EDITORIAL: New transit study focuses on return as well as cost

 IBJ Staff
February 13, 2010
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IBJ Editorial

Central Indiana is much better at churning out transportation studies than implementing a real transit system, but there’s reason to take seriously the report released Feb. 10 by the Central Indiana Transit Task Force.

Unlike its predecessors, the new study wasn’t the brainchild of environmentalists or people whose jobs revolve around promoting non-car travel. The task force was led by Allan Hubbard, co-founder of locally based acquisition firm E&A Industries and an economic adviser to both Bush administrations. The group also included representatives of the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and Central Indiana Community Foundation.

The business-savvy group’s charge was to view transit through an economic lens. Its conclusion: A $6.7 billion, multi-modal system that would cost more than $100 million a year to operate would be worth the money.

The payoff, says the new report, would be a region better able to attract jobs, talent and investment. More specifically, a rail line from Fishers to Greenwood and an east-west transit system on or near Washington Street could be a magnet for developments worth billions of dollars.

The study’s findings aren’t groundbreaking. Most cities our size already have a transit system. Yes, such systems are expensive, but when implemented thoughtfully they can become an economic engine.

As the new report’s findings are vetted at a series of public forums over the next 10 months, most of the discussion will focus on the cost of a transit system and how to pay for it. That’s as it should be—but the potential return on investment should not be forgotten.

Stop ‘guns at work’

Bills that would prevent businesses from prohibiting guns on company property flew through the Indiana House and Senate last month, and that’s as far as they should go.

Gov. Mitch Daniels ought to step in with a veto.

The bills, which would prevent employers from prohibiting guns kept in vehicles on company property, passed overwhelmingly—41-9 in the Senate and 76-21 in the House. Daniels would risk a probable override if he were to put his prestige on the line with a veto. Yet, we hope he does.

Businesses concerned about guns as a threat to employee safety should be able to prohibit them on company property. The state shouldn’t usurp that authority because of pressure from the National Rifle Association, which asserts, among other things, that employees might need a gun for protection when traveling home through rough neighborhoods.

Legislators reluctant to dictate to businesses on the issue of smoking in the workplace seem all too eager to impose the government’s will in this case.•


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