College Avenue proves The Infrastructurist’s point

This article on the Infrastructurist promoting streetcar investment has caused me to think about our past streetcar network in the city. The article isn’t exactly even-handed; however, you can still see the residue of our past investment along College Avenue, with the most obvious being the stretch between 16th Street and Broad Ripple Avenues. Multi-use buildings dot the corners every 2 to 4 blocks, and are supported by a decent network of sidewalks.

It is unfortunate that the area to the south of 44th Street has seen a long period of disinvestment, but the remnants that remain could have better potential if College Avenue were to return to its streetcar roots. I take the bus down College Avenue daily, and its latent potential jumps out at me, as the bus rattles down the potholed street.

This is not necessarily a bad neighborhood. Many of the homes are well-kept, and the good people that ride the bus with me overwhelmingly outweigh the bad. Returning a streetcar line to College Avenue could be seen as a source of local pride, and help with community re-investment.

Comments 12

  • Kevin, I've long said College is the corridor. Don't wait for streetcars – do it right now. Put buses on that street with 10 minute headways all day every day. Market the heck out of it. Encourage TOD zoning. Add the streetcars later if you find the money. Great post.

  • Thanks U-phile. Well, we'll probably need to repave the street first.

    For the record, I was on vacation in Japan. Their streets all look like they were paved yesterday. You would have been in heaven :p.

  • College Ave. is one of my favorite destinations in Indy. I'm not likely to ride a bus, but I could see making use of a streetcar. Good idea!

    How was Japan? Did you love it?

  • Japan is amazing. People are so helpful and kind, and getting around there is very easy. Trains running constantly, always on time..sigh…

  • Rebecca, I have to ask: Why would you ride a streetcar if you wouldn't ride a bus? They are the same thing except for different types of wheels. Is it because busses are perceived as the poor person's transportation?

    That's the problem with the bus idea. People see a bus and say "Ew, I'm not riding the bus." They see a street car running the same route at the same intervals and say, "Oh, a streetcar, cool!" This despite the fact that the two vehicles are the same for all practical purposes. There is no logic to it, but people are prejudiced against busses.

  • People prefer streetcars. People ride streetcars. Sounds good to me.

    I think the best part about streetcars is that they are permanent. When a local government commits to setting one up, you are assured the line will be running for a long time. People are comfortable planning their daily activities and commute around it.

    Buses are transitory, nobody will trust that the bus line will be there next year, so nobody organizes their activities around it. The local government has built no trust amongst the people because their is no commitment.

    Cool site, Kevin…

  • I'm mostly on College for shopping and dining, not commuting. If a streetcar were nothing more than a stylish bus operating on the current schedules, I would be unlikely to use it as well. Hopefully a streetcar dedicated to College Ave. would run more frequently and be easier to hop on and off of for short trips in the area.

    A bus with short waits, as the Urbanophile suggested, could work for me since my aversion to driving/parking is strong, but the added charm of a streetcar might persuade those in the area for an afternoon or evening outing to use public transportation when they might not otherwise. To many, a date night involving a streetcar is romantic. One involving a city bus … less so.

  • Transit systems aren't built on special, occasional use. They're built on commuters like Kevin who live along the lines. (If I still lived in that area, I'd be riding the bus to work too.)

  • Kevin, did you get to Kyoto? An ancient and amazing city!

  • Yes we did. It's so big that even 6 nights there weren't enough.

  • IndyGo just does NOT have the money to build a major overhaul to a bus route right now not to mention a major marketing push. The money will have to come from the federal government.

    If the city wants to go the mass transit route, Indy will have to make a choice between streetcar and BRT since hypothetically, they'll have to pitch a new transit route to the Federal New Starts Program.

    With this choice, I think Light Rail wins out over BRT for many reasons and the Infrastructurist explains 36 reasons why:

    Reason 24 and 14 are two of my favorites:

    "Streetcars create more walkable streets. This is because streetcars, as mentioned above, are more attractive to riders than buses, which in turns prompt to more mass transit usage in general, which in turns prompts to more walking–a virtuous cycle that creates more attractive city streets."

    "Perhaps the most over looked and significant difference between street cars and buses is permanence. You’ll notice that development will follow a train station, but rarely a bus stop. Rails don’t pick up and move any time soon. Once a trolley system is in place, business and investors can count on them for decades. Buses come and go."

    and reason 28 explains the streetcar experience is a much smoother and less stressful experience for the rider than the bus:

    "Buses, are susceptible to every pothole and height irregularity in the pavement (and in Chicago we have plenty). Streetcars ride on smooth, jointless steel rails that rarely develop bumps."

  • A streetcar line vs. bus line: Hmmm. Well the permanence of a streetcar line is so attractive in many ways. But the most important function of the line is how it helps define communities. Indianapolis is so disconnected due to low density development and sprawl. The College Avenue Streetcar would be revolutionary for Indy in many ways but will definitely help promote the development Indianapolis needs. Man, what an opportunity to link MASS AVE with BROAD RIPPLE! College as the main 20 hour mixed use commercial strip in Indianapolis would give many people reasons to live here then! Buses would remain the base of the transportation network but they can't function efficiently enough by themselves.

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