sustainable transit needs for the city. 

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. 


Beth Rosenbarger, planning and services manager, City of Bloomington

Lew May, general manager, Bloomington Transit

Matt Flaherty, Bloomington City Council member, At-Large

Austin Gibble, transportation planning administrator, Indianapolis


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