Mass transit plan faces likely defeat, bill sponsor says

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Indiana Rep. Jeff Espich said his bill backing a central Indiana mass-transit plan faces almost certain defeat in the House Ways and Means Committee, and he is still mulling whether or not to bring it to a vote.

Espich, R-Uniondale, who is chairman of the committee, said Friday morning that he knows of only two legislators—himself and Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington—who would vote yes on House Bill 1073, which would OK voter referendums in Marion and Hamilton counties for the purpose of raising taxes to fund an expanded bus and train system.

The committee has 25 legislators.

“No one else has suggested to me that they have any interest, not only in co-sponsoring it, but even in voting for it,” Espich said. “I am hard-pressed to bring it up and see it get soundly defeated.”

Espich authored the bill based on the mass-transit plan created by the Central Indiana Transit Task Force. It has the backing of many central Indiana business leaders, including the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.

The plan calls for raising income taxes in Hamilton and Marion counties by 0.2 percent in order to double the bus service currently provided by Indy Go and to construct a commuter rail line from Noblesville to downtown Indianapolis. The initial plan would cost $1.3 billion over 10 years.

The Central Indiana Mass Transit Authority announced Thursday it had secured signed petitions from 4,500 individuals and nearly 90 employers calling for the legislature to approve voter referendums.

“If central Indiana wants to be competitive in attracting and retaining businesses and top talent, then we have to address our lack of public transportation,” said Ehren Bingaman, executive director of Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority. “The next logical step is to give taxpayers the right to decide whether they approve local revenues going toward a dedicated transportation fund.”

HB 1073 would not technically approve a tax increase, but would instead give voters the right to approve one through a referendum. But that distinction is proving insufficient to many legislators, Espich said, because it’s easy to see how a political opponent would accuse supporters of voting for a tax increase.

“Tax increases are never easy,” Espich said. And this one, since it focuses exclusively on central Indiana, is particular hard for legislators from outside the region, because they could be accused of supporting a tax increase while winning no benefit whatever for their constituents."

“For people who don’t represent central Indiana, quite frankly, there’s no reason to vote for it,” Espich said.

He added, however, that if there was strong support for the bill among central Indiana legislators, their colleagues from the rest of the state would “respect” that. So far, however, no House member from central Indiana is on record supporting the bill.

Espich said he has not made a final decision on bringing HB 1073 for a vote. He said he thinks the issue is one that will take multiple years to build up support, but he worries a lopsided defeat may hurt the plan’s chances in future sessions.

“What’s best for the bill?” Espich said. “I haven’t decided honestly.”



  • Not trains...
    There are lots of comment here about how trains don't make sense in central Indiana like they do in Chicago. Agreed, which is why a large portion of the mass transit investment would be for improved buses. Yes, there are proposed light rain lines, but their domain is limited to the most dense parts of the city, and places (like the airport) that would benefit from having a light rail. This plan does not deal with building trains off in every direction and out to each and every suburb. It has essentially one north-south line and one east-west line. The buses are where most of the people will be served.
  • Vote!
    IndyTodd, if you feel that way, then you should encourage your legislator to vote yes on this bill. A referendum is the only outcome that will kill this project.
  • Democracy
    it's okay if you don't agree with the proposals. That's what democracy is all about... giving the people the right to speak their minds. I won't personally vote for the proposal, but I do think it's a little shady that the politicians won't let a referendum decide the matter. Isn't that what referendums are all about?
  • 19 Year old
    I am young and looking for a modern city to live in. How is transit a waste of money? There are to many people in central Indiana that are opposed to CITY growth. This will change over time...
  • Indy's low population density makes rail a bad idea here
    Low population density is the reason why rail will never make economic sense here. We have minimal traffic congestion, cheap and plentiful parking, and a very spread out population with little density. The cost of an extensive rail system is staggering and dwarfs the money required to have a great road system here that will serve our needs much better. I have zero desire to pay money for a rail service that I will never use. Rail makes zero economic sense in metro areas with less than two million population. It's a much better idea once a metro area starts getting above four or five million people where expanding roads to handle that population in a land area the size of Indy doesn't work well.
  • PLEASE approve this bill!
    I can't tell you how much I want this bill to pass. I grew up in Northern IL where we have the Metra system to downtown Chicago. Central Indiana could really benefit from this. It would cut down on traffic downtown and I, for one, would go downtown more often as I live within walking distance of the proposed rail line. More people downtown means more money flowing in. How can this be a bad thing?
  • No leadership
    Once again, the Indiana State Legislature shows their collective lack of foresight. As a taxpayer, i'm frustrated that my tax money continues to subsidize unnecessary road expansion when we can't afford to pay for maintenance of existing roads.
  • Tim, Fine, Then Let Everyone Vote
    Tim, your post addresses your view why you would vote "no" on a mass transit referendum if giving a chance to vote. So, if you believe most of your fellow Hoosier residents feel the same way you do, then you should have no objection to the issue being put up to a public vote.

    The bill simply always people the right to vote on an important issue, which is something I think we would all support in a democracy, regardless of which way we would ultimately choose to vote.
  • job loss due to antiquated bus system
    Mass transit in this city is so bad that my daughter was just turned down for a job because the employer didn't think the bus system is reliable enough for her to get to work to earn the money to buy a car.

    This is no longer a transportation issue for those at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale.

    It is an economic issue that is costing the city jobs, therefore we should be given the option to pay more taxes for better mass transit.
  • Rail is not the right fit
    Rail is great for taking masses to a large center of commerce ( the Loop ). Indy jobs are scattered over a very large area. Downtown is not large enough to support rail feeders. Buses are more suited to forming a large grid of mass transit.
  • Indiana... Still Backwards
    The path already exists almost eerily similar to the path of major growth which services Fishers, Noblesville, Castleton, Broad Ripple (close at least), Downtown, and even the Airport... why in the world wouldn't Indy utilize that.

    I just don't understand the opposition to this in light of the desire to continue to just solely fund Highway expansion.

    For Indy to be considered a reasonably modern City, it needs SOME sort of strategic Light Rail or Train Service.

    How about getting it out of the Legislature and put it on the Ballot?
    • Looking foward not behind
      Companies and Employees do vote with their feet and as the world changes around us it is imperative to have a basic transit system if we are to attract the jobs and companies of the future and retain the ones we do have. Central Indiana is at the bottom of the list for transit. To deny the citizens of Marion and Hamilton Country the vote to determine their own destiny is absolutely unbelievable.

    • mass transit now
      yes this city neds mass transit now . integrate it with huge wind mill farm and coal powered plant (coal abundant in indiana) and gas will most likely come down to at least $2.00 a gallon . it must be done immediately
      Prophetic king
    • Wait...
      So basically they are denying the people the right to vote when you think about it. I think we can easily make them begin to care. If they do not pass this then wouldn't The city council would pass their decision up to the state officials and then the pressure would be on the state to allow the city to raise taxes... Right? I don't see why they would possibly be against this bill. Is it poorly written? Do they think it will be doomed in public vote anyways? Where is the rest of the info. Indy is stuck with one of the worst mass transit systems of any metro city in the US when it is actually the 13th largest. Something must be done.
    • Buses, buses, buses
      Upgrade and expand IndyGo with natural gas powered buses! This is the only viable option that can have immediate impact. Build park 'n rides for bus routes in the suburbs with smartcard-prepaid access. This is simple folks! Trains are not the answer for Indy!
    • Good Work.....

      the plan is mostly for improved bus service. It would make massive improvements to scheduleing, service area, frequency and stations. This isn't about becoming New York, it is about moving people efficiently. Many of us are tired of paying for people to spread out and then drive. By its very definition, mass transportation can effectively move large amounts of people from common point to common point. At any rate, this isn't about voting yes or no, this is about giving the people impacted the choice. If more people vote no, then it doesn't happen.


      seriously? Your conservative government sold a state road for over $3BILLION and dumped it into more roads and still couldn't completely cover the cost. Work on your definition of boondoggle first before using it.
      This is a waste of money. Similar to the boondoggle of the Central Library addition (which by the way, only the homeless and college students seem to use).
      Please move on to another cause... maybe wind power...electric plug in cars....or compact florescent bulbs. You can still feel smarter and more enlightened than the rest of us "bumpkins" supporting these stupid ideas too....
      • A city moves forward
        This will determine if Indianapolis will move forward or not. Those who do not wish for Indianapolis to grow should probably leave. It is a city and the city will change again and again. Things like transit.
      • Mass Transit
        No matter how hard we try, Indianapolis is not Chicago or New York and never will or should be like those cities from a mass transit standpoint. So, ultra liberals should plan on relocating if they don't like the conservative Indiana way of doing things. We can improve bus transit which is flexible compared to rail lines. However, all mass transit becomes more and more expensive which then increases taxes which upsets tax payers expecially when they too often see empty seats. You may have guessed, make my vote no.
        • Buses-N-Beers
          Superbowl event highlights the problem with IndyGo and possibly a problem with Superbowl planning.

          They don’t take you to the places you want to go, on a consistent schedule that makes any sense for people wanting to work or play in Indianapolis.



          That’s why I support light rail to the largest fixed location structures in Indy.

          (Simple X that connects: Downtown Multi-Modal Hub, Airport, Convention Center/Hotels, Stadiums, & Shopping Malls)
        • Short-Sighted List
          Ben B: Here is a list of the legislators on the House Ways and Means Committee. Since they don't appear to be thinking ahead for the long-term future of central Indiana and our state, it looks like their constituents will have to tell them how to do their job or find someone to replace them in the next election.

          Republicans (16)

          Jeffrey Espich, Chair
          Suzanne Crouch, Vice Chair
          Robert Cherry, Chair of Budget Subcommittee
          Tom Dermody, Chair of Higher Education Subcommittee
          Phyllis Pond, Chair of Health & Medicaid Subcommittee
          Milo Smith, Chair of Tax Subcommittee
          Jeffrey Thompson, Chair of K-12 Subcommittee
          Richard McClain
          P. Eric Turner
          Michael Karickhoff
          Matt Ubelhor
          Daniel Leonard
          Randolph Truitt
          Edward Clere
          Rebecca Kubacki
          James Baird

          Democrats (9)

          William Crawford, Ranking Minority Member
          Sheila Ann Klinker
          Clyde Kersey
          Peggy Welch
          Scott Pelath
          Cherrish Pryor
          Winfield Moses, Jr.
          Mara Candelaria Reardon
          Terry Goodin
        • blindness
          The bumpkins who complain about the cost of mass transit imply that roads, bridges, cars, fuel, maintenance, police, snow plows, and everything else association with automotive transport is free. They whine about the cost of mass transit and never once bring up these obvious issues.

          Seriously, our best alternative is to continue paving everything in sight, choking on exhaust and sending our wealth to oil-producing countries that hate us?
        • Travashamockery
          To deny the resident of Central Indiana the option to CHOOSE whether they want an improved transit system is a travesty, sham and a mockery - it's a travashamockery.

          If you live in Central Indiana, you need to contact the members of the House Ways & Means committee and tell them you want them to vote YES on HB 1073.

          Details on what to do and contact info can be found at http://conta.cc/ywNipq
        • What a bunch of...
          Thank you JP for listing the names of the legislators on this committee. Now all I have to do is figure out which of them are from central IN so I can email them to complain about their lack of support for this bill!
        • Ilogic is Nothing New In the General Assembly
          First, the bill itself does not raise taxes. It gives voters in Central Indiana the chance to VOTE to raise taxes on themselves. It seems strange to me that some legislators would presume to know better than their own constituents.

          Second, why would any representative from outside Central Indiana feel they have any right to deny the voters of Central Indiana the ability to make their own decision about a purely local matter, and why should they presume their constituents should have to get some sort of horse trade in return? It just makes no sense.

          However, if legislators from outside Central Indiana feel they need to win something in return for supporting the bill, I would see no problem with simply amending the bill to allow ALL counties throughout the state to hold elections so their local voters can decide whether or not they want to raise their own local county taxes.

          Quite frankly, we are supposed to be a home rule state. The General Assembly has zero business restricting the ability of any county to whatever it wants so long as it adheres to the state and federal constitution. All counties should be able to impose whatever local taxes they wish and spend them however they see fit, and voters in each county should be given the opportunity to directly vote on these local issues. It is time the General Assembly stop trying to govern local affairs.
        • 23 names
          it seems like everyone but two of them are against it...
          Suzanne Crouch
          Bob Cherry
          Thomas Dermody
          Phyllis Pond
          Milo Smith
          Jeff Thompson
          Jim Baird
          Edward Clere
          Mike Karickhoff
          Rebecca Kubacki
          Dan Leonard
          Richard McClain
          Randy Truitt
          Eric Turner
          Matt Ubelhor
          William Crawford
          Mara Candelaria Reardon
          Terry Goodin
          Clyde Kersey
          Sheila Klinker
          Win Moses
          Scott Pelath
          Cherrish Pryor
        • Good Grief!
          This is so short sighted. The only reason these people are involved is because of a crappy technicality. It is obvious that enough people are interested in the mas stransit discussion that we should get our vote. It is clear that the views of central indiana are much different than other rural counties. As a state, we can drop BILLIONS for road projects every year like it's nothing, but the lowlings that populate this state can't even vote for a better system of transportation. This state is so backwards. I could care less who is in what party, we need people who will represent us, not their large financial backers.
        • Bring it to vote
          "What's best for the bill" is to bring it to vote. Get every legislator on the record as either supporting or not supporting it. Many of the committee's members represent central Indiana, and I'd like to know who to vote against in the upcoming election for not supporting the people's right to choose modernization and development.

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