Funding biggest obstacle for proposed regional transit system

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Supporters of a regional mass transit plan that was unveiled Monday morning say they are confident a light-rail line could be operating in central Indiana within seven years, despite the steep cost to taxpayers.

Details of the 25-year plan, revealed at the Julia M. Carson Government Center, call for a light-rail line running from downtown Indianapolis north to Noblesville and south to Franklin as early as 2017.

The rail lines to Franklin and Noblesville would be built along existing track. If funding allows, another line could be added from downtown northwest to Zionsville.

But finding money for the $2.4 billion plan remains the biggest obstacle. At least half the cost would be covered by federal grants, with taxpayers in counties benefiting from the revamped system bearing at least some of the additional financial burden.

Indy Connect, a regional initiative to improve general transportation options, recommends the use of a referendum to ratify a local-option sales tax or income tax increase to support construction and operating costs. The study estimates residents would pay an average of $15 a month per household for 25 years to pay for the plan.

“That’s where the rubber hits the road,” said Lori Miser, executive director of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is part of Indy Connect.

Miser’s goal is to work with the Indiana Legislature this session to craft language for a referendum, which could be on county ballots as early as November 2011. The decision to place the referendum on the ballot would rest with the counties.

“I’m confident at least some of the counties in central Indiana will do that,” she said. “It just depends on who sees value for the money and how soon they want to see something happen.”

The plan revealed on Monday relies more on a regional bus system and on fewer light-rail lines than previously envisioned.

A light-rail line expected to run along Washington Street on the east and west sides of the city—perhaps extending to Indianapolis International Airport—is absent from the proposal and could be part of the next 25-year transportation plan. The line would not be operational until at least the late 2030s, Miser said.

Replacing the line is a cheaper alternative known as bus rapid transit, in which 56 miles of BRT service would be added to supplement the traditional bus system.

Lines would be added along Washington Street, 38th Street, Keystone Avenue, Meridian Street, College Avenue and Madison Avenue.

Also, according to the plan, a regional bus system would provide triple the number of services, including more routes and longer operating hours than IndyGo, with wait times of just 10 to 20 minutes instead of 30 to 60 minutes.

Miser lauded the plan as a good “starting point” despite the initial downsizing in rail service.

“We think BRT is a great lead-in to light rail,” she said. “[Central Indiana residents] definitely want transit, more service and more frequency. But it also needs to be more affordable.”

The push for rail transit comes amid growing highway congestion and concern about pollution.

A report released early this year from IndyConnect claims a light-rail system under the earlier plan could result in 4,500 new jobs and more than $27 billion in additional regional economic output. The report estimated a 4-percent increase in value of property near rail service in Marion County.

Planners will offer more information about the plan in public meetings scheduled through Nov. 18 at various locations.


  • Indy transit
    Well I think if your going to be a major city you need a good transit system. Were hosting the superbowl in what two years. I think the airport should be included in this and there should be a link to the IUPUI campus. Think how many student may use this to commute to IUPUI if they had a way other then parking their car. From franklin to Nobleville. Remenber the Fereral goveremet is paying for alot of this and maybe the Indiana lottery and local hotel and food tax can help too.
  • Well Maybe If We Didn't Build
    The Barn and the Old Fashioned 'Seco, those structures combined equals the "supposed" inflated price tag. While I like to see development of Indy, building a Dolce hotel for "supposed" Lily prospects really doesn't make sense. You'll spend city money on what the majority of most residents won't benefit smart one Mayor Marine.
  • Truth
    Light rail is best used to connect large fixed locations like airports/convention centers/hotel districts/shopping centers, and central multimodal transportation hubs which have multiple methods of transportation like buses/taxis/limos/rental cars/bikes.

    This eliminates the needs to increase public transportation fleets by servicing 80% of the demand.

  • Aiming Lower
    This is a complete disgrace.

    The overall, 25-year transportation plan has a price tag of $10.7 billion. Most of that, about $8 billion in federal funds, would go toward expanding roads and repairing bridges.

    The Indiana Department of Transportation should change its name to the Indiana Department of Roads and Bridges

  • What's wrong with these planners?!
    This is a GIANT disappointment. Was really excited and fully supportive of previous plan. No more. When will Indy ever think and act boldly. And the first step should have been light rail from downtown to the airport. Convention traffic alone would be enough to sustain that. This plan is a big mistake...
  • Funding
    Take the 1% "Hoosier Dome" tax - still being collected for a stadium that has been demolished and split the proceeds half and half fro the Library and Marion County's portion for public transit.
  • Save Money/Eliminate No Zone Days
    North to south & east to west light rail connecting to a downtown multimodal transportation hub would be much more efficient and cost effective than buying more buses and hiring more drivers.

    Remember building wider roads/bridges and running a larger fleet of buses cost billions more than a modest rail system.

    The improvements should be financed with a increased user gas/tire tax which would be more stable and fair than Indy Connect's current proposal.
  • Interurban
    Does anyone remember the Interurban? No. and the folks that do stopped riding it because it was just as easy to drive a car. Well the circle is coming back around. We need something to releave the congestion. Yes we will still need a bus here or there but those are more easily established. Our urban planners modeled all of our areas to be accessed by vehicle first. Try walking anywhere it is a hazard and an impossiblity in most cases.
    I think the bill for the light rail is a little steep. How about this idea, the rail is already there, Allow/encourage your suburb, town, township to use their own funds to build a depot and corresponding parking lot. Let the cities energize their community, focus attention on the walking distance commerce to your shops and downtown infrastructure. Remember that the train goes both ways, so someone in Noblesville can ride to Columbus to shop and then make it home without the headache of the drive.
    Yes this is a big expense but "spread" the cost and responsibility - along with it are the benifits. Hey if you dont want to ride it then dont, your commute to downtown should be a lot easier if even a third or eighth of the public use it. I know that i will.
  • Really?
    $2.4 Billion? Really? $2.4 BILLION??? Can someone tell me why in these turbulent economic times we're even considering this? On top of that, why at general taxpayer's expense? Let's say they do what any business would have to do... charge an appropriate fee. If I elect to drive a car to work, or if I am not in the service area, why should I have to pay for something I don't want or need? How about calculating the cost to borrow money, build and operate this monstrosity, estimate rider volume, do a little math and charge accordingly? I'll tell you why. Because it would cost $20 per ride and nobody would use it, that's why. But hey, if the economics don't make sense and you still want a cute, shiny train running through the neighborhoods 24/7, let's just add a little more more tax burden on all citizens. They're so dumb they wouldn't mind. And if they make a bunch of noise, let's force feed it to them no matter how bad it tastes. Does Obama Care ring a bell? Yeah. That's how we get things done around here. Geesh. When will the folks who come up with this stuff wake up? If this shows up on my ballot it's a NO vote. If I'm going to pay more taxes, I want it to be for something I need like policemen, firefighters, etc. And who thinks this thing is going to increase property valuses? Sure maybe at the corners where there are stops we'll add another McDonalds or two. But if this things is ripping through your backyard 24/7 do you really think your value is going up? I like my sleep too much to pay extra to be kept awake. Listen, if I want a shiny new train for Christmas, I'll ask Santa for my own. I don't like sharing my toys or having MY money taken from me because someone wants a train like mine only bigger.
  • Buses Are The Backbone of Any Good Public Transit System
    LRTE, when you have a region such as Central Indiana lacking any effective bus system, then you have to build the foundation in order to create a working public transit system. Every single major public transportation system in the U.S. depends on an effective bus system. You can only build so many light rail routes and you must provide an efficient means for people to reach light rail stops--there is no practical way to put a light rail stop within walking distance of everyone. Even Portland, the leader in the contemporary light rail movement moves most people by bus, not light rail. You have to have a working bus system first, then you can build an extensive light rail network on top of it.

    • Light Rail Threatens the Establishment
      Guess the Indiana Department of Roads & Bridges battered the Indy Connect folks into submission.


      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