Employers in Hamilton County and Hendricks County may find it easier to attract workers from Marion County, with the planned launch of a “reverse commuting” bus service.
The Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority this spring will announce specifics about the new routes, which are being funded mostly by federal Job Access Reverse Commute grants.
Reverse commutes follow the opposite of traditional commuting patterns, which typically see workers in the suburbs head to work in the central city. Suburban employers say many would-be workers in the core of Indianapolis can’t afford to drive to far-flung suburbs or live there. And cash-constrained IndyGo operates principally in Marion County only.
CIRTA’s plan entails a Hamilton County route that will begin from a central location in Indianapolis and extend to existing Indy Express park-and-ride bus lots in Carmel and Fishers, from where commuters now ride into Indianapolis. The existing buses are operated under contract with Louisville-based Miller Transportation.
The Carmel park-and-ride lot is at the Meijer store, at Pennsylvania Street and West Carmel Drive. The Fishers lot is on the northeast corner of 106th Street and Lantern Road.
“In Carmel and Fishers, there will be shuttles that connect from the current Indy Express Bus park-and-ride lots to major employers in those communities,” said Ehren Bingaman, executive director of CIRTA. (In the video below from IBJ's "Going Green" Power Breakfast series, Bingaman discusses reverse commuting and other initiatives to link neighboring counties.)
Conversely, IndyGo routes would feed to the originating location in Indianapolis. A reverse-commuting route also is planned this year to Plainfield, in Hendricks County. It would originate from a location along Washington Street in Indianapolis.
City planning documents show the bus would stop at Perry Road, in Plainfield, with additional service possibly to Stafford Road, Metropolis Parkway and to AirTech Park.
Bingaman declined to elaborate on specific destinations or timing, saying they’re still being nailed down. The federal grant for 2012 totals about $1 million, according to planning documents.
Such bus routes are considered stepping stones toward what planners envision as a robust regional mass-transit program within the next 20 years. Gaining most of the attention over the last year has been plans for an expanded IndyGo bus system and a rail line for commuters.
The first rail line would link Indianapolis, Fishers and Noblesville using the former Nickel Plate rail corridor. Legislation in the Indiana General Assembly would have allowed residents of Marion and Hamilton County to vote on whether to pay for such a plan through higher taxes. But the plan was derailed this year by a squabble in the legislature over whether employees of such a system could decide against union representation.
Central Indiana Corporate Partnership has been trying to revive the transit bill. But Bingaman, a panelist on an IBJ “Going Green” Power Breakfast session Thursday, said the bill was doomed this session.