Pence signs bill allowing counties to vote on transit expansion

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Gov. Mike Pence on Wednesday afternoon signed a bill that would permit an expansion of mass transit in central Indiana, if voters approve an income tax hike.

The legislation, titled Senate Enrolled Act 176, 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.

The House passed the bill 66-34 and the Senate approved it 32-16.

Pence said that he believed that decisions regarding economic development and quality of life were best made on the local level.

“Our capital city is a world class destination and needs a world class transit system,” Pence said in prepared comments. “I signed this bill because the General Assembly made significant improvements during the legislative process, bringing to closure years of debate on this issue.

“The final version contains no new, local corporate tax, which would have reduced our state’s overall competitiveness, and it contains no light rail, which would have greatly increased the cost to taxpayers in the long term.”

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard hailed the decision.

“This marks a significant step forward for the growth of Indy and the rest of Central Indiana,” Ballard said. “Today is a day for Indy to celebrate but not the day to declare victory. There is still much work to be done.”

Michael Huber, president and CEO of Indy Chamber, said the group was looking forward to making the case for expanded regional transit in central Indiana communities.

“We agree that investment in mass transit is a choice elected officials and voters should make for themselves,” Huber said. “Lack of transit in Central Indiana weakens access to jobs and isolates neighborhoods.”

The final bill is a compromise between versions passed by the House and Senate during the recent legislative session. 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.



  • Uhhh
    This is another unnecessary public works project for which the price tag is foisted on a very ignorant public because the business community knows better than to pay for such silliness. The ENTIRE interstate system through downtown was closed last year and it barely made a ripple. Indy needs transit like it needs another stadium. The population of Center Township is 40% of what it was in 1960, but everybody pretends that we're world class. We're not world class. Not even close. Our urban core is largely abandoned and nobody here has the courage to admit it. Epic fail, Indy. Let's pile on the debt and get it over with. The sooner the better.
  • Sad
    The GOP has a super majority in both houses and the governor. This legislation is so underwhelming. No light rail, expended bus service, all for the low price of 1.2B. This is not a mass-transit bill, it is as someone said in the Star today, a mass-taxation bill. Nothing in this bill says world class. People want to ride a train not pole one. I can nearly guarantee ACS has there hand in this one, just like our parking. This bill was either designed to fail or, if passed, line the pockets of the friends of the Ballard and Pence programs.
  • Counties chosen
    While I agree that Hendricks county should have been included in the bill, I think there was a push for Delaware and Madison counties because of the transit coalition that was formed there already. According to their transportation website, they give a break down of commuter statistics in and out of Marion county based on 2008 data. Hopefully in the future, Hendricks can be added to the bill. Regarding transit out of Marion county to the surrounding counties, I wouldn't be so quick to say that figure is non-existent. Heck, currently I drive from the east side near Community East to work off of 106th and Crosspoint Blvd. There are a lot of people who commute into Hamilton county for work and other things. Signing this bill was a great step forward and while we're all upset that light rail was banned, keep in mind, that it's banned now, not forever. If a certain corridor garners enough ridership in the future, I'm sure there will be a push to get the ban out of there. It's worked for other cities. Much of the opposition seen here is due to people not knowing or understanding what BRT is. Take a look at the literature and systems in Kansas City, Cleveland, and Eugene, OR and then come back and comment after becoming well informed. References: http://andersonmunciecommuter.org/statistics Clough, Craig. (Oct. 2013). City council supports building light rail on orange line bus route. Sherman Oaks Patch. Retrieved from http://shermanoaks.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/city-council-supports-building-light-rail-on-orange-line-bus-route Deng, T. (2011). Recent developments in Bus Rapid Transit: A review of the literature. Transport Reviews, (31)1, pgs 69-96. McMahon, Jeff. (2013). Bus Rapid Transit spurs development better than light rail or streetcars. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2013/09/15/bus-rapid-transit-spurs-development-better-than-light-rail-and-streetcars/
  • Compromise
    The legislature had to pull the light rail and business tax parts to get anything passed. Besides, a referendum for an income tax increase big enough to cover light rail would probably be voted down by the residents of the surrounding counties. I am also puzzled that they would not include Hendricks (growing, high per capita income). They did pick Madison. A lot of commuters from there, but Anderson can't contribute much, since the majority of residents don't pay any personal income tax. Delaware, maybe. Muncie is a little more self-sustaining than Anderson. But how many commuters from Muncie? Does anyone know if there was a feasibility study on this?
  • Take a look at Bus-Rapid Transit
    From all the anti-bus comments on here, it's clear that none of you have actually looked at the Bus-Rapid Transit plan that's the backbone of the proposal. It is not a standard "bus", but much more like light-rail that operates on roads. It will included dedicated lanes, traffic signal controls, etc....and there will be 4 main lines running, just like if you were building a rail system from scratch, but for a much more reasonable cost. This isn't to be your standard Indy-Go as it stands now. Take a few mins and look at the actual proposal yourself before jumping to conclusions.
  • Light rail
    It was my understanding that light rail for the north south route was more expensive to construct but less to operate. The naysayers on light rail should visit Charlotte NC to see light rail in action. Charlotte is moving faster than Indy for the look of a city in the future.
  • Mass Transit
    Have to agree with everyone that a slow, smelly bus is not what will make Indianapolis great or make living in one of the surrounding counties more desirable. We are still so provincial. Come one folks, let's get to some 21st century solutions.
  • Street Car Line
    Why not put a street car back on Washington Street, with all the potholes on Washington now, the rail lines are already exposed. Would be much cheaper since the lines are already there.
  • world class equals light rail
    Note that if Indianapolis is to be world class, light rail is the answer. This is a billion dollar project, but must be addressed, otherwise the city will continue to be a pollution zone with traffic everywhere. Do we want to be seen as a highway city or a city that is cosmopolitan with the ability to travel via direct rail to primary destinations, work, etc. The alternative is to continue to expand I69, keystone, 31, 465, I70, etc. when there is no room to do so. Someone must bite the bullet and restore the equivalent of the Inurban for the 21st Century to allow Indianapolis and surrounding counties residents to travel without getting into a car.
    • @DadinFishers
      Couldn't they just hop in their cars and do the same thing though?
    • Train?
      Mike -- that is exactly why a train is bad for Hamilton County. Residents will hop on the train to head downtown along with their money instead of staying in Hamilton County and spending it locally. It's extremely unlikely that Indianapolis residents will hop on a train and head North. In terms of economic development for Hamilton County it would be a disaster.
      • mass transit solution?
        I am sorry, but a bus system is not a good solution to this problem. I am a young professional in Hamilton County, but I would love a train that I could take downtown for sporting events, concerts, etc. And for commuters it would be a dream.
        • Is Pence serious
          Not to make good the enemy of great, but this will not result in a "world class transit system".
        • Hendricks County
          I find it odd that Hendricks County wasn't included, considering all of the warehouses and the nearby airport. Delaware County isn't even part of the Indianapolis metro area so I find that an odd addition,

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