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Legislators collide over regional mass-transit plan

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Sen. Brent Waltz kicked off a second meeting of a legislative study committee on mass transit Tuesday morning by sparring with a fellow state lawmaker and introducing his proposal to widen roads and rebuild Indianapolis’ bus service, IndyGo, from scratch.

Waltz, a Republican who represents southern Marion and northern Johnson counties, has been a leading critic of the proposed Indy Connect mass-transit plan for central Indiana. The $1.3 billion plan would double local bus service, add express routes to the suburbs, and build five rapid-transit lines over 10 years.

Waltz has instead floated an alternative plan that calls for widening north-south commuter corridors like Martin Luther King Jr. Street, Capitol Avenue and College Avenue. It also recommends rapid-transit bus lines, as well as reforming IndyGo.

On Tuesday, Waltz answered a series of pointed questions from fellow committee member Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, who suggested Waltz was trying to dictate details of mass-transit planning.

Waltz objected, saying he was not seeking to have the Legislature decide which roads should be widened through Indianapolis. He agreed that decisions about mass transit should be made by local governments but said the Legislature should provide “leadership” in setting goals.

“So we should determine the regional transportation plan for central Indiana?” DeLaney asked.

Waltz countered that DeLaney was putting words in his mouth and then complained that DeLaney had likened his plan to a “bromide” in a letter to IBJ in July. “Which I think is interesting, considering some of your proposals are about as antiquated as that term,” he added.

The study committee is a product of failed legislation that would have allowed Marion and surrounding counties to hold referendums to raise local income taxes to support a regional mass-transit system. The committee is scheduled to meet twice more in October and may recommend new legislation for the 2014 General Assembly.

Waltz is advocating for local control on funding sources. He thinks each county should be able to choose whether to raise income taxes—as proposed in the plan the Legislature shot down last session—or sales taxes, which might be the preference of Johnson County officials.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he thinks the state should set the tax policy. “If you don’t play a role, we could end up with a policy that drives residents out of Marion County or even Indiana,” he said.

 

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  • I want to see the legislators ride buses
    One thing that the legislators don't seem to understand is that because of demographics, there is going to be a larger and larger pool of people using public transportation. Baby boomers are aging, and more and more of them will be unable to drive for health reasons. We need to deal with this social change by improving public transportation. It will be cheaper to do it in a measured manner now than spending far more money in a crisis. It will also be cheaper than giving people taxi vouchers or using ambulances for non-emergency transportation to the doctor.
  • Progress is necessary
    As much as I love the city of Indianapolis, as I've lived here my whole life, I can't understand the lack of progressive thinking in our politicians. To say Indianapolis, the 13th largest city in the U.S., does not need mass transit is a preposterous statement made without looking fully at historical data and recent trends. Indianapolis has a lot to offer, but politicians must look at what his holding companies back from establishing businesses here. These politicians haven't done the research. Downtown Indianapolis, Inc. has done the research. Committees for the Mayor of Noblesville have done the research. They're not pulling what potential employers are saying out of the side of the neck here. Potential employers have said time and time again, mass transit is key when it comes to hiring quality new employees. Some argue there isn't a high enough population density in Indianapolis for mass transit. Charlotte, NC and Salt Lake City, UT have much smaller densities, SLC by half, and both of those cities have significant changes since implementing mass transit. The former mayor of SLC even said 'Goldman Sachs would not have picked us to be their 2nd largest location if we didn't have mass transit.' The Central Indiana Regional Transit Authority isn't asking for an unfathomable plan. 4 bus rapid transit lines and 1 light rail line, as well as enhanced local bus service and express bus services from various suburbs. Having buses that come every 20 minutes isn't enough to garner "high frequency" in my opinion, but that's the best we have here, and that's only on 3 lines. The other lines have buses come every 45 - 60 minutes. Indianapolis is not meant to be another Atlanta, or Cleveland, or Minneapolis, but the city cannot expect to reach the next level of success for a mid-size with a slow and steady population growth rate of only 1.98%. Residents say they want more jobs but haven't looked at any research regarding why jobs are choosing other cities over Indianapolis. Employers that come and set up shop here are going to need assurance that there is a reliable mode of transit to get their employees to and from work. Studies have shown that young urban professionals prefer mass transit as opposed to sitting in traffic. Everyone who works downtown, doesn't live downtown. Everyone who works in Castleton or Park 100 doesn't live in those areas either. But as someone who lives in the central portion in Indianapolis, and has one time worked in all three of those areas, sitting in traffic is a pain. Yeah, when I465 is flowing, everything is good, but one 'disabled vehicle' or car crash can mess up another person's entire commute. Look at the work being done on I65 and I70 at the Virginia Avenue bridge. I'm sure people would much rather have frequent reliable transit options instead of having to try out different routes. These are things potential employers look at and these are things we aren't addressing with a current transit options. IndyGo is one of the most UNDER-funded transit systems in the U.S. but surprisingly it has tried to make strides with new route options on the bare scraps it has been given. Local residents need to realize if we want central Indiana to see the kind of growth that is in Denver, Charlotte, Seattle, and heck even Northwest Indiana, we're going to have to invest in mass transit. It's not just investing in transit, it's investing in our future.
  • Not Clear Here?
    Is Brent's power going to his head, or is Ed's demo politics just being argumentative? Widening Capitol downtown makes no sense, but getting rid of curb side parking north of Fall Creek sure does!...same with College. If we also got rid of most curb side parking on Meridian from 12th St. to 38th, that premier street could have both N/S bikes lanes, a bus lane and traffic that would actually flow. This whole rapid transit thing is being designed by committee, which is always a contrived result. If real planners could have the reins to plan-design it, it could work. There are too many non-transit folks putting their two cents worth in and the dilution is going to make the whole thing fail.
  • Skinny Buses?
    Are buses only 5 feet wide now? Maybe I missed something.
  • DeLaney in town?
    Well, the good news is that Ed Delaney is NOT caucusing in Illinois and is actually "working" for his constituents.
  • Pathetic
    Glorified buses for over a billion dollars - Fail! The moment rail transport was eliminated as the chief component of the plan, the special interests arrived and now have their hooks in to our pathetic government. We need a rail line to the airport and to Fishers. Period. That's it. We have one mile of rail to clean and put down, that is it. At this point, I think there is more support for a canal system than a billion dollar bus. At this point, I hope the plan fails. Widening roads so that we can more easily get around IndyDon'tGo buses will only make it more lucrative to drive. A train that flies by stopped cars would change a commuters perspective. Our governments, local, city, and state, with federal funds, have the ability to drive the incentive.
  • Why widen them?
    Get rid of the unused, dangerous bike lanes on the major N/S one-way streets downtown and voila, instant added lanes! But I guess that would be anti-progress(ive), so I'll shut up.

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