Red Line will remain free through Nov. 10 as IndyGo works out service, payment kinks

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The fare system being developed by tech firm Flowbird Group will include kiosks for paying fares and validating mobile fares. But IndyGo says the system won't be ready until Nov. 10. (IBJ photo)

IndyGo is extending free service on its Red Line rapid transit route through Nov. 10, in part because the agency’s new ticketing process will not be fully operational on Oct. 1, when the bus system was to start charging riders.

Officials said Thursday they will also use that time to work on service problems riders have faced during the first month of the Red Line’s operations.

The Red Line—a 13.1-mile route that runs between College Avenue at 66th Street and the University of Indianapolis at Hannah Avenue—has been free since it went into service on Sept. 1.

IndyGo contracted with Paris-based technology firm, Flowbird Group, to modernize its fare system, with plans to implement new payment options on Oct. 1. The Flowbird system is to include a mobile app, a website, reloadable fare cards, ticket vending machines, fare enforcement and citation management.

But at the moment, the ticket vending machines are unable to accept bills for cash transactions and the user interface for administering the fare system Is behind schedule, IndyGo said.

“We are collaborating proactively with Flowbird and are optimistic the new machines will be up-and-running soon,” said Justin Stuehrenberg, IndyGo’s vice president of planning and capital projects.

“At the same time, we’ve made it clear to the company they must be accountable to our contract,” Stuehrenberg said. “New systems and technology are bound to create new challenges, but we will not allow those challenges to impact ridership experience and IndyGo’s commitment to exceptional customer service.”

Based on Flowbird’s current timeline and a period for public education, the ticket vending machines, mobile app and back-end customer management systems are projected to be ready for a Nov. 10 launch.

In its first week, the Red Line had more than 64,000 boardings. IndyGo officials did not have an updated total but said the route is averaging 7,000 per day.

“We are thrilled to see such a positive response to the Red Line launch,” said IndyGo Board Chairman Juan Gonzalez said in a prepared statement. “These early ridership numbers send a clear signal that there is interest and demand for frequent, reliable transit service. We appreciate everyone’s patience as new operational components and processes are optimized.”

IndyGo had projected that daily ridership would be about 11,000 at the end of the first year of service, based on a model developed by the Federal Transit Administration.

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23 thoughts on “Red Line will remain free through Nov. 10 as IndyGo works out service, payment kinks

  1. I would hope that the contract provided for late fees to be paid to IndyGo for not meeting the deadline. That’s a lot of additional, un-budgeted costs for the taxpayers to absorb for an additional 1+ month.

    1. Jeffrey D C. – don’t forget the buses didn’t meet spec on charge life so they had to install supplemental charging stations. That means you either sacrifice part of your fleet each day or need to buy a few more $1.5 million buses.

    2. If I recall correctly, the supplemental charging stations will be placed past the end of the lines to coincide with regularly scheduled breaks for the bus drivers. So there won’t be any loss in fleet size or service. I do however agree that BYD was way overpromising and Indy could have put more leverage on them to either significantly reduce the bus prices. At least we are getting the charging stations paid for though.

    1. They are, but to date, they are NOT contributing to THEIR using the service that they, and the rest of us, are paying for. So far, ZERO return.

  2. They had 2 years to get the ticketing process up and running and now it will be free for another month. Sounds like they started working on it once the red line was open. Unacceptable.

  3. Grover N., and don’t you forget that the contract with the bus manufacturer calls for it to install and pay for any additional charging infrastructure to meet the minimum mileage requirements. In other words, the taxpayers will not incur any additional cost.

    1. And who is paying for the additional usage of electricity to charge them more often? What about maintenance and eventual overhaul/ replacement? And it also assumes Charlie P is correct that it won’t affect service or number of buses needed?

  4. A lot of the problems in Indy can be summed in the comments to this article. It is a their services, their bus mentality, as if we aren’t all living in a community that depends on some things just being there to support the common good.

    The kicker is “my tax payer dollars”. We all pay taxes on things we don’t use on a daily basis, and may never use. I’ll never utilize the public school system here, but if they need some raised so local kids can get a better education, then I’ll ante up so my neighbors can create a better life for themselves. If you don’t use like the bus, ok, don’t use it. However, some people rely on that for their livelihood and mobility. And, some of us just don’t care to drive.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been disappointed by some aspects of the Red Line roll-out, and have been frustrated with IndyGo in the past. When that happens, I voice my concerns and desire for improvements. I don’t just say “welp, shut it down! It was a failure!”. With the influx of funding, they are better able to roll-out improvements like rapid transit and more frequent local service. For those who don’t know, the Red Line is unlike anything in the country right now. There will be issues to work out! It is expected.

    I work in software, so I know how starting something off and iterating to make it better goes. If you wait until it is flawless, it will never happen. This is pretty much true for anything in life. Heck, even cars, which have a pretty good record overall get recalls.

    At the end of the day, any Indy resident should be rooting for the success of the IndyGo improvements, because the alternative is pretty bleak. And, frankly, a pretty dismal way to view your city. We’ve got our issues as a city, but we also have some damn good things going for us, and improved transit is one of those.

    1. No, the problem with this “investment” is that it is a “Keeping up with the Joneses” sinkhole, provided under the guise of benefiting the underprivileged – when in fact all it is truly meant to be is a direct line linking downtown to Broad Ripple for some ill-thought out tourism talking point. Tell me, exactly, who are these underprivileged people that are receiving service that they didnt have access to downtown prior? We can sit here and talk about reduced wait times, but the reality is the wait times were not terrible before, and in reality will only be negligibly improved because IndyGo has never been able to demonstrate an on-time scheduling ability. At the end of the day, it just a bus that goes north and south, on a route that was already adequate. If they really wanted to improve the system, they would have used the Red Line money, and all future money from the approved tax, to add more buses to serve underserved and new routes.

  5. I would love for the Red Line to be successful, both for the people who rely on transit as the primary transportation and for the rest of us as well. Unfortunately, IndyGo appears completely inept at providing a quality service. It shouldn’t be that hard to keep buses from spaces out, so you don’t have one following right behind the other in one direction, and then a 20-30 minute or greater gap between buses. If a driver can see a bus in front of them going the same direction, maybe just wait a few minutes or more to space themselves out. They don’t even have a defined schedule to keep that I’ve seen anywhere, just a ten-minute spacing. So, why do we continually see one bus a minute or less behind another? Someone please explain to me what’s so complicated about this, and/or why it’s acceptable to perform so poorly. I’m open to a good explanation.