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EDITORIAL: Where next for mass transit in Indianapolis?

 IBJ Staff
May 11, 2013
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IBJ Editorial

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

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  • Throwing Good Money after Bad
    Expanding transit is a good idea. Giving more money to existing transit authorities, however, seems unwise. We have a rideshare program that has attracted barely three-tenths of 1% of the local community. We have a bus system with on-time rates as low as 60%. Both services have difficult-to-use websites. How does this level of management deserve more money? Of course, we need transit. The referendum is fine, since it just gives people the ability to vote on transit later. But it ignores the fundamental question: do we have competent transit managers today? I'm hoping that we do, but I fear that we don't. More at: http://www.nuvo.net/GuestVoices/archives/2013/03/29/im-not-so-sure-about-the-transit-plan
  • Low Density
    The best way to get people on board for transit is to start removing lanes from I465, I65, and I70 through the city. Create more bike lanes and reduce city streets to as few lanes as possible. As it is, Indy is far too easy to get around, even at rush hour. You can get from Carmel to downtown in about 25 minutes. The density is not nearly high enough to support transit. If you have to drive from your house, to the station, then wait for the train, pay more money to ride, then transfer to a bus.... Are the vast majority of people going to still need cars to get to the transit? How are people going to get from all the neighborhoods to the stations? If I still have to pay for a car, and I have to pay to ride the transit, and it takes longer than driving, what is the appeal? It seems like all the proponents say look at all these other cities that have transit, we better get it too lest we be passed by! When you actually look at how well laid out Indy is, and how spread out Indy is, I don't understand why people want a bunch of empty trains and buses being paid for with tax increases.

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