Bill that could strip funding from IndyGo hits roadblock in House

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A controversial Indiana Senate bill that could have stripped funding from IndyGo and prevented two new bus rapid-transit lines from moving forward has hit a major roadblock in the House.

Rep. Jim Pressel, R-Rolling Prairie, who chairs the House Roads and Transportation Committee, will not schedule the measure for a vote by Thursday’s deadline for passing bills out of committee, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Senate Bill 141 passed the Senate 32-17 on Feb. 23 with seven Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. Pressel conducted a hearing on March 24 during which two hours of testimony were presented, but a vote wasn’t taken. Other people who wanted to testify didn’t get a chance to speak.

“Senate Bill 141 is complex legislation with passionate voices on all sides,,” Pressel said in a written statement. “Despite meaningful conversations among stakeholder groups and legislators, it’s obvious that consensus won’t be reached before the committee report deadline.”

Senate Bill 141, authored by Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, would withhold 10% of local income tax revenue from IndyGo until it meets a private fundraising threshold established in a 2014 law. It also would prevent IndyGo from moving forward with expansion projects, like the Blue and Purple lines, until it secures private funding.

Pressel said last week he wasn’t sure whether he would put the bill on the calendar, as he wasn’t comfortable with the bill as it stood and wasn’t in favor of an amendment proposed by House sponsor Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

Lawmakers were working toward a compromise on the issue, and Pressel said he wanted concerned parties to find common ground. Supporters of the bill wanted to see IndyGo prohibited from using dedicated lanes along the Blue Line route. Opponents argued that change could cause a ripple effect that significantly reduces federal funding for the project.

Freeman was not available for immediate comment. Freeman has said IndyGo is not meeting state law’s current requirements and he filed the bill to hold the system accountable.

While SB 141 won’t proceed without Pressel’s cooperation, there is a chance lawmakers could put similar provisions in other bills before the end of the session later this month.

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6 thoughts on “Bill that could strip funding from IndyGo hits roadblock in House

  1. Regarding design, this should be completed by professionals, not by dictate from those who are not traffic engineers, roadway designers, or transit planners. If the key issue is traffic on Washington Street, why not defer to an Environmental Impact Statement as required by the FTA process; it addresses traffic impacts and mitigation for improvement options.

    Dedicated bus lanes are not needed for the entire distance of the project on Washington Street. Improvements would include segments of bus lane, queue bypass signals, signal coordination, and shared lanes. Bus lanes could be single or double and vary by location. Some street widening could occur to ensure convenient safe turns and efficient traffic flow. Efficient does not mean highest possible speed. Additional measures to be studied include reversible lanes, limited widening, and innovations for turns, access, and egress.

    Any new project cannot decrease level of service on a roadway; this means a traffic engineering solution can be met. This can include bus lanes, either dedicated or part time, ITS with computer controlled signals coordinated with bus movements, queue bypass lanes wherein buses or authorized vehicles get an early green signal. But, to secure the federal funding already on hold from the Federal Transit Administration, the project must improve transit operation — not make it worse — therefore, a significant share of the project must include measures or infrastructure or both to make it happen. It is indeed possible to reach an improvement solution and compromise for bus rapid transit and for vehicular traffic.

    This must be done as part of the environmental documentation; the traffic analysis must address a “no change” scenario, one or more improvement scenarios (significant bus lane miles, few bus lane miles, signal improvements, and combinations thereof), turns, signals, parking, travel time, level of service, and delay per intersection approach for both the current year and a horizon year in the future. A BRT project would not increase in vehicular travel time between Shadeland Ave and downtown by more than 3 to 4 minutes.

    Regarding the requirement for private fundraising as a condition to implement transit improvements, this is a bad proposed law, promulgated without any justification and doing nothing to improve transit service delivery or operations. It is a poison pill to circumvent the will of the people as reflected by the referendum vote. IndyGo must not pay staff (and separate board) for fundraising — money that would be better spent on transit service. Why would anyone donate to lndyGo which has a dedicated income tax, voted in specifically to pay for the transit improvements described in the referendum information. Why is Indianapolis being singled out with such a proposal, why not allow implementation of a quality transit system? If checks and balances are needed during the design process, do that — do not kill the project on an unproven perception of traffic issues without review of the facts as based on current and future traffic volumes, travel times, and turn movements.

    The cost of not fundraising $6 million (proposed law) means a loss of $177 million grant funding (100 for Blue and 77 for Purple line) from the Federal Transit Administration. That is neither good governance nor sound legislative action. This paints Indiana as an unreliable grant recipient and could imperil other projects in the future.

    And, it hurts people. Perhaps not a strong concern for some, but it should be considered.

    Bottom line. Let transit improve. Define the improvement, complete comprehensive traffic analysis of optional designs, conduct peer review, and implement mitigation measures to ensure bus and vehicular travel time are optimized. It’s not impossible for both to occur on streets. Let the traffic engineers speak. Let local control prevail.

    1. I don’t think the public can trust IndyGo. What happened to the safety study that was supposed to be conducted for the red line.
      How is it that IndyGo can tell elected officials one thing to gain their vote and then do something different. The current legislation is a direct response to the questionable business practices of Indygo.

  2. “A controversial Indiana Senate bill that could have stripped funding from IndyGo and prevented two new bus rapid-transit lines from moving forward has hit a major roadblock in the House.” Is this an opinion/hit piece? It seems like the 2014 law is pretty clear. With this being such a good thing, why are private funds not there?

    “Senate Bill 141, authored by Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, would withhold 10% of local income tax revenue from IndyGo until it meets a private fundraising threshold established in a 2014 law. It also would prevent IndyGo from moving forward with expansion projects, like the Blue and Purple lines, until it secures private funding.”

    1. If the state legislature can make public funding contingent on IndyGo first raising a specified amount of private funds, you set the precedent that all public agencies could one day be burdened with similar mandates. Road maintenance departments, police and fire departments, schools…the list is endless. Why not just make private companies and individuals responsible for funding all these public services and works in the first place? Oh wait, we all ready do that by taxing businesses and individuals and leaving it to government to appropriate the revenues as necessary. If the Indiana legislature ever gets it way on this issue, Indiana will become a “state that doesn’t work.”

    2. Reporting facts is now considered a “hit piece” in your la-la land. There were many people and agencies who opposed the bill, so it is factually correct to categorize it as controversial. And, the impact of what would have happened had the bill been enacted into law was well-documented in the General Assembly hearing, which is a matter of public record.

      Also, the whole idea that a public agency should be required to engage in bake sale fundraising to provide a basic public service is not just poor policy, but absurd on every level. We all pay taxes for a reason—to provide public services and public infrastructure. If legislators now want government to be funded by charity bake sales, they are welcome to refund the large amount of taxes I pay every year because clearly my money is not needed.

      Charities are charities, and people are welcome to donate to them or not as they see fit, but they are not, and never have been, a replacement for government services.

  3. The safety study was published for the Red Line. It is available online.

    The public has not voiced distrust of IndyGo and the bill proposed does not contain one element that relates to accountability. Accountability is reflected by performance measures such as on time performance, passengers per mile, passenger per hour, cost per mile and hour, and operating ratio. Successful collection of donations has nothing to do with performance and serving users, the function of a public transit agency.

    Are private funds required for other public transportation infrastructure such as freeways and roadways; they are beloved by many. Where are the [requirements for] private funds for sidewalks and street lights and traffic signals?

    The objective of a local transit tax is to fund local transit service and projects. This has long been an ideal of the GOP. Good transportation should not be a partisan issue. The Salt Lake metro to presents a well developed transit system in a conservative area — it is not the sole example.

    The verbiage of the current bill is clear but the rationale for the bill is not. Again, the bill does not promote accountability. It perhaps reflects sour grapes regarding area corporations that supported the transit income tax but did not want to face paying any aspect of a transit tax themselves (i.e. no employer tax, as levied is some cities). The current bill is a bad bill; it should be rescinded in its entirety. No – repeated, no – public transit agency in the United State must fundraise. Public transit agencies are to provide public transit not serve as a benevolent society. However, should the fundraising goal be met, then IndyGo would have an additional 10% of revenue to utilize or hold in reserves. Yes, it is laudable for IndyGo to raise funds; donations could serve to improve the bottom line or be used for roadway, sidewalk, and related improvements along IndyGo routes. They could be used to acquire areas for public parking or other means to benefit the city. But, the bill should not be used a cudgel to stop transit improvements.

    IndyGo is a public agency, not a private company. What are the referenced questionable business practices? If one has questions, IndyGo as a public agency must provide answers. Contracting, analyses, real estate, design, construction are regulated by local and federal guidelines for projects with federal funding. Projects must complete a Documented Categorical Exclusion, Environmental Assessments, or Environmental Impact Analysis that addresses impacts to the natural and built environmental, traffic, land use, air quality, etc. The Federal Transit Administration does not provide funding if these documents are not completed and approved; they are a key requirement along with local funding to secure nationally competitive federal grants.