Deal on mass-transit legislation headed for vote

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Key legislators say they have reached a compromise on a bill that gives local officials in several counties the authority to expand mass transit in parts of central Indiana.

Sen. Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, who authored Senate Bill 176, said she plans to sign the conference committee report on mass transit, which makes it eligible for votes in the House and Senate.

The bill will need a final vote in both chambers Thursday to move on to the governor’s office for final consideration.

The compromise language does not include a provision to establish a light-rail system or an increase in corporate taxes. However, the legislation would still allow for an increase in individual income taxes pending voter approval.

Both the Indiana House and Senate passed similar legislation to expand mass transit, but each version contained slightly different requirements, which resulted in the creation of a conference committee to iron out the critical details.

As passed by the Senate, the bill would also have authorized a corporate income tax increase that would fund about 10 percent of the total cost. That version of the bill also banned local governments from using the increased revenue to fund a light-rail system.

In the House, lawmakers dropped the ban on light rail and stripped out the corporate income-tax increase.

Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, described the decision to exclude light rail from the bill by the conference committee as “a major blow, in my view, to the idea of transit.”

“I’m very disappointed,” Delaney said. “This is supposed to be a local bill, where people can tax themselves locally for a system they want, and legislators decided what system we can’t have. I think it’s very unfortunate.”

Under the bill, the six counties – Marion, Madison, Johnson, Hancock, Hamilton, and Delaware – will have the ability to adopt a referendum to increase individual income taxes and begin negotiations with other counties to permit scheduled travel.

Although the legislation gives these counties the option to expand mass transit, they have to enter into agreements with each other separately. That’s because the bill doesn’t create a regional organization to regulate the transit system.

“This is a very clumsy way to do transit,” Delaney said. “The bill is designed to create a lot of negotiation and not a lot of appeal. But, I’m still going to vote for it because it’s better than nothing, which is what we’ve had.”


  • Fiscal Irresponsibility!
    I totally agree with the CRITICS! The people who will benefit the most from this are the higher socio-economic people [i.e.; rich, wealthy, well off in areas like Carmel, Fishers, and Hamilton Southeastern] and the businesses [who will paying the least taxes] in the same areas for this Mass Transit System! "Critics, though, have successfully argued that the entire community should not be forced to shoulder the cost of a system that would benefit only a few." Indianapolis and Marion County areas are too spread out population-wise to support and to effectively pay for Mass Transit. If the politicians / legislatures investigate and view that Mass Transit systems in cities like St. Louis, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles; the will found that the Mass Transit systems are and never will be self-sustaining. In fact the St. Louis is constantly cutting back / trimming down their Mass Transit system because it is too costly the taxpayers and because in the long run it is in fact ineffective! The politicians / legislatures needs to take the resources and time to improve the current local transit systems in various cities like Indianapolis / Marion County ['IndyGo'], Fort Wayne, Gary, Terre Haute, Richmond, Bloomington, and Evansville. The current proposed transit proposal and tax plan by the lawmakers will only drain additional drastically needs funds from the aforementioned cities' local transit system! AGAIN; the people who will benefit the most from this are the higher socio-economic people [i.e.; rich, wealthy, well off in areas like Carmel, Fishers, and Hamilton Southeastern] and the businesses [who will paying the least taxes] in the same areas for this Mass Transit System!
  • Mass Transit
    If you want to build downtown commerce and move in more business into the Indianapolis area then put in a real Mass Transit System. Buses are not mass transit at least not in today’s terms …… maybe in the 1920’s. What is the legislature thinking? Stop taking the easy way out and figure it out! I am so sick of the old guard or outdated thinkers making decision in a community that wants to move forward.
  • ridership
    Both only survive if they have ridership. A bus system is easy to adjust, change and is less to operate. Trains cost more up front and the route is fixed forever. Trains also cost more to run month to month, year to year. So when ridership doesn't follow, the initial costs were only the beginning of the continued cost for the tax payers.So go with something which can be changed.
  • Busses have a bad rap in Indy. They are equated to the poor. Trains would not have that same image. They also are subject to the same issues as driving. Traffic, weather conditions etc.... A train would be much faster between two given points and if we stop widening and building more interstates that handle less traffic, it will give people more reason to ride rail. I am not sure if people were here during Hyperfix, but it was very noticeable. There were a lot of traffic jams.
    • Example of commuter line that works
      Check out the YouTube video which makes the commuter train in Albuquerque a success. Due to high cost of living in nearby Santa Fe and Taos, and the convenience of ABQ, many commute to Santa Fe and Taos for their jobs. Our metro region is barly at 1 million, but we have many geographical constraints. http://youtu.be/5GLRACKPkwU
    • Monorail
      I've sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and by gum it put them on the map!
    • doom
      What is this bill other than a 1.2 BILLION tax to expand bus service? For those who say light-rail will not make money, guess what, buses won't make money. That's why there is a tax. Light-rail is a statement of progress and an opportunity to guide guests and residents to an our ever increasingly popular downtown. It is to provide commuters a similar or faster commute to downtown (people can work while they ride). Yes, it will have growing pains. Yes, it will take sometime for residence to appreciate and understand. And, yes, it will attract business and development. No light-rail. New jerseys at IU. No state basketball team likely in the big dance. Increased taxes for buses. Legislators more worried about gays than ways and means. State only allowing two price fixing insurance companies to compete for my health insurance. The general assembly hall is falling apart. I cannot think of one thing I am proud of in this State right now. Maybe the Eiteljorg. At least we got that.
    • Yep
      Shouldn't be too hard...Washington St from west to east (stop at Hendricks and Hancock County borders), Meridian St. north to south (stop at Hamilton and Johnson county borders). Expand from there if needed.
    • Problem with Bus
      Everyone keeps bringing up the bus system failing from Carmel to downtown and from the airport to downtown. Has anyone ever thought that the reason these programs fail is because of how painfully slow it takes to get there. I live in Plainfield. For me to go to the airport and then take the bus downtown would be an estimated 58 minutes. Light rail would be significantly faster, probably less than 30 minutes, which would then save me time on my commute. People complain about the failing roads with all our potholes, but do not want to spend anymore money to actually do something different...they then complain when our roads are under constant construction in the summer time...gee wonder why?!? I leave a quote from Hoosiers: "People in this town don't like change much"
    • Light Rail no, but streetcar yes
      Downtown could support a streetcar line. Something that is a 2 mile system that links important areas like convention center, stadium, arena, mall, and the new transit center. Not only are streetcars much cheaper, but the can make the case more so than a rail line to suburbs. Indianapolis just doesn't have the mass density in other areas for this. I don't think it can yet support commuter rail even, let along light rail lines. Why not build a BRT system from downtown to the airport first which will support the convention center, then focus on building up regular bus service throughout the city. Putting light rail in an unproven city that doesn't utilize bus service will never be supported even by the federal government. Again Albuquerque is getting a BRT line which 80% of the cost is covered by the federal government. The line they are building also has massive ridership and accounts for over 42% of the city's total ridership. Even with a line that could easily support light rail, the city is choosing BRT as a better and cheaper option. The reason the feds are paying is because the city has had Rapidride for over a decade and has been extremely successful and has to expand.
    • All Hail the Mighty Automobile!
      Why would we spend money on mass transit infrastructure when we can build more roads? Roads are obviously the best choice for all of the tax money the state collects. 465 should be at least 8 lanes in each direction and we should convert Binford/Fall Creek to an I69 extension that would penetrate right down to the Monument Circle. When they closed the I65/I70 segment through downtown they made a huge mistake. Instead of lowering the roadway for bridges they should have demolished homes and businesses on each side of the highway and made it much much wider. We all have cars, we love cars, so let's just pave over downtown entirely so our cars can be happy and run free. Just imagine how glorious it would be if downtown was just Lucas Oil Stadium and Banker's Life Fieldhouse with nothing else but a large ocean of asphalt parking. I get so frustrated with all the new development downtown that is removing our most precious resource; surface parking should be protected at all costs. If you want to build a new building then find a green field somewhere else, don't take away my convenient parking lot in the sun.
    • Oops
      Does NOT foretell the future.
    • Mass Transit
      Indyman has the transit debate spot on. Past feeble attempts at mass transit does foretell the future. I note that the naysayers did not quote Charlotte North Carolina light rail which is in the process of being expanded. The new development in Charlotte along the light rail is an added bonus. This makes the convienence factor of mass transit a new paradigm.
      • No
        Last summer, I65 and I70 were closed through downtown for two months and virtually nobody noticed. Indy does not have a traffic problem. Hamilton County does. Building a system that serves downtown is the worst type of reckless money spending. There is very little need, and most of the want seems fueled by feelings of inferiority by those who want Indy to be a major city...something it isn't and will never be.
      • Airport
        Oh, and for the person suggesting light rail to the airport, we had an express bus from downtown to the airport. $7 one way. It lost money. And the old airport property near the county line has not yet been selected as the site for the new judicial center. No one is in the favor of that except the mayor and the companies he regularly enriches with our tax dollars. People involved in the Indy legal system want nothing to do with that location and will fight it tooth and nail.
      • Pat Miller is clueless
        It seems official now that our politicians do not care about the future of our city, nor do they care about attracting the "create Millennial class", nor do they care about the quality of life for Indy residents, as they always claim.
      • Express Buses
        People forget that we subsidized express bus services from Fishers and Carmel which failed. Yet they think light rail will work somehow have huge ridership when the buses didn't? As far as the comparison between widening roads and rail, there is a huge difference. People will drive on the roads. They won't ride the train when driving a car will be every bit as fast. People need to accept that for mass transit to work a city needs to have population density which Indianapolis does not have.
      • I love rail but Indy can't support it
        While Indianapolis is a very large city in terms of size and population, it made a major mistake decades ago with sprawl. Due to the large size are of the city, it has very low density, even lower than Albuquerque and Tucson. Both cities are much smaller than Indianapolis in size but have a decent population. Tucson is building a streetcar system, Albuquerque has a large commuter rail line and building BRT systems. Again to compare Indianapolis to NYC or San Francisco isn't realistic. Both, like Tucson and ABQ have natural barriers which make travel and sprawl more difficult.
      • The problem it seems with a lot of people is they feel that light rail/mass transit costs money, but building, widening, and repairing highways does not. The more interstates we build, the less efficient they are in carrying traffic. Doubling your interstate size does not double its capacity. If we stop building and expanding highways into Indy at a great financial and social cost, and go with a light rail solution, people will ride it. One of the best signs I have seen was on the Dan Ryan on a light rail overpass. It said if you were riding rail you wouldn't be stuck in traffic. At the time I was in a standstill traffic jam. That message resonates with people. No more struggling through snow, no more fighting traffic, no more standstills because of accidents. I know I am more likely to use mass transit in other cities if it is light rail, trolleys, or subway. I think it is a no brainer to run a light rail from the airport to downtown. It would also support the new location for the Justice Complex and west side traffic. I think the second no brainer is Fishers/Noblesville to downtown since 69 was never finished through there. Finally I applaud IPS looking at using mass transit to cut down on the amount of busses they use in the city. A duplication of effort that wastes taxes.
        • San Fran, NYC -- But NOT Indy...
          It is not about "build it and they will come" at all. Indy needs a light rail system. Build it in Marion county since that is where the ridership is now. THEN let the surrounding area hook into Indy's light rail system. The Surrounding areas don't want light rail, fine. We inIndy DO want light rail. Sigh, if we can build a play for the Colts, we can't build something for ourselves? Man, this is a very bad decision by our leaders. With a light rail system Indy would instantly jump in the San Fran/NYC category by simply HAVING a substantial light rail system. Seems to me like that alone makes it money well spent. I just don't get it, Indy's leaders are dumb.
          • Light Rail
            Lee, light rail was half the cost. The economics of it didn't make sense and the claims about how quickly the train would make it from Noblesville to downtown Indy were pie in the sky stuff. Light rail would have been an enormous drain on taxpayer dollars that probably would have cost 2-3 times what they claimed. The notion that you just "build it and they will come" has been shown time and time again to be false.
          • Really and mass transit moves forward in cities with a future
            Come on, no passenger trains or light rail, how difficult is that. Our representatives are not very bright, buses are not the answer. When will they learn that the carbon footprint is much lower and people would like to ride rail, bypassing road and highway traffic. We are 20 to 30 years behind. What happens when Indy and metro grow to 3 million, road gridlock.

            Post a comment to this story

            We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
            You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
            Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
            No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
            We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

            Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

            Sponsored by

            facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

            Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
            Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
            Subscribe to IBJ
            1. The $104K to CRC would go toward debts service on $486M of existing debt they already have from other things outside this project. Keystone buys the bonds for 3.8M from CRC, and CRC in turn pays for the parking and site work, and some time later CRC buys them back (with interest) from the projected annual property tax revenue from the entire TIF district (est. $415K / yr. from just this property, plus more from all the other property in the TIF district), which in theory would be about a 10-year term, give-or-take. CRC is basically betting on the future, that property values will increase, driving up the tax revenue to the limit of the annual increase cap on commercial property (I think that's 3%). It should be noted that Keystone can't print money (unlike the Federal Treasury) so commercial property tax can only come from consumers, in this case the apartment renters and consumers of the goods and services offered by the ground floor retailers, and employees in the form of lower non-mandatory compensation items, such as bonuses, benefits, 401K match, etc.

            2. $3B would hurt Lilly's bottom line if there were no insurance or Indemnity Agreement, but there is no way that large an award will be upheld on appeal. What's surprising is that the trial judge refused to reduce it. She must have thought there was evidence of a flagrant, unconscionable coverup and wanted to send a message.

            3. As a self-employed individual, I always saw outrageous price increases every year in a health insurance plan with preexisting condition costs -- something most employed groups never had to worry about. With spouse, I saw ALL Indiana "free market answer" plans' premiums raise 25%-45% each year.

            4. It's not who you chose to build it's how they build it. Architects and engineers decide how and what to use to build. builders just do the work. Architects & engineers still think the tarp over the escalators out at airport will hold for third time when it snows, ice storms.

            5. http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/duke-energy-customers-angry-about-money-for-nothing