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Mass transit on tap for six counties under bill headed to Pence

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Legislation to permit a mass-transit expansion in central Indiana – if voters approve a tax hike – passed the House and Senate and is headed to Gov. Mike Pence for consideration.

“This is vital to the future growth of central Indiana and the metro area,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel. “This is a very important bill.”

The legislation authorizes officials in Marion, Madison, Johnson, Hancock, Hamilton, and Delaware counties to seek voter permission to raise income taxes to fund a regional bus system.

The goal is to add more buses and more routes to connect more areas of central Indiana.

But Senate Bill 176 also bans counties from adding light-rail train lines to their systems and requires officials to seek corporate support for the system.

Rep. Ed Delaney, D-Indianapolis, said he’s disappointed the legislation doesn’t allow rail but he said the bill is worth supporting.

“This transit idea is a public service,” he said. “It is for the people.”

Estimated costs for the mass-transit system would be $1.3 billion, but that would drop significantly without light rail included.

The final legislation is a compromise between versions passed by the House and Senate. Most notably the Senate bill included a corporate tax increase that would have helped pay for the system.

Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Indianapolis, said he wanted the corporate tax included because businesses were among the biggest supporters of a transit expansion. But House leaders said they didn’t want to create a new local business tax.

Instead, the bill requires local officials to seek voluntary corporate donations and participation. And if counties don’t raise enough to cover at least 10 percent of the cost of the transit system, taxpayers would have to pick up the tab.

Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, said the idea that corporations would participate voluntarily is “laughable” because corporations are profit-driven.

“It’s not a sustainable income,” he said.

The House passed the bill 66-34 and the Senate approved it 32-16, although some of the votes were reluctant.

Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, said the legislation takes Indiana “limping timidly into the future.” Still, she voted for the bill.

“When you’re hungry in Indiana, you have to take half a loaf,” she said, “Because you’ll never get a full loaf.”

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  • transportation
    Stupid stupid stupid... Indy save your money by not buying buses, gas, repairs etc... save and when you get enough money build a rail system that works. Indy is the only major metro city without a subway. We don't need buses its a hour drive by car from most cities around Indy why would you ride a bus that don't take you exactly where you wanna go and takes you longer to get there? Here is what needed to help Indy. Fix 465... there are no exits in certain locations some exit are bad. Build another bypass around 465 that is closer to Bloomington, Lafayette, kokomo, Muncie, Shelbyville, Columbus. Change 70 & 65 through Indy downtown so they are not running together, keep I 70 on east side of dt where it is, run 65 to continue south near NW dt, on the west side of dt. that would be west of iupui and near the river. Cross i70 and connect to 65 south . So there's a complete circle downtown .
  • I'm Glad Rail Is Out
    The last thing Indianapolis needs at this point in history is light rail. In ten years it would be totally obsolete. Why? Because driverless cars will soon be commercially available. Google and others have been testing them successfully for a couple of years. The state of California is investigating what laws and regulations will be needed in expectation of manufacturers offering such vehicles by 2020. And who will be the first to adopt them? Most likely it will be the wealthier parts of the metro area - Carmel, Fishers, Avon, etc. - the very areas that light rail would be aimed at. Given the relatively good commuting conditions of the Indy area, using mass transit is not likely to save much time versus automobiles after you factor in the time needed to get from your house to the train station or bus stop and the time waiting for the train or bus to come. The biggest benefit of mass transit is that you can do work while traveling. With driverless cars you have that benefit and are not bound to the time table or route of mass transit. I believe we will need buses for at least 10 or 20 years since those who can't afford cars now are not going to be able to afford driverless ones either. However, at some point either transit authorities or private companies will be able to maintain fleets of driverless taxis that, because there is no driver to pay, will be affordable than taxis are today. Moreover, driverless cars will help solve the problem of elderly or incapacitated people being able to get where they need to go. That's why I think spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build light rail would just be money wasted.
  • Done with driving.
    Hurry up and pass this bill- light rail or no. We can always pass something else for light rails in the future. I'm tired of driving up to Carmel whenever I visit my mother. I'd rather ride a bus and read on my way up there.
  • Brandy is Absolutely Right
    But she doesn't go far enough. The exact same criteria should be applied to all road-building proposals. If a new road is worthwhile, then private companies will step up and build it, including acquiring the right of way from willing sellers. If new roads are not built under those conditions, then it proves that the road is not a money maker and shouldn't be built. Now, about those hundreds of millions that the legislature designated this session for road building...
  • Regressing
    Of course Indiana is regressing. Pence is the governor and rural hayseed politicians control the metros ability to prosper. These are the guys who want to give businesses a tax break and pass it in to the worker who makes 12.00 an hour. Real smart tax policy Mike.
  • Brandy, you're a fine girl..
    But fairly uninformed. A small percentage of highway funding should do the trick (another great idea the private sector can't and won't build).
  • Light Rail Please
    Can we get a couple of light rail lines added to this bill? Thank you
  • Jerry Torr
    I like Jerry Torr.......always vote for him. But we will be voting no the the tax increase
  • Hard to support
    I live in the golden ghetto of Carmel. The tax increase will cost our family about 500 bucks a year.....forever. We will never ride a bus and the "light rail" that is out now would be 20 - 25 minute drive away. Why would we support this? For 500 bucks, could take a lot of cabs or rent a limo a few times a year.....
    • I'll vote no
      Give businesses tax cuts and a waiver from helping pay for this boondoggle while sticking it to workers? I don't think so. I'll be voting no.
    • With No Future LightRrail OptionThem Just Forget It All
      We need to additional address at least 2 key CRITICAL MASS CORRIDORS, **(Indianapolis International Airport to/from Downtown and Downtown to the Northeast Side)** which would serve two great purposes (1) the immediate needs of transporting national and international business women and men, Convention Visitor Business to downtown business destinations, sporting venues, hotels, restaurants and transporting downtown homeowners and renters to and from the Airport quickly. One value added item, as a result of establishing this light rail line, is the experience of flying into one of the most beautiful International Airports of its size and scope in the nation. (2) The need for a light rail system to and from downtown to the Northeast Corridor (Noblesville/Fishers Area). Imagine less traffic at I69 and I465, the decreased pollution, fewer accidents/deaths and the efficiencies of getting to work downtown in half the time, a luxury that cannot be quantified. We have to look at raising regional tax revenues through increased payroll taxes on businesses in Marion and surrounding counties and that doing so is not taboo as they would also greatly benefit from the light rail solution between Airport and Downtown. So, downtown and countywide Indianapolis businesses such as WellPoint/Anthem BCBS, Marsh, Defender Direct, F.A. Wilhelm, One America Financial, BMW Constructors, Indiana Farm Bureau, Red Gold, American Health Network, Ray Skillman Auto, Monarch Beverage, WellPoint, Eli Lilly, Simon Property Group, Calumet Specialty Product Partners, CNO Financial, Republic Airway Holdings, HH Gregg, Allison Transmission, and Finish Line should all collectively gather and financially support increased taxes and the critical need of establishing an Airport/Downtown light rail system that they and we as citizens would all directly benefit from. Leave the option for light rail open!!!!! Don't forever close the matter when it is a dream to many residents and such an appropriate time to address it. This is the time for Indianapolis to take that critical next step to grow where it needs to and establish effective transportation lines in the city/county to continue to compete with our peers, stay abreast and continue to operate and be viewed by the nation as a “World-class City”. Especially in the eyes of those other cities that are watching what we do and how we do it. The best example? Pulling off the Super Bowl, receiving rave reviews and having other subsequent host cities copy off of us. That is the best complement our city could ever get. Thrive Indy, Thrive!!!
    • Another tax
      At what point does the government just confiscate all our money and do what they want. If we are dumb enough to vote to tax ourselves more then do I get to ride the bus for free? Of course not, if it made money the private sector would already be doing it. How about cutting a program and paying for it out of tax revenue we already have if this is such a high priority?
    • what?
      Stop building roads? Are you stupid?
    • Can't Wait...
      I can't wait for this to be the reason we need to build bigger and better roads and highways so they can handle the new bus system. That's all this amounts to; another reason for road construction and maintenance companies to pad their bottom line. Stop building roads Indiana.
      • More Buses? Wow.
        Is Indiana actually regressing? The policies on tap for the General Assembly over the last few months is an absolute joke.
      • @Kate
        Kate, you might be biting your tongue if this goes to a referendum...
      • Costs
        Actually, the system cost doesn't go down without light rail. BRT in the Northeast Corridor is nearly the same cost as rail, because it's already a railroad.
      • Light Rail
        I would have voted yes for Hamilton County to pay for light rail. I do not want to ride a bus in stop and go traffic. If it was light rail and cost me $50 - $100 year in taxes to allow for public transportation I would do it.
      • Hendricks County, no go
        Brownsburger, Hendricks County was added to the bill at various points, but it was removed in conference committee because a certain constituency didn't like it. I guess there's no reason to provide bus service to all those warehouse jobs in Plainfield.
      • Seriously?
        Do lawmakers actually think that we will vote to raise our taxes for a bus system? Time to vote this people out of office!
      • What about Hendricks Co?
        In the list of counties approved to seek a tax hike in support of this effort, Hendricks County is omitted. Typo? Oversight? Or don't we count?

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      1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

      2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

      3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

      4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

      5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

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