Opinion and Editorials

EDITORIAL: Better transit for better achievement

August 3, 2013

A landmark Harvard University study on income mobility released late last month brought uncomfortable news for those who have come to view Indianapolis as a diamond in the Rustbelt rough. Unigov, downtown revitalization, amateur and professional sports, a stable economy—none of it apparently has done enough to help the poor.

The good news is that expanded mass transit can help solve the problem. It’s yet another reason the Legislature should hand local voters the chance to decide the matter in a referendum next year.

The study found that a child born into the poorest fifth of households here had only a 4.8-percent chance of breaking into the top fifth by age 30.

How dismal is that? Dismal enough to rank Indy 95th among the largest 100 metro areas.

The study’s authors were careful to say they aren’t certain what caused the low ranks. However, they noted evidence that it’s difficult for poor people in Indianapolis, Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and other cities with the problem to get to affordable colleges and well-paying jobs.

As transit planners rolled out details of three proposed routes last week, we’re reminded that a better system would go a long way toward moving the poor to better opportunities.

No one denies transit is expensive. Especially in Indianapolis, where sprawl has spaced people far apart, making just about any system planners create inefficient compared with dense cities.

But people who can’t move up in society cost even more. Stuck in dead-end jobs, they fall short of their potential to support themselves and contribute to the economy. And they can’t take good care of their health because doctors and hospitals are hard to reach.

They also don’t get the education they’re capable of achieving—one reason so few people graduate from college.

To borrow from an education slogan, if you think transit is expensive, try isolation.

As lawmakers reconsider transit in their summer study committee, they should remember that a well-run system would do wonders to help the state’s largest city and economy function better.

Bennett’s downfall

Tony Bennett, the state schools chief upset by Democrat Glenda Ritz in the November elections, has no one but himself to blame for the scandal that forced his resignation as Florida education commissioner.

During his whirlwind term here, Bennett pushed through a raft of education reforms, including grading school performance with an A through F system. The reforms were a welcome attempt to shake up an education apparatus that tended to rebut criticism with demands for more money and time.

But the revelation by the Associated Press that he pressed for special treatment for a charter school run by Republican donor Christel DeHaan undermined his credibility and within days he had stepped down from his new post in Tallahassee.

The lesson here is that the referees must play by the rules. On behalf of people everywhere who play fair, we say, resignation accepted.•

To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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