I was frankly stunned when I read Bill Styring’s unfortunate [Jan. 23 Forefront] column on the mass transit proposal being considered by the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee.
Styring, who generally has a reputation as a thoughtful man, displayed an uncharacteristic misunderstanding and dismissal of the facts. He published an entire column based on conjecture and speculation, even though I personally briefed him on the plan and the underlying data supporting the plan before the column was published.
For three years, the Central Indiana Transit Task Force studied the region’s mass transit needs, and formulated the mass transit proposal (not a “scheme” as Styring dismissively called it), after receiving input from 150 public meetings and from some of the nation’s premier transportation economists and planners.
After extensive coverage of the plan in the local media, including in IBJ, it’s unfathomable that Styring claims he couldn’t find any information about the plan other than a map and a press release. A simple Google search of our name returns more than 27,000 hits, including links to all of our studies.
The fact remains that he contacted me on Jan. 10, for information about the transit plan. Within three days, he had received the complete proposal, along with a cash flow-analysis, cost-benefit analysis, and copies of the detailed financial information that we had shared with IBJ editors in mid-December. We met in person on Jan. 16, and went over additional materials.
Styring acknowledged that he had not been aware of any of this information, but had already written his column and reached an opinion on the plan.
Instead of a careful analysis of a complex plan, Styring offered up a shallow critique of a plan he had not studied and reached a conclusion which had no basis. He urged policymakers to view the transit plan with “extreme skepticism,” but offered nothing but stereotypes to support his views.
He noted several adages in his column, but ended up proving one that he didn’t cite: “Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story.”
We have shared detailed documents with the media, the public and serious policy analysts, and went into the most granular level of detail with Styring. That serious approach to this issue deserved a more serious analysis than Styring offered to IBJ readers. The column does a disservice to IBJ readers and to public discourse on this issue.
executive director, Central Indiana Transit Task Force,
executive vice president Central Indiana Corporate Partnership