WILLIAMS: Light rail to airport is key for downtown

Brian Williams
January 29, 2011
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

viewpoint-williams-brianIndy Connect late last year unveiled the Central Indiana Transportation Initiative, a proposed integrated transportation plan for central Indiana. The plan was the result of public and private research, deliberation and multiple forums for public comment. Those who participated in the process and created the plan should be commended for their willingness to address a topic that has been neglected for too long.

The delay in implementing an integrated transportation system has hurt air quality for the metropolitan region. As an Environmental Protection Agency non-attainment area for air quality, Indianapolis must create more efficient and cleaner means of transportation. The data are clear: Indianapolis ranks ninth among the country’s most polluted metropolitan areas, according to the American Lung Association, near the top in the amount of cancer-causing toxins released into the air, and first in lung cancer deaths among women.

One study estimated that, if Indianapolis increased the average number of passengers in a vehicle from one to two, the smog in the city would decrease at least 25 percent. A broadly supported, integrated mass transit solution helps address Indianapolis’ poor air quality.

However, there are two aspects of the initiative that cause concern: the funding mechanism and the lack of a showcase element to successfully define mass transit.

A successful mass-transit system will cross jurisdictions. Funding must be broad-based and not subject to referenda. For good reason, Indiana’s system of government is not based on direct democracy.

If such a measure failed at the ballot box, how would civic leaders advance a cause that is necessary for the region’s success? What if the initial measure passed, yet a subsequent measure to repeal funding passed, which would result in halting construction and stranding the city and the taxpayers with an incomplete system? This is what happened in Cincinnati.

The first leg of a mass-transit system should demonstrate effectiveness, encourage broad-based support, enhance the city’s image, and be based on a financially viable model. A light-rail line should run from Union Station to the Indianapolis International Airport. While rail lines exist downtown, unfortunately, in an effort to maintain costs, the Airport Authority eliminated some of the infrastructure needed for rail, raising the cost for this solution.

However, the merits are plain. Union Station, a centralized facility designed for such a use, exists and has been financially unstable since trains left the station. Ample parking exists, and a direct line to the airport would offer downtown workers easy access to their offices and the airport, improving productivity.

By linking Union Station to an urban transportation system and extending the rail line from downtown to the Hendricks County border, which is adjacent to the airport, workers in the gargantuan warehouses that populate Hendricks County would have access to a reliable transit system. Those workers would no longer depend on cars to get to and from work, improving air quality and worker reliability.

Finally, the city of Indianapolis has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its downtown infrastructure to attract and sustain an economy driven in large part by conventions. Taxpayers have funded privately owned hotels and sports palaces and a massive convention center, all of which depend on continued taxpayer-supported marketing programs to bring visitors to Indianapolis.

For conventioneers, one of the greatest expenses is travel from the airport to downtown. A light-rail line allows conventioneers to collect their luggage, purchase a round-trip ticket, and walk onto a train that deposits them at Union Station. Their hotel is a short walk or cab ride away—clean, efficient, simple and direct.

The Indy Connect proposal is a good start, but it has significant operational and financial risks. A simple first step—light rail from downtown to the airport and the Hendricks County border—benefits taxpayers, professional and industrial workers; improves the city’s image; and, most important, coddles those who are funding the downtown renaissance: the conventioneers.•


Williams is regional venture partner of Hopewell Ventures, a Midwest-focused private-equity firm. He can be reached at bwilliams@ibj.com.


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
  1. Angela IS the best RD

  2. We are a nation of speed. All of our younger lives are filled with deadlines, quotas and bottom lines. We start to ease out of the pressured rat-race when we finally see "retirement." The most enjoyable travel on the planet is passenger rail service. Indy to Chicago does not beat Megabus or Southwest Airlines in speed. Passenger rail however has the best seating, mammoth legroon, seat backs that recline to more than 45 degrees and employers that really want you to return as a customer. Indiana municipalities need to maintain subsidies to support this transportation mode. Losing it is loss for all of us.

  3. Good day! I just want to testify how i got my loan from Mr. Eric Lefkofsky after i applied several times from various loan lenders who claimed to also testify right in this forum,i thought the testimonies where real and i applied but they never gave me loan. I was in need of an urgent loan to start a business and i applied from various loan lenders who promised to help but they never gave me the loan. Until a friend of mine introduce me to this popular Mr. Eric Lefkofsky who promised to help me and indeed he did as he promised without any form of delay. I never thought there are still reliable loan lenders until i met Mr. Eric lefkofsky who indeed helped me with the loan and changed my belief. I promised to share this testimony after I got my loan. I don't know if you are in any way in need of a genuine and urgent loan,free feel to contact Mr. Eric Lefkofsky via their email{grouponfunding@hotmail.com}

  4. Its a THUG issue. Bleecker Street and NYX are thug bars. They attract thugs of all races. Places that attract thugs need to be kicked out of Broad Ripple. Ain't nobody got time for that!

  5. Hello everyone, My name is Marian Gareth, I am from the Texas, United State, am here to testify of how i got my loan from Mr Andre Frank {frankloancompany@yahoo.com} after i applied Two times from various loan lenders who claimed to be lenders right in this forum,i thought their lending where real and i applied but they never gave me loan. I was in need of an urgent loan to start a business and i applied from various loan lenders who promised to help but they never gave me the loan.Until a friend of mine introduce me to Mr Andre Frank the C.E.O of Andre Frank Loan Company who promised to help me with a loan of my desire and he really did as he promised without any form of delay, I never thought there are still reliable loan lenders until i met Mr Andre Frank, who really help me with my loan and changed my lief for better. I don't know if you are in need of an urgent loan, free feel to contact Mr Andre Frank on his email{ Frankloancompany@yahoo.com} for help