Here at Urban Indy we wanted to give our reactions to the big IndyConnect unveiling and let our readers do the same.Â An in-depth review of the plan from Urban Indy will be coming later, but here is a collection of our responses after the initial press release.Â The plan is online at IndyConnect.org and represents the 25 year vision of the Indy MPO responsible for regional transportation planning.
I will be the first person to say that the latest unveiling represents a letdown when we were all looking forward to a light rail system to address economic development, regional vitality and increased mobility. Fresh off a trip to Portland I have seen the top of the mountain and it is awesome. However, here in Indy we have such a small share of transit ridership, that building support for a long term rail system is key. Implementing the latest unveiling while not shiny and sexy, will improve the system for existing users, pull in potential riders who are on the fence, and offer some incentives to those who would never use in the form of some congestion mitigation. This step up could build a great platform for the next generation long term transit plan. If Indianapolis can continueÂ recent success in the business arena as it has for years now, this transit plan could compliment that successÂ and in 20 years, when a successful transit share has been built, a much more robust rail growth plan could be hatched. The next step will be difficult in helping to educate people just why this plan has a silver lining that isn’t initially obvious.
Neither the original nor this updated Indy Connect plan is a perfect implementation of mass transit for Indianapolis.Â Instead, they represent a balance of the needs of the region with what is favorable to the low tax, low service culture of the Central Indiana Region.Â This disappoints mass transit and rail advocates because they know how good things could be, and how our region needs to have an eye on the economic, societal and environmental need for a proper mass transit system.Â This is not the proposal I would have put forth, but given the constraints on the Indy Connect team, I think this is a plan that brings our transportation system to an acceptable service level at a price point that has a chance for approval from the electorate.Â It’s far from inspiring, but it works.
While improving our bus system is a good idea, more bike and pedestrian pathways are great, and having some investment in rail and light rail is better than none, this plan doesnâ€™t have enough â€œIndyâ€ in it to truly reform one of our cityâ€™s greatest transit problems â€“ a lack of â€œchoiceâ€ riders, especially within our urban core. The proposed planâ€™s focus on serving suburban areas with the â€œcoolestâ€ forms of transit incentivizes suburban and exurban housing choices. Meanwhile, the people most likely to make the choice of utilizing transit options, those who are choosing to live and work in our actual city, are provided with an upgrade on a system that is not winning over new riders in its current iteration. The proposed IndyConnect plan is definitely an improvement, but itâ€™s not bold, itâ€™s not visionary, and â€“ without a major branding overhaul of our bus system â€“ itâ€™s unlikely to spur significant improvement in the area of choice ridership. And, a quick query: why is this transit plan up for so much debate, while the much more expensive plans to upgrade bridges and roads, as well as expand roads, are not topics for public debate or analysis? Why do we evaluate â€œnewâ€ so much more stringently than we evaluate â€œoldâ€?
I’m encouraged by the prospect of more frequent bus service in the areas which need it the most .Â The first release of Indy Connect had few specifics with regards to inner city connectivity, which this version serves to correct.Â I’m discouraged that the city is pulling back from the Washington Street light rail proposal, when most of us at Urban Indy were hoping that the city would add a College Avenue streetcar to the fledgling system.Â Eighty percent of the money goes to expanding roads and fixing bridges in the suburban areas, which (outside of needed repairs) is throwing good money after bad.Â Regardless, I hope that this plan will give the city the framework it needs to make future changes and improvements.
I’m definitely not anti-bus.Â From a pure transit perspective, we can do so much in Indy with the additional of express buses, circulators, and BRT’s.Â An expanded bus system can reach more people than rail.
I’m definitely not anti-rail either.Â There are situations that a street car, light rail, or commuter rail would be beneficial.Â Washington Street is a great example of a prime light rail/street car corridor.
The biggest issues with buses: how well the system is executed and operated; getting past the localÂ stigma of buses; maximizing the use of technology; getting around the traffic congestion problems that plague our streets and highways; and encouraging development along bus corridors and around bus system hubs.
While transit oriented development will not be as great with a improved bus system, the potential is there if investment is made into stops and hubs where multiple routes converge.
As a multi-modal mass transit adovcate, I am particularly dissapointed with the updated IndyConnect plan. Â While a strong bus service is essential in any regional transit system, the BRT model that the IndyConnect team is championing has not been proven effective in significantly increasing transit ridership in North America. Â On the other hand, urban rail transit (light rail, streetcars) has. Â Ultimately, that is what we were hoping to see more of from the revised IndyConnect plan – real urban transit that encourages urban development and creates those great ‘places’ that can come it. Â Instead, any remnant of the word ‘urban’ was stripped away, leaving us with a mass transit system ‘vision’ that only sees Indianapolis as it is instead of what it could be. Â And in the end, this is perhaps the mostÂ disappointingÂ aspect of the new plan. Â Â With a strong urban-oriented mass transit plan, Indianapolis would position itself as a region of transit oriented development, of urban places, and of sustainable transportation, something that would differentiate itself from the car-dominated culture of the Midwest. Â Instead, the current IndyConnect plan will set the city up for continued Midwest mediocrity, thus crippling its ability of becoming a bigger and better version of its current self.
For as much as transit has been discussed in the press releases and official statements, there is surprisingly little of it in the plans.Â No, this is a plan to fund highway construction.Â Other than some minor reuse of rail lines, Indy will still be missing a useful mass transit system and encouraging sprawl development.Â This is also a missed opportunity to change the outdated policies, lack of vision, and livability aspects that must be dealt with in the transportation realm.Â Instead of real city development, Indianapolis citizens will be sponsoring repair and extensions of highways that never should have been built to begin with. Â The MPO should plan for what Indianapolis will need in 25 years from now, and this won’t get us anywhere fast.Â With the majority of the population and the business community asking for a real solution, I say put the best plan on the table and don’t stop short.
Let’s call it what it is: a suburban-oriented plan. Let’s not mince words: I’m royally p.o’d at the bait and switch over Washington Street light rail.
Today’s highly subsidized (downright cheap) Fishers express bus has impressive bulk numbers, but every time I do the math it works out to a few hundred people per day riding. How do the planners justify building a mega-million$ suburban train ahead of a Washington Street light rail line that would have more riders, if one looks at simply transferring the existing proven ridership from the #8, #3, and #55 bus lines. Taking a few hundred (or even a few thousand) cars a day off of I-70 (which carries something north of 150,000 daily cars now) is congestion mitigation? Allowing suburban development to sprawl clear to Anderson (easy driving distance from Noblesville or Fishers train stations) or Columbus (easy drive to Greenwood) is good?
Why not spend some of that highway money on diamond lanes to promote car-pooling, van pooling, and express buslines? That would actually help mitigate congestion on the northeast corridor.
Why should Marion County residents pay a dime for the Fishers or Greenwood Heavy Rail system? Because we’ll get more buses? Seriously?
Where will this train take me (after I take a bus to Union Station)? Kroger Shopping Center at 71st & Binford? Seriously: is there a single major medical or educational facility anywhere along the line? A library? A stadium? A municipal building or park? The only thing I can think of is the state fairgrounds. Secondarily, UIndy, which is not even one of our top 3 local college campuses.
I’d like to see the capital and operating cost breakdowns for Marion County bus system as proposed, versus suburban rail, as well as an estimate of the tax take from Marion County alone and from each additional county. Bottom line: I think people in Marion County might vote to pay for a better bus system MINUS the suburban rail if it could be funded solely by a tax in Marion County. If the reality is that this will be just another case of suburbanites “free riding” on infrastructure paid for by Marion County residents, forget it.
Suburban rail will be a galvanizing factor for opposition anyway (it doesn’t serve the communities where racial/ethnic minorities are the majority of residents very well, if at all), and instituting suburban rail before urban rail makes even more enemies (it honks off urban/urbanist caucasians). You don’t have to be a political genius to understand those two broad groups form the electoral base for Andre Carson, who keeps winning inside 465 with big majorities. The 2007 property-tax anomaly aside, Marion County is big-D Democrat.
I hope that your initial reaction doesn’t affect your long-term support. Although I could be wrong, I think that the reason for Greenwood to Noblesville rail is pretty straight-forward. Here is my hypothesis:
Infrastructure. The Hoosier Heritage Port Authority owns the old Nickel Plate Rail line, which runs from Arcadia down to about 10th street. Though it’s not 100% of the cost, it certainly makes that corridor the easiest route to implement.
Also, the bottom line is that no matter how you slice it, everybody is going to be paying tax dollars for a system that they may or may not directly use most of the time. The true benefit, however, that virtually everyone will see is job creation, cleaner air, less tax dollars going to road repair/capacity increase and traffic safety.
The same agreement exists today for highways, it’s just that the agreement to spend others tax money on highways has already been discussed and settled. In order to have a chance at light rail throughout the region in the future, we’ve got to start somewhere.
I think that it’s important to stay focused on the big picture so that we don’t forget about the value that a new system will generate for the entire region.
Mark, it already has. We in Marion County will not see job creation here, or more-dense development, or increased tax base. We will see a new $15/month tax that pays for suburbanites to have an easier commute. There is no way around that fact, and it just won’t play.
Don’t get me wrong: I am all in favor of significant improvements to IndyGo in conjunction with rail. I am strongly, overwhelmingly opposed to creating suburban rail 10 or 20 years before rebuilding a skeleton urban rail system. Again: the best existing urban neighborhoods in Indianapolis, and the ones that are making significant strides in rebuilding, and the ones that will contribute greatly to the municipal tax base, are the ones built for streetcars in places where sufficient street right-of-way exists to put in light rail or streetcar. This plan trades out the urban redevelopment benefits of the Washington Street light rail line and replaces it with “better bus”.
Those who’ve spent more than 20 years in Indy remember that IndyGo (the brand) represents a 1990’s re-branding and re-commitment to “better bus” transit in Indy from the old “Metro”. Clearly, doubling down on bus transit for the urban core has failed us already. What’s the definition of madness? Doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results?
You may be completely right, although I think that we both hope that you’re not, and that a new system is an overwhelming success. 🙂
Ask yourself: would this plan have a chance regionwide if reversed? That is, if it emphasized BRT from the suburban counties to the city and added light rail on north-south and east-west axes? Convert the NKP line to an express busway?
I don’t know if a system without any northern or southern-bound rail would work. I’m sure that there is a raft of statistics, polling and analysis that goes into determining the potential success of each of the proposed rail lines.
Personally, I would be satisfied with any plan that includes the features that have already been discussed if it stands to improve my mobility, and includes rail in the region at all. Frankly, Central Indiana’s mobility options are so incredibly limited, that any rail being included in the plan has the potential to make a drastic change to the landscape, and that’s what is needed.
These are all good questions for us to consider with both this plan and future plans. One quick note – the roadways plan does include the “potential” for carpool and high-occupancy lanes, as well as express toll lanes.
I am surprised by the lack of any sort of specialized lanes in the plan, as it seems to be a success in some areas today. Maybe there’s data that indicate that such features wouldn’t be successful in Central Indiana. Its absence does have a glare, no matter what.
No plan is going to be perfect. The key to me is; how do you sell it? We have 10-12 months to make it happen and get the funding to put the plan in motion. Here are my thoughts:
1. Get businesses out front of the campaign in front of the legislature, in TV ads and in op eds. People who may not use the new transit daily, especially in suburban counties, will want to hear about the positive regional economic impact. Executives and innovators from trusted companies can help that message.
2. Ask Indy to contribute some of its parking meter funds for part of the local contribution. Suburban governments will be easier to bring on board if they see a significant county from a fellow Republican in a major way.
3. Reinvent IndyGo. The refrain is “Buses have a negative image in Central Indiana”. Change IndyGo’s name, brand and maybe management. This has to happen in order to lessen the upward slope of adoption for buses in this area.
4. Talk about the benefits before you talk about the cost. Every question about “How much will this cost?” Should be turned around to be answered with how much the region will benefit. “Though it will cost each household about 7 cups of coffee a month, the tax benefits to the region in new jobs, and business appeal will provide a net benefit of $XX million over the coming decades.”
5. Get it on the Governor’s agenda. This system is a job creation engine. This is an opportunity for a bipartisan, regional success story. All of these factors are important to the Governor’s legacy in his final years in office, and whatever pursuits he has in mind for the future.
I would argue against IndyGO management. They are operating on a shoe string right now, and Mike Tery does a FANTASTIC job for the plate of *____* he has been handed. It is out of his hands.
Curt – part of my concern about buses being emphasized is that IndyGO is ridiculously underfunded and, unless we’re willing to not just fund frequency, but fund some improvements, too, I don’t think choice ridership will increase. They truly are doing a lot with a little right now – that’s definitely true. To do what needs to be done – to make the system attractive to new riders – there needs to be adequate and thoughtful investment.
I really don’t know much about IndyGo’s current management. That’s why I said “maybe” the management of IndyGo needs to be evaluated. The one thing that I do know, is that the question does have to be asked: “Is the business and management of IndyGo adequate to manage the vast amount of change that would come to it in 10 years?”
Though IndyGo’s management is probably doing a wonderful job with what they have, they’re not currently managing a system as large and diverse as that which is proposed. Therefore, the business will have to go through a lot of structural change when this plan is implemented. I think that we owe it to IndyGo as well as the taxpayers to examine the impact of that change on IndyGo as a business/organization, and determine what will have to change in order to come out on the other side as a success.
The answer may be that everything is 100% a-ok, and IndyGo is prepared to support the growth/change starting today. The answer also may be that IndyGo is completely unable to support any change, and the whole organization needs a giant “re-do”.
In all likelihood, the answer is somewhere in-between.
The most likely potential outcome would be an agency created that would take IndyGO, MPO and CIRTA and create one body that can get federal money, plan with it, operate or contract out the operation and contract the construction of capital projects. With that would come a lot more overhead. That is something yet to be figured out yet though
Excuse the whole verbal vommit esque approach to my post, i’m just rather concerned apparently, this is what indianapolis’ public input looks like, which is kinda terrifying me right now. Yea i like the line to speedway but i think michigan would gain more ridership minus race season.
I hope nobody settles for this mediocrity. Thats all it is, there’s no risk here, and therefore no opportunity for the city to brand its self in a progressive light. And being 20 years old, the time line is painfully drawn out. Ill be nearly 50 when something tangible is established and operating. and who’s to say i should stay around. (and thats a sacrilegious statement coming from me and to be posted on thins blog, i know) but how to you expect to retain the young emerging talent, the people who understand the times better than any one else can, if you’re policy isn’t progressive. To me this is just, lets wait and see what the rest of the nation does. If they’re going to be so reluctant to engage in the rail, id rather the city just pick another option rather than jeopardize a one time opportunity trying to keep there feet on both sides of the line. I mean if you dont implement the rail right correctly its going to be turned into a big sensationalist piece on money mismanagement, it will turned into something political, and after everyone forgets about the bull shit that it resulted in, they will still remember that the rail caused it. I say get rid of the Franklin line too, think about the south side, think about its political makeup and then ask how will a critical mass of people down there actually get behind a system that is such a ” Grossly unnecessary expenditure” Give it to College Ave !
My first reaction to this ‘revised’ plan was: It’s been proven time and time again that Indianapolis, Indiana will ALWAYS support the suburbanites, who continue to drain the local economy, while downtown will merely be forced to function as a ‘museum for convention tourism’. Is that what we all want for our city and region 20 years from now? Seriously? Indy Connect was responsible for one main thing: to CONNECT all of INDIANAPOLIS by providing the central indiana region with a new and diverse transportation system, which will ultimately drive our economic development for the future. Unfortunately, the Indy band-aid approach will do nothing more than continue paving and expanding roads for vehicles, and now what seems to be a million buses? You can’t rely solely on a bus system. The fact is, it’s a myth that Indy can only survive with buses. Common sense would suggest that to run an efficient bus system in sprawling Indy…is virtually impossible. Kiss your hard earned tax money to the suburban streets! NOBODY WANTS TO WAIT TO RIDE A BUS EXCEPT FOR TWO REASONS. 1/ A PERSON IS DESPERATE AND RELIES ON THIS MODE 2/ THE BUS SERVIICE IS EFFICIENTLY INTERCONNECTED WITH AT LEAST 2 OTHER MODES OF TRANSPORTATION. Unfortunately, the most important mode that won’t be tied to the bus is light rail, which should be connecting the neighborhoods and real streets of Indianapolis (both downtown and Midtown areas). But these lines were left out of the plan. All for the suburbanites. This will take a long time for most Indianapolis residents to grasp how detrimental this will be for our city and region. It’s way too easy to say that anything is better than before…GHEE, I WOULD HOPE YOU CAN’T GET WORSE THAN OUR CURRENT STATE! And to think the number of years it took for who to come up with this plan?!?!?!@$?@#%!??!???!! This plan needs to be bold and perception changing. It needs to be thrown onto 116th Street and torched! Unfortunately, we are back to the same song and dance of talking, talking, planning and planning for the unlivable, suburban nature we will always think of INDIANOPLACE. It’s amazing how much money is wasted here today and for many, many years to come.
I want to thank all the Urban Indy bloggers, and those who have posted subsequent responses, for addressing this important initiative and for your enthusiasm regarding the issue of mass transit in central Indiana. You bring up valid concerns and make thoughtful points about the strengths and weaknesses of the most recent long-range transportation plan put forth by Indy Connect. I hope that each of you will take time to attend one or more of the meetings taking place throughout the region this month to voice your opinions.
The process by which the Indy Connect team has collected public comment and incorporated it into a revised plan has garnered national attention as a model for this type of long-range, community-wide planning. The result may not be a perfect reflection of our community’s diverse and often competing needs and desires, but it is a better, more comprehensive and forward-thinking plan than we have ever seen – or will likely see again if we don’t act now.
Transit advocates have to unite around this initiative and not be divided over details. We need more and better transit, we need more funding for transit, and we need more local options for funding transit. Most importantly, we need it now. This needs to be our message to local and state policy-makers – starting yesterday and for however long it takes until they truly comprehend the need.
For more information about transit advocacy opportunities or to learn about the Indiana Citizens’ Alliance for Transit (ICAT), visit http://www.indianacat.org.
I was disapointed that there is no streetcar service for the downtown core in this plan. I am for expansion of bus service. We really need it badly. Streetcars would make it easier to get around downtown if you are commuting in from Franklin or Noblesville.
The plan is 1000 times better than what we have now, but I really don’t see it meeting the needs in 25 years from now.
Its going to be a hard to get all 9 counties onboard with a tax increase.
My biggest concern, as it’s been all along, is wondering what IndyConnect is doing to get feedback from the people who already use IndyGo heavily every day. I do not see a lot of people that ride the bus at the IndyConnect meetings, and since a lot of these folks are raising kids and working two or three jobs, I wonder what IndyConnect is doing to represent these people.
I’m very cynical about the business community stepping in to the transit dialogue. On the one hand, these folks are needed, because nothing gets done in Central Indiana without them. But as I feared, a lot of this money is being leveraged into road and highway work. I can’t say that I’m surprised, but it’s unfortunate, because the plan will obviously favor those with buying power and neglect the people that need transit options the most.
A reminder of this study: “Public Transit Creates More Jobs Than Highways.”
But again, it’s a forgone conclusion that decisions will be made to favor the short-term gains of those with buying power, rather than long-term investments in the community.
If this concerns you too, get yourself to an ICAT meeting:
Cody: Thanks for your sharing! One of our executive committee members is a bus rider and has similar concerns, particularly about this round of public meetings. If it makes you feel any better, Indy Connect also collected public comment through their website, mail-in comment cards and a bilingual phone line.
The shift in focus away from rail and onto expansion and improvements to bus service in the revised plan reflects the concerns of current bus riders who provided input during the first round. The transit-dependent don’t have the luxury of long-term solutions at the expense of short-term mobility.
Amelia, such an immense bus system expansion will need the support and the additional ridership of those of us who COULD ride but don’t because the system doesn’t currently run fast enough or frequently enough to serve us adequately. In converting to a “network” style operation from hub and spoke, IndyGo will require a skeletal “grid” of north-south and east-west lines. The most important of those (a central north-south line and a central east-west line which each have a wide variety of destinations besides jobs) are currently the busiest and should probably be fixed rail, and the buslines should integrate with that. It’s hard to imagine how anyone thinks that might take something away from bus service or today’s bus riders.
This revised plan does NOT shift focus away from rail. It only shifts one axis away from exclusively URBAN light rail, while increasing the focus on SUBURBAN heavy rail by enlarging that system. The reality is that the revised plan expanded rail for suburbanites and took it away from the people who live and/or work east and west of downtown in the city.
That is not a way to attract support or votes or ridership from those who currently live in the east and west walkable neighborhoods of the “old city” who WANT a decent integrated transit system.
I was fairly disappointed with the lack of Washington Ave light rail and wasn’t particularly into the idea of the BRT. But I found this short video about Cleveland’s BRT and could help but think this wouldn’t be so bad an option.
BRT’s worked well in Ottawa, ON for some years so maybe it’s not all bad.
That video is actually pretty good.
It makes me wonder too, when the Washington St BRT infrastructure enhancements start, would they go ahead and plant rails in the street? Maybe too far ahead, but would save on construction later… just spitballing. THAT type of labor isnt too much more $$ when it comes to road bed vs LRT bed construction.
I do not think downtown residents will support this plan.
How can it be a priority to extend rail service to Franklin? Why not propose improved bus lines for the Suburbs and spent hose rail $s on a Washington Street Line now?. Let the Suburbs grow their bus rider rates and see if a train makes sense in 20 years, not vice-versa.
The noise pollution of the proposed locomotive or DMU options for the Northeast corridor will raise tremendous concerns/opposition in the urban neighborhoods it needs to run through. Go listen to one of the freight trains go through downtown near College Ave. No one wants that running through their Neighborhood. Street cars and Light Rail (and perhaps BRT) address the needs of the urban core. The proposed train line from the Fair Grounds to Union Station would run parallel to the Monon Trail. Train noise will affect usage of this trail too. We can’t sacrifice quality of life in the urban core just because there’s an existing railway in this corridor.
MIchael, I dont think the NE Corridor will be a freight train like what runs during the State Fair. That was talked about as a starter option before Indyconnect came together. At that time, funding the NE Corridor was even more in doubt so the planners were looking for anything they could.
At this point, it would be a punch in the face to move forward with that alternative, and I dont see that happening. More likely what will happen will be DMU’s which are MUCH more quiet compared to what pushes the Fair Train. Your concerns would have been notable 2 years ago, but now, I think are a little more unfounded. I agree that lightrail or streetcar would be better option (all you have to do is follow my past articles) but dont think we will be getting those for a while unfortunately
First off I love the city is taking the first steps toward transit. I would like to say we need to focus more on downtown for transit first. If we can connect downtown so people can drive to downtown then hop on street car (or anything else) that circulates around the core of the city that will be a fantastic first step. Then the people that live further from the core of the city will start seeing the benefits of what mass transit can do and jump on board with the plan. Second this will not happen with a bus system. I hate to say but people do not have good thoughts when it comes to buses. Yes they are the cheapest and easiest to get off the ground but they will not bring popular transit to Indianapolis. If we can prove transit will work downtown then I think people will slowly start to support transit all through the city.
Kind of like what Cincinnati is doing huh? They had a major proposal like this voted down and look at them now. They are ready to break ground on a new streetcar system in their downtown area. I cant wait to see it up and running so that people who live here will be within a short trip of that and be able to go and see it. Maybe Cincinnati can have a perception changing affect on Indy as well.
The Rail Transit Fact sheet lists “noise and vibration” as a disadvantage for DMUs. If it’s worth citing then it’s probably going to be something that concerns people. I live on Cornell Ave next to the Monon Trail, so I’ll know if it’s quiet or not. 😉
Jennifer and Curt, thanks for stating the most important facts: The urban core should be first priority; A true transit system cannot be based on buses; Cincinnati is ahead of Indy in changing the perception of URBAN LIVABILITY IN THE MIDWEST.
Amelia, how can $15/month tax not support light rail lines through the urban core with expanded bus network? First phase would be College Avenue–from downtown to Broad Ripple. Five years later, residents will learn what true investment for Indianapolis would be.
To steal a line from the Urbanophile…”People want to live in a city whose civic aspirations match their personal aspirations.” This is the line i thought of after reading about the watered-down transportation plan recently presented by Indy Connect. While this revised plan is definitely not aspirational, there is still reason to be optimistic.
Indy Connect is moving forward with a comprehensive transportation plan that includes bus, rail, bike paths and pedestrian walkways that is changing the way the general public thinks about transit options in central Indiana. While most people on this forum seem to be disappointed by the lack of a light rail along Washington Street, it is important to note that the long-term vision proposed by the plan is to eventually replace BRT with light rail along this corridor. Any way you look at it, this plan is a step in the right direction and it needs to be supported.
Kevin, I agree that the plan is far from aspirational, but disagree on how we should treat it. Sadly, this iteration of IndyConnect needs to join all the other Northeast Rail studies as shelfware.
IndyConnect in its present form is a plan for suburban rail, suburban roads, and suburban trails with an IndyGo patch thrown in. It is not a step in the right direction; it should go back a step and be replaced by a plan with a far more aggressive timetable for creating a city-centered integrated urban rail-bus transit system BEFORE heavy suburban rail. IMO this plan falls short of what it needs to focus on: creating urban mobility by making non-work transit destinations a reality.
Trails and bike lanes are nice, but will cater to an even smaller subset of commuters and travelers than good transit. I think it’s fair to say that far more people are “transit-willing” than “bike-willing” when it comes to the majority of everyday trips. (Sorry IndyCog.)
The bus/IndyGo part of the current IndyConnect plan might look like a “bailout” for IndyGo. The advantage of urban LRT or streetcar is that it could be sold as a replacement/upgrade/modernization that would allow a total reconfiguration of the bus system.
And seriously…BRT bypasses Methodist, IUPUI/Wishard, and Fountain Square? Enhanced system runs ’til midnight weekdays but only 10pm on weekends? How will it attract the discretionary riders it needs to be successful, and serve transit-dependent people with jobs in the 24/7 economy better? (FedEx is a major “after hours” employer; their shifts run past 10 or midnight.)
To steal a line from The Urbanophile, who borrowed it from Daniel Burnham: “MAKE NO SMALL PLANS.”
I will now switch to decaf and quit ranting about IndyConnect, while I figure out the best way to do something constructive. 🙂
Good luck Chris. I have chosen to support this plan but will still be critical of the need for rail in the urban core. That is vital for redevelopment. BRT just hasnt shown it is an equal to LRT when it comes to spurring the types of development. Perhaps the fact that LRT will be PLANNED might be enough to encourage some developers to start planning ahead. That is optimistic thinking, but the best I can come up with.
Earlier today I sent this letter to my state senator, who is in the Republican leadership:
I’m a resident of the Irvington portion of your district (also a former small-business owner and currently a professional in community economic development).
In my view, it is imperative that the State Legislature allow local units of government more flexibility in forming their local tax packages that fund public services now that property tax caps are part of the state constitution.
Specifically, I am writing to ask your assistance in convincing Republican Senate and House leadership to pass legislation allowing a ballot referendum to fund the transit portion of the recently-released IndyConnect plan with an incremental sales tax.
This is consistent with Republican and conservative principles in many ways: first, it encourages local solutions; second, it puts the decision in the hands of the voters; third, better transit would enable more low-income people to get to work instead of collecting benefits; fourth, rail transit and trail development both have demonstrable economic-development effects that include re-development of depressed areas and growth in property value (and thus property tax revenues).
Finally, I am troubled by the recent statements of Republican leaders Sen. Kenley and Rep. Espich. It is not up to two legislators to decide for 900,000 citizens of Marion County whether and how we should raise and spend our own tax dollars. We elect a City-County Council and Mayor to make those determinations. I’m curious why any market-oriented Republican would oppose more “home rule” for Indianapolis.
Let the city succeed or fail with its own tax and service structure; trust the people with the power to enact the same.
Having relied on transit systems exclusively bus-oriented down in Brazil, I was absolutely overjoyed to see that we had traded the extremely costly light-rail system along Washington St. in exchange for no less than FOUR high-frequency bus routes throughout the city. BRT’s have an incredible bang-for-the-buck, and considering Hoosiers’ penchance for low-cost alternatives, I saw trading the high-price, high-prestige LRT for more useful bus routing as a major win for extending transit’s convenience. Especially considering that BRT’s are easily converted after-the-fact into LRT’s when ridership gets high enough, this is, to me, a plan that incorporates not one light rail path but FOUR, and that they’ve explicitly stated that one of them WILL be converted to light rail.
Suffice it to say, I was very let down by a lot of the responses I’ve read so far. The enthusiasm in the whole plan seems shot down by the lack of specific details, such as routing along particular streets or light rail versus bus rapid transit. As I see it, there’s an incredible amount of detail in this plan to be overjoyed about. Tripling bus service. Thirty-eight new bus routes. Peak-hour headways along Washington Street of 7-1/2 minutes. Peak-hour headways along Meridian between downtown and 38th St. down to 7-1/2 minutes via the BRT *and* 15 minutes along the Meridian Circulator bus. The potential to expand all four BRT routes into light rail when funding becomes available. A vast grid network within 465 of buses that run every 15 minutes. Average wait times cut from 30-60 minutes down to 10-20 minutes. Circulator buses in Fishers, Greenwood, Plainfield, Castleton, and Lawrence.
I haven’t heard anyone here talk about these amazing, wonderful expansions to the city’s transit which would be lightyears ahead of current service. I haven’t heard of the massive boon it would be to the tens of thousands of residents in the inner suburbs. I haven’t heard anyone mention that headways along the highest-density areas being in the “sweet spot” of convenience. There’s no talk among anyone here about the massive boost in convenience overall the entire city this would mean.
In short, there’s a lot to love about this plan. I’d recommend that anyone who is disappointed about the lack of light rail to look into Bus Rapid Transit systems more. Here’s a Government Accountability Office report on BRT’s, lauding them as incredible bang for the buck: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d01984.pdf And here’s the UN’s recommendations for designing BRT’s: http://itdp.org/index.php/microsite/brt_planning_guide_in_english
Andrew, you may have missed our posts at the top. We all claimed that this was great for people looking to use transit, and also those who currently use it. No one argues that these are bad upgrades. We HAVE however called out it’s lack of visionairy planning. As I said in the BRT post, it lacks the kind of competitive push to be innovative.
And another point I would like to make is this. When this BRT line along Washington is slated to be converted to LRT, how is that going to happen? How are these 7-10 minute headways going to be diverted for 2-3 years while a new LRT line is built? Ottawa tried figuring this out and have not been able to come up with a way to do this, that would still allow current service to proceed unhindered through the construction phase.
I foresee similar difficulty with Washington LRT in 20 years. How are we going to prop up that level of service during construction? Re-route to 10th street? Lessen service? Accept congestion for 2 years?
Andrew, ridership on the east-west core lines (#3, #8, and #55, which run parallel and within a mile of each other essentially from Eastgate Mall to downtown) is sufficient already to justify streetcar or light rail…which is why it was proposed originally.
Likewise, ridership on the north-south core lines already justifies streetcar or LRT somewhere in the Meridian Corridor to 38th and College or Keystone to 62nd…exactly where this “Plan B” proposes BRT.
I think you’re missing the point of my objection: currently, the Fishers Express luxury motorcoach attracts a few hundred riders per workday. THAT is the route where we shouldn’t invest a dime in rail until it proves itself using BRT. The urban north-south/east-west axes have already proven themselves and should be upgraded to rail first.