IndyGo gets $81M for Purple Line, allowing construction as soon as February

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Construction for IndyGo’s long-awaited Purple Line could begin as early as February, thanks to an $81 million federal grant, the public transportation authority announced Tuesday. A new set of electric buses will run along the Purple Line, which is the second of three planned bus rapid transit lines.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration Small Starts Capital Investment Grant and covers half of the Purple Line’s $162 million price tag. It’s news four years in the making—IndyGo began the grant process back in June 2017, according to spokeswoman Carrie Black.

“We’re so grateful to the FTA for another huge vote of confidence,” said Inez Evans, IndyGo president and CEO, in a news release. “This award means we can finally put years of planning into action for the second BRT line.”

IndyGo plans to fund the rest of the project with money from a transit income tax, Indianapolis’ Department of Public Works, and other federal transportation and highway dollars, according to the release. Voters approved the tax in 2016, and collections began the following year.

The Purple Line will run along 38th Street, upgrading a traditional bus route that IndyGo says is among its most ridden and most profitable. It would connect downtown Indianapolis to Lawrence. Construction could start as soon as February, according to the agency.

IndyGo plans to order 15 more 60-foot electric buses for the new line, according to Black.

The agency previously experienced major cold weather range problems with the electric buses running on its Red Line and was forced to dedicate all its electric buses to that route. But IndyGo will likely still use the same manufacturer, BYD, for the new buses, according to Black.

“It is our intention right now to continue the course we started with BYD,” she said.

Though federal funding hinges on the agency’s use of electric buses for its bus rapid lines, IndyGo has turned to hybrid buses for its other routes while waiting for the technology to improve.

Public meetings on Purple Line construction will begin in January 2022. Construction would last about two years, according to Black—bidding process, supply chains and weather allowing. The project includes 10 miles of bus lanes, 18 stations and signal work at 30 intersections, according to the FTA. IndyGo estimates that construction will create 1,850 jobs.

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55 thoughts on “IndyGo gets $81M for Purple Line, allowing construction as soon as February

    1. It is not a waste but a significant improvement in local transit. Indygo has competed nationally and has obtained federal funding to match local funding to build this project. Should all three lines be constructed, Indianapolis will have over 50 miles of bus rapid transit, 80+ BRT stations, more frequent service on the busiest routes which account for more than 70% of total daily system ridership.
      One recognizes that many do not use transit and feel that this may be an unnecessary expenditure. But please not that that total expenditure for three BRT lines and stations would be approx. $458 million of which federal grants cover about $258 million. Compared to [real] city that have rail, a typical 20 mile light rail line would be approx 1.5 – 2 billion. A single freeway interchange typically exceeds $300 million (North/South split). And, honestly, the multiple times I-70 E at I-465 have been reconstructed is ludicrous – instead of building fully directional interchanges, IDOT still builds interchanges destined to fail (next failure will be I-465 at US 31 with the slow-moving under designed inefficient loop ramps; need one mention I-69 and -465).
      At least, Indianapolis is becoming a city with reasonable and useful transit. One opines that most who pen comments in this periodical do not use transit and have not followed the devastating assault that began with the Goldsmith administration. The current improvements being implemented are long overdue; had more systematic improvement been put in place over the last 25 years, such drastic measures would likely not be necessary.

  1. Someone must be getting a kickback if we are still going to use the same company that couldn’t deliver on it’s promises of range for the buses.

    1. Brent, as pointed out in this article, they are planning on using BYD buses for the Purple Line. I’m assuming they’ll build extra charging stations on the route like they did for the Red Line.

    2. Brent B, maybe you are the one who needs to keep up. They are staying with the same company who failed to deliver on their promises for range. We were warned by Albuquerque but our illustrious leaders at IndyGo refused to listen. Part of the strings attached with this BRT is that the federal government requires use of the electric buses. They are going to go hybrid on regular routes.

    3. It’s not that simple. A contract was already in the works. As for the BYD buses the first set to Albuquerque were a different set. The key question is if Indygo can cancel the contract and BYD pay liquidated damages for delivery of vehicle that do not meet range requirements during periods of high electrical load demand – cold periods and high heat. Other buses may prove better. Attend a Board meeting and demand that the Board verify why electric buses must be used and if other produces can deliver the fleet at the price and for the schedule required. Armchair opinions are easy, but expert testimony, comprehensive technical analysis, and constructive criticism do much more to improved a project than off the cuff comments.

    4. Why does the range issue keep coming up? It’s moot at this point. BYD paid for in-line charging stations which have been paired with driver rest areas. The range issue has been resolved and the outcome seems like a solid solution to me: the exact range of any given bus now makes little difference to the functionality of the Red Line or the experience of riders.

  2. we arent going to have any major thoroughfares for cars left after this is all said and done…Just a bad plan all around. One of our assets as a city used to be the ease of getting around it-not anymore

    1. Would that that were the case. Unfortunately, cars will continue to reign supreme in the city, with very little space for pedestrians, cyclists and bus riders. Car drivers are greedy–they want evrerything.

    2. Yes, I mean, gee, there will only be I-465, the Inner Loop, all the other major interstates like I-70, I-65,, etc. the state highways like U.S. 37, and several dozens of major high capacity roads, like 56th Street, 86th Street, Keystone Avenue, Emerson Avenue, etc.

    3. This is hyperbole and ridiculous. There is not shortage of ‘thoroughfares’ or arterials in Indianapolis. Three BRT lines are not projected to occupy each arterial. The plan clearly indicates, Capitol, 18, and Meridian to 38th with directional bus only lanes (2) — however, traffic continues in each direction, with dedicated and protected left turns and intersections. Parallel streets: Illinois, Capitol, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Central College, Boulevard – remain open and available to traffic as does Meridian north of 38th with 2 lanes in each direction.

      College from 38th to 66th (generally) has a single (1) bi-directional lane – bear in mind prior to BRT College in this segment was asymmetric with two lanes in one direction and one lane in the other – now it has one vehicular lane is each direction with protected left turns at intersections.

      38th Street for the Purple line will use both a single bi-directional lane and directional lanes in some areas. Traffic will continue and will have protected left turns and intersections. Other available streets: 34th, 42nd, 46th, 56th, 30th, 21st. But, the fact is that traffic volumes in 2021 have decreased from historical highs as many trips occur on I-70.

      The Blue Line is still in planning. But as with Meridian, College, and 38th, traffic volumes a much decreased due to I-70, population shifts in the county, and neighborhood density decreases which means fewer local trips. Some lamented that the Blue Line would hinder trips to the airport – this is truly a red herring give that IND is not a major airport with significant originating trips and most trips to the airport are on I-70 and I-70/I-465.

      Trip time analysis shows that travel times along College and other arterials between downtown and 7100N have not materially changed since implementation of BRT.

      Other arterials: 96th, 86th, 82nd, 79th, 71st, 62nd, 56th, Kessler, 46th, 42nd, 34th, 30th, 25th, 21st, 16th, 10th, Brookside, Michigan, Fall Creek, Cold Spring, Knollton, Grandview, Hoover, Westlane, English, Oliver, Prospect, Troy, Hanna, Southport, Edgewood, Stop 8, County Line, Michigan Road, Zionsville, Georgetown, Moller, High School, Girls School/Raceway, Tibbs, Township Line, Ditch, Spring Mill, Westfield, Keystone, Dean, Allisonville, Binford, Sherman, Emerson, Ritter, Arlington, Shadeland, Franklin, Post, Mitthoeffer, Lantern, German Church, Southeastern, Brookville, MLK, S. Meridian, Madison, Churchman, Bethel, Southern, Pleasant Run, Bluff, Harding, Kentucky, Shelby, Pendleton Pike, etc

    4. I guess they will tear out all the trees, landscaping and planters that were installed along 38th street all the way to Michigan St. How much did the city pay for that? Of course most of it has already been demolished with people having wrecks.

    5. Rhea, please take a look at the plans. In fact the planters that have been installed along 38th Street will remain. And, quite honestly, if you would also consider the cost of planters, and worthwhile and lovely cosmetic feature of which there should be more in Indianapolis, these are are not a significant cost driver for roadway projects. Second, the budget for the Purple Line includes roadway reconstruction, landscaping, and improvements. And, public input during the project review process can be effective in ensuring appropriate landscaping measures be implemented.

      Most importantly, look at the plans. They are online. The Purple Line will extend eastward from College to Post Road. The current planters remain. Purple Line buses will use the Red Line bus lanes along Capitol, 18th, and Meridian between downtown and 38th. From Meridian to College Purple Line buses will continue as Red Line buses along the inside lanes of 38th with a stop at the Park Station before continuing eastward.

  3. More waste, agreed we need mass transit but these functional obsolete systems are a total waste. I road the red line once, its dirty, the crew was nice, but took for ever to get downtown and then return was a joke wasting time.

    Look for better solutions, wake up

    1. Edward C. –
      My wife and I regularly use the RedLine between Broad Ripple and downtown. It takes as long, or less, than driving. And we incur no wear-and-tear on our car, nor do we have to pay for gas or insurance, and there is no hunting for or paying for parking. Best of all, we don’t need to worry about idiot drivers who run red lights, speed, or are distracted. In short, we love the BRT.

    2. get with it … stats say youre wrong.
      Let go of your 1980s view of cities…AND…this $ isnt for anything else.

    3. Brent B, you are one of the few riders then for the red line. I pass by it 2x day and rarely see anyone standing at the stations an most times there are 4-5 people on one bus and even times when they are completely empty.

    4. Brent B I like to ride the Red Line to Broadripple. Has never been standing room only, but wasn’t empty either.

    5. Steven S., you’re the one with the antiquated view of cities. The idea of heavy buses being used to transport large groups of people around an urban area is a 1990s era concept. People have a lot more transportation options now. And you also have the fact that many people are telecommuting and aren’t needing to travel at all. This is exactly why the Redline is failing terribly when it comes to attracting passengers.

  4. absolute joke – could have easily upgraded existing buses and stops – added a few more running buses during busy times.
    Indygo is so poorly run. what a waste of money.

    1. From the article:

      “The Purple Line will run along 38th Street, upgrading a traditional bus route that IndyGo says is among its most ridden and most profitable. It would connect downtown Indianapolis to Lawrence. Construction could start as soon as February, according to the agency.“

    2. It’s funny how a mass transit project like this brings out so many experts on transit, just as covid seems to have created many new, anti-vaccine, anti-mask medical experts. Most of this is critique of improvements to our bus-lines is anti-urban twaddle from people in the suburbs, and much of it is tinged with racism.

    3. Upgrading bus stops — such as adding benches or lights or sidewalks or information? Ugrade buses means what — add wi-fi, improve seat design and upholstery? For transit improvement, increased frequency (more buses per hour) and increased reliability (meaning travel times from Point A to Point B along routes do not vary — hence, a dedicated right-of-way is needed to ensure this can be achieved). Comments without defining statistics or documentation or justification are useless. If Indygo is poorly run, the the subsequent question is how so? Statements highlighting poorly run service should be noted and should they be found valid, the agency should make modification and improvements.

    4. William W, if people don’t like something that you do it automatically makes them racist. Boy that’s typical.

  5. I agree with much of what is already written above, so I’ll add just one more point. Look at a map of the purple line route. It is from Fort Ben to downtown, but follows the exact same route as the red line from 38/ Park to downtown. They should have people transfer from the purple to the red instead of running the purple buses all the way downtown. Spit-balling here, but I’d guess the red line busses are less than half full most of the time and the same with purple, so there would be no overcrowding or need to run extra buses most of the time. If they stop the purple at 38/ Park, they could make do with 1/3 fewer purple buses and drivers.

    1. You realize that by making people transfer buses that you’re reducing the value proposition of taking the purple line.

      Best I can tell the Purple line is what people have told IndyGo to do – upgrade existing routes with more buses and stops. Making people transfer buses to the red line just because it was there first? If the red line isn’t working, it should be shut down.

    2. Randy S. –
      You apparently are unfamiliar with light rail and subway systems that do exactly what you say is a waste. More than one “line” often uses the same route so that switching cars (or in this case buses) is unnecessary. The Purple Line ridership justifies this. Also, the RedLine ridership is up, especially as you get closer to downtown. Last week our RedLine bus from Broad Ripple to downtown was mostly full by the time we got to the 38th/Park station. In short, your conjecture is based on a false premise.

    3. Joe B – I lived in Chicago for many years and took mass transit for several of those years. In Chicago, there SOME routes that run the same path as others for a portion of their run, and there are some that force a transfer. The value proposition of purple doesn’t diminish much by a transfer if they keep the red busses running on the stated frequent schedule.

      The idea of transferring to the red line has nothing to do with which route was established first. It’s simply a function of avoiding overlapping service when there is light ridership.

    4. Brent B – As noted in my reply to Joe B., I actually AM familiar with mass transit systems. The CTA has long ago decided that forcing a transfer is optimal in many cases. I don’t pretend to be a traffic engineer, but I suspect the CTA has plenty.

      As far as your recent experience on a relatively full red line bus, I can’t say whether this was anecdotal or common since I don’t have ridership data at my fingertips. But even if it’s occasionally true during rush hour, it’s also not unusual to have flexible scheduling that would dictate a transfer during slower periods of the day.

      Finally, you can’t predict probable purple line ridership – Indy Go has missed their projections on the Red Line by a country mile, notwithstanding the impact of the pandemic.

  6. IndyGo still hasn’t been able to come up with the additional funding agreed to when they received their tax increase. So, how is this going to work ?

    Just be prepared to go down to one traffic lane in either direction on much of East 38th when those big Purples take over the center of the road. They will also be adding additional stops (red lights for traffic) at many stops as they have done on College.

    More buses more often is all it takes, and no fixed route than can hamper changes down the road.

    1. More buses more often is not a solution. The buses get stuck in traffic. These lines should be light rail, but the State made that illegal. This is the best solution. The private funding agreement was a shady tactic by the GOP to defund IndyGo, which taxpayers voted to subsidize. Hopefully that attempt fails again next legislative session.

    2. get with it … stats say youre wrong.
      Let go of your 1980s view of cities…AND…this $ isnt for anything else.

    3. More buses stuck in traffic, increasing travel time for those on the bus and slowing traffic at bus stops is not the answer. Please note that the dedicated lane and or lanes come with dedicated stops. The current bus stops will be removed – meaning buses will no longer block a lane at stops. Also, providing left turn lanes and protected left turns improves safety and traffic flow. Please review the numerous studies that document this. In fact, many cities have changed arterials from 2 lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with dedicated/protected left turns as this improves flow and safety (because the lane-jockeying that occurs because someone is waiting to make a left turn is eliminated).

    4. The additional funding provision is a joke and should be removed from state law.

      We don’t make interstates come up with ten percent of their funding. Maybe we should for interstates that run through downtown metropolitan areas…

  7. Off topic, but related….
    They should pave the Nickel Plate Rail line and use it to drive a bus line. Give it the right of way at intersections and it would be the fastest way downtown from the northeast side – and it wouldn’t take a lane or two out of existing roads.

    1. Nickle Plate is excellent idea. A bus or LRT line could have been completed from 96th to downtown Indy along RR right-of-way. However, NIMBYism and anti-urban politicos killed that option. Also, Indygo is Indianapolis-only by political design. Most real urban areas have metropolitan transit that extends as necessary to suburban employment and activity centers — just look at Columbus, OH, Cincinnati, Nashville, Louisville, Salt Lake, OKC, — all with more comprehensive metropolitan area transit. Good planning should extend beyond partisan protocol.

    2. Precisely because the ROW is just sitting there, the Nickel Plate was originally planned to be the first rapid transit line as the Green Line. Unfortunately, ridership projections were so abysmal that not only was it not the first line to be built, it was scrapped altogether. Amongst lots of other interesting reading, you can see the original Green Line planning docs here:

    3. Chris, because a ROW exists indeed does not mean it should be used. But, the rationale for the Nickle Plate as one pf several corridors is sound.

      The Green Line was proposed as the first rapid transit line as it would have served as a regional link from Noblesville to downtown Indy and thereby provide a transit alternative in one of the highest demand travel corridors in metro region. The justification for analysis of that corridor was sound.

      Alternatives include BRT and LRT. Ridership projection were between 10,000 and 11,000 daily, values which are solidly in the range for project justification. Comparatively, the South Shore rail extension in Northwest Indiana is 8 miles with four stations and estimated daily ridership of 7,200 (10,000 in 2037) at a cost of $900+ million. Green Line ridership estimates were not abysmal. A comprehensive review of projects approved by the Federal Transit Administration will further show this fact.

      The Green Line was essentially canceled by the state prohibition on light rail and streetcar. Also, the Green Line was a multi-county project without multi-county support. Indygo is MarionCounty specific.

      The currently proposed 3-line BRT system provides for much better coverage in Indianapolis/Marion County and improvements for persons and areas where transit use and propensity is greatest. And considering a system with 51 miles of BRT, 87 stations and a cost of about $490 million ($253 million local share) — this is a better plan than the Green Line alone.

      The Green Line may best be configured as a BRT or simply an express bus route that uses shoulders along freeways or other limited access roadways. Special signals and queue bypass lanes could be included at congested junctions. Park and Ride lots should be adjacent to route. Service and infrastructure elements could be implemented incrementally.

    1. The entire LRT ban is so dumb. How has this been a thing for so long? This isn’t Detroit. We aren’t Motor City.

      We should have LRT along I65 to the NW to past Whitestone, I69 to NE to Noblesville and up 31 to Westfield.

      The longer they deny this, the longer Indy will not be able to compete on a national scale

  8. Funny how all of the non-transit users see this as a waste of money but are fine the trillions spent the past 50 years on the interstate system, which has torn through urban communities and marred so much of nature so they can selfishly drive wherever they want when they want while spewing pollution from their tailpipe along the way.

    1. This city should be doing everything in its power to eradicate surface level parking. Tired of motorists and lack of green space. Bring on bike lanes and public transit

    2. Robert, that’s because people actually use the interstates. The “build it and they will come” approach to mass transit we are taking has never worked…anywhere.

  9. Derek, look at NJ. People ride buses leaving from million dollar homes in the suburbs. Transit works if properly planned for. The Red Line as a light rail through Carmel could have been a game changer, but the powers that be said no. Thousands of people are moving to Hamilton county and the only ways out are one really crowded 146th st. And 37,31 and keystone. Works now, but give it 10 years and it will be even more packed.

  10. Dear IndyGo: We want you to succeed. My college aged child rode the redline this summer to and from his summer job. But, you made it much harder than it had to be and he became reluctant to ride it. Fix the “real time” information that wasn’t accurate – often – and caused him to be late for work. And importantly to increase ridership, resolve the homeless population on/around the platforms. These were not riders waiting for the next bus. Instead he was verbally accosted by those on the platform passing around their beverage of choice. And, he’s the guy you’re trying to attract: “the Red Line is poised to provide better access to work, education, healthcare, restaurants, entertainment, and shopping. It offers an alternative to driving…”. Maybe, but you aren’t there yet and you only get so many chances. Go check out the platform at 38th and Meridian some Saturday evening. It’s become the new hangout.

  11. I agree that Light Rail or BRT to 146th St would have been a better long-term choice. And data shows that high quality transit service attracts ridership. The 1969 IRTADS study identified rail transit from downtown Indy to Carmel and BRT to the northwest, south, and East. 50 years later BRT finslly opens in Indy.

    Unfortunately, Indiana legislation has reinforced Balkanization of transit service county. While there may be need for access to jobs in an adjacent county or a desire for trips to Indy downtown from other counties, Indygo does not have the right to provide this service without agreement from County X. However, CIRTA serves as an umbrella agency to coordinate work or other trips via complementary services to Indygo routes. Still, this is not truly regional system, it is a Marion County system.

  12. Indygo ridership by route is published each month and is available in the Board report.

    Buses are not full from the beginning to the end the route. And the number of individuals board varies. The number of people waiting at a given platform does not reflect total daily ridership.

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