Opinion and Editorials

EDITORIAL: Where next for mass transit in Indianapolis?

May 11, 2013

Frustration on the part of mass transit proponents was palpable last month when the Indiana Senate shunted the matter to a summer study committee after the House had approved a bill with strong bipartisan support.

Advocates for expanding transit in Marion and Hamilton counties had made their case. Solidly. For years. And the issue had been studied to death. What possible good could come from further study?

The committee, some concluded, must be a stalling tactic.

Well, possibly. Or the handful of Senate Republican holdouts need further convincing. Transit actually stands a reasonably good chance in the 2014 session if supporters play their cards right this summer.

Proponents can start by toning down the condescension. The skeptics might not be aware of the “CAVE people”—Citizens Against Virtually Everything—derision, but they certainly feel the disdain and, human nature being what it is, are apt to dig in their heels. The holdouts mainly have philosophical differences. They think money is better invested in roads or have questions about the way transit would be funded.

Proponents should take the skeptics at their word that they’re open to the facts and show up at the committee meetings prepared to respectfully and patiently reiterate what they’ve touted all along:

• Transit moves workers to jobs and health care.

• Transit stations spark real estate development.

• Fewer cars on streets and highways mean less need for expensive streets and highways.

• Young people expect competent transit. Growth-minded cities ignore this at their peril.

• The state isn’t obligated to pick up the pieces if the system doesn’t pay for itself.

• Allowing a referendum isn’t the same as raising taxes. A vote for transit simply allows citizens of Marion and Hamilton counties to vote whether they want to increase their taxes to expand transit.

• Locals can be trusted to handle transit details.

• Other counties would opt in to the system only if they wish.

Proponents also should dust off a 2008 Indiana Department of Transportation study that concluded transit was needed and feasible.

Supporters moreover should be sensitive to Indy fatigue. Lawmakers outside the area have been asked to delve into funding for Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and more.

Lawmakers should be reminded that Hoosiers are not given to wasting tax dollars. Indianapolis-area leaders have repeatedly shown they can leverage a tax dollar into private development, and if anyone in government can put transit money to good use, it’s them.

Expanding transit is still a good idea. The skeptics can and should be brought around.•

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