Central Indiana mass-transit bill dies in committee

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The Indiana House Ways and Means Committee defeated a bill Thursday that could have led to an expanded mass-transportation system in Indianapolis and surrounding counties.

The committee voted 11-10 against the legislation, which had been backed by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and other local officials.

House Bill 1073 would have allowed voter referendums in Marion and Hamilton counties for the purpose of raising taxes to fund an expanded bus and train system.

The plan, created by the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, calls for raising income taxes in Hamilton and Marion counties by 0.2 percent in order to double the bus service currently provided by Indy Go and to construct a commuter rail line from Noblesville to downtown Indianapolis. The initial plan would cost $1.3 billion over 10 years.

Last week, the bill’s author, Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, said the bill didn’t have the support needed to pass, in part because it would have led to higher local taxes.

But at Thursday’s meeting, the controversy was more about provisions that would have said workers at a transportation authority couldn’t be forced to join a union and that the authority would not have been required to have common-wage hearings.

Espich acted to delete the common-wage provision but left the right-to-work language in place.

“I am here to try to act as much as I can in the spirit of compromise,” Espich said. “I will support the bill with the provision out or with the provision in. My preference is to have this provision in.”

Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, said the labor provisions in the bill that focused indirectly on employees’ right-to-work were “purely political.”

“I would vote against the bill if in fact that language remains in the bill,” Crawford said.

Rep. Winfield Moses, D-Fort Wayne, said the labor provisions led him to vote no as well.

Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, was also concerned about the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s opposition to the labor language. “To shove the labor language down their throats is insulting,” Pryor said.

Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, said “every district does what’s best for their area” and voted in favor of the bill.

Espich said he remains a strong mass-transit advocate and considers the issue to an important one.

“It’s an issue that deserves a shot,” Espich said. “This is a free world. I’ve had my chance and my say.”


  • Of course we did
    Oh well. Maybe the Super Bowl will finally throw into sharp relief just how much this city lacks. But probably not.
  • Espich
    Espich needs to explain why the RTW language should be in this bill. It seems totally unnecessary.
  • Mass Transit Bill
    Rob Burton, it was the Democrats who voted against the mass transit bill, because "it contained right-to-work wording", whatever that means.
  • other joe and keith
    The government already pays huge sums for transportation, and everyone pays a share no matter their frequency of use. I am talking about roads. We pay BILLIONS evry year as a state for road work that we obviously cannot keep up with. The most troubleing part is that not all residents can make use of road ways. A growing percentage of the population is aging and can't drive. Because of government policy on promoting business over resident's quality of life, the low wages we have mean many working people can't afford a car. We also have a population that is out of work or can't work who can't afford a car. All of these people still have basic needs to get around, but can't. Every day, thousands of indy area residents sit in traffic twice a day and beg for government intervention to widen roads. The truth is, government subsidizes your current way of life very heavily, so much so in fact that Daniels sold an income generating asset to build yet more road miles. This discussion isn't about how a city looks, but moving the population in the most efficient way possible and it is very clear that roadways can't meet that need.
  • They have transit too
    Joe and Keith, No one said we are trying to be Chicago or NYC. Maybe you should look at other cities. Transit works and work well in a lot of cities similar to ours (Charlotte, Denver, Salt Lake, San Diego, Dallas, Minneapolis, etc). And who do you think pays for roads? Gas taxes cover about half...the rest are those government entitlements you speak so highly of. And don't give the "no one uses it" excuse. That's like saying no one goes to Mars. Of course people don't do it when it's impossible.
  • Come on
    This will happen. Just a matter of time. How can the City compete or become a world class city when lacking transit. Come on Urban progress, Why compare to Chicago or New York? Silly if you ask me. Transit can work on a smaller scale.
  • joe, wrong.
    no indy doesnt need transit on the SCALE of chicago, nyc, or l.a. - but SEATTLE, KANSAS CITY & ST. LOUIS all have transit systems that were created, retained jobs, and work on the scale of their respective cities. some people dont have the NEED for a big tv but that doesnt mean they dont by one.
  • Agree with Keith
    Starting with Gregg and the rest of the commenters - Indy is not NY, Chicago, DC, or SanFran!!!! We don't need a mass transit system, and surely are not in a position to pay for one. I doubt any of the critics below could care about the dollars and cents needed to build a rail system
  • Entitlement Mentality At Work
    So now you people want the government to provide your transportation too?? We are already broke - we cannot afford any more government handouts - you people are living in lala land....
  • Vote the bums out!
    I don't even believe it, here we go yet again. Once again Indianapolis and Indiana have been shafted by partisan politics. Once again our employees (the legislators) have turned a deaf ear to the needs of their employer (the voters). We need an adequate mass transit system ASAP. Let us decide if we want to help pay for a system. I guess it's time to once again, vote the bums out.
  • A State Legislature With Deal Ears
    Our elected representatives (read Republicans) will not address the needs of Central Indiana by giving local governments to determine what their needs are for mass transportation. At the same time they are taking away the right of unions to adequately represent their members, by passing "Right to Work" legislation. These are just two examples of what we get when Republicans have complete, veto proof, control. They take away the rights of workers and refuse to give rights to local government.
  • Truck Bombed
    We have the worst state legislature in the nation. We can waste time trying to micromanage when schools start or how they play basketball, and how the national anthem is sung, but we can't see how ridiculous it is that legislators from all over the state get to decide whether central indiana can vote and pay for its own transit system. And we voters have no recourse because we're not in their districts. Thanks for truck bombing your economic engine, statehouse.
  • Embarrassing
    This is so embarrassing. Thanks Indiana General Assembly, you've managed to screw the public over ... again.
  • Short sighted
    This is very disappointing. After two years of consensus building on the need for a public transit plan, we are going to be denied the opportunity to put it before the voter. This is an important economic development opportunity and impacts the quality of life of central Indiana residents. The legislature got this one wrong.
  • Short sighted
    This is very disappointing. After two years of consensus building on the need for a public transit plan, we are going to be denied the opportunity to put it before the voter. This is an important economic development opportunity and impacts the quality of life of central Indiana residents. The legislature got this one wrong.
  • Backwards
    This city is soooo backwards. We are suppose to be a world class city, but without world class transportation. I believe many people do not visit our city just because of this fact. When I travel to Washington DC, San Francisco, Toronto, NYC, etc. I always take advantage of the public transportation. It saves me time, money, and frustration. Get a clue you "smart" people making these decisions for us.
  • Who are these people
    Let me get this right: an Indiana Senate committee wants to establish creationism to be taught in our schools while another committee refuses to consider improving public transportation in the greater Indianapolis area. Who are these people?

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.