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Transit isn't just an expense; it's an investment

December 1, 2008
Advocates of building a mass transit system for the Indianapolis region have a big sales job ahead of them, and now they have another tool to help make the pitch.

The Metropolitan Development Commission gave local transportation planners the green light Nov. 12 to do an expedited study that would show locations, cost and potential ridership for mass transit routes region-wide. Previous studies have focused primarily on the corridor between Fishers and downtown that would be developed first.

Although officials of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the city's principal transportation planning agency, are coy about when — or even whether — they'll proceed with the study, it clearly needs to be done to demonstrate that mass transit isn't just for the northeast side.

Public officials in the various jurisdictions across the region can support funding for transit if their constituents see what's in it for them. But simply presenting the public with a route map won't be good enough. Transit advocates must hammer home a couple of points: First, that public transportation is a basic building block of a city's infrastructure that can benefit both urban and suburban neighborhoods. And second, that land values and development activity have increased around transit stops in cities where transit has been built in the last decade.

It's time to make the case that transit isn't just an expense; it's an investment that can generate a monetary return and improve a city's quality of life. We support local planners as they take that message to state legislators this January, and we encourage legislators to approve an ongoing funding mechanism for transit that can be used by communities statewide.
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