Where should a DT Transit Center be located?

Charlotte DT Transit Center (image credit: Curt Ailes)
Charlotte DT Transit Center (image credit: Curt Ailes)

According to the IndyGo Comprehensive Operational Analysis that was covered in depth by Kevin, a downtown transit center should be used to try and organize all of the routes that converge on downtown Indianapolis. Per the report, a robust savings in operational cost could be gained while preserving on street traffic versus the current location’s most congested point along Ohio Street; at the same time increasing the amount of time buses can wait on layover waiting on connecting routes to arrive.

However, the report debunked the conclusions that past downtown transit studies have recommended. The logical site that comes to mind when most people consider this question, is locating a bus transfer center adjacent to Union Station; along South Street. Indeed, for trains that would be coming into downtown per the Indyconnect vision, providing people with a bus to get to their place of employment would be a large need.

However as the report indicates, this adds cost to operate the bus routes and creates additional congestion along the streets needed to get northside bus routes to the southside of downtown. The report also challenged the notion of whether this was the most efficient means of getting people from trains to their job; they recommend circulators yet to be drawn on a map. Conceivably, a marginally lower amount of people will be using trains versus buses. Even if the long term rail plans were brought to bare immediately, the majority of trips taken by transit are likely to be by bus. Why locate a transit center to serve the smaller demographic? Although it has more sex appeal to locate a transit center based upon a train terminal location, the report provides a logical counterpoint to prior suggested solutions. In the end the report concluded that a more centrally located transfer center could serve commuters more efficiently; although it did not spell out a specific parcel for where it should be.

DT Indy job distribution (image source: US Census 2009 data)
DT Indy job distribution (image source: US Census 2009 data)

Indeed, according to the US Census Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics website, the concentration of employees downtown is nowhere near Union Station or the post office. Based upon an analysis of jobs in 2009, one can see the distribution of jobs in the downtown area (see image above). I have highlighted where the post office lies with a red circle and the current IndyGo downtown “corral” in red. A cursory glance indicates that the majority of CBD jobs are government in nature with the other majority being arguably financial in nature and all geographically skewed north of Monument Circle.

The report does acknowledge that the post office site is easier from a real estate allocation point of view but also suggests that a future transit center could be developed along side some sort of commercial development so as to not cannibalize land that could otherwise turn a good commercial profit and by extension, deliver a return on investment to taxpayers. Perhaps some sort of future public-private partnership could be struck to develop a site. There is still $30 million earmarked for an Indianapolis downtown transit center but time will eventually run out on that promise of federal money if it is not used.

So I ask our readers: Where SHOULD a downtown transit center be located to efficiently meet the needs of jobs and still be done so as not to add un-needed operating cost for IndyGo and also not create additional traffic congestion? I included a picture at the top of this post of what Charlotte, NC’s downtown transit center looks like. It is located directly next to their light rail station but serves only city buses at this point in time. It provides a look at what a similar structure in Indianapolis could look like.

Comments 23

  • What about the near Eastside by the old market square. People park in droves there all the time and walk to work anyways. Plus, it would be a big selling point to those living and working in the new Washington St development. Only negative might be state employees and students being a bit far, but a small hike or transfer wouldn’t be so bad.

  • I agree with Jon. The Market Square lots would make sense, complimented with a tram that circles downtown, connecting all 4 quads.

  • If you were to draw a center of mass for jobs in the downtown area, it would be somewhere in the vicinity of:

    Indiana / Capitol / New York

    Just so happens that’s a parking lot right now and it has good access to two one-way pairs to serve the relatively far-flung “eds and meds” campuses of IUPUI/IUMS, Methodist and Ivy Tech.

    • This would be my choice.

      It would be some nice filler for the gap between One America and the canal/IUPUI.

      The Market/Alabama area would probably be a good choice too. Too bad you’d have to rip up some freshly laid parking lots to do so.

    • I agree and was thinking “parking lots of the Northwest” from the start.
      Plus it would be right on my favorite routing for north-south LRT/trolley if located between Illinois and Capitol. To refresh, that (phantom) line would run Glendale–Broad Ripple–College Ave.–Fairfield/34th–Illinois & Capitol–South St.–Fountain Square–UIndy.

  • Wonderful idea! I agree with Jon and Zach, specifically the property located on Washington St and College. That property has been empty for years and it has become an eyesore for Indianapolis. Of course the addition of a transit system within the mile square would be aplus. Maybe we could bring back the “Trolley” buses that used to cover the area.

  • In addition to the points already made about the near Eastside location, a transit center there would connect well to the cultural trail and new bicycle hub at city market. What about the crumbling Pan Am Plaza? The locations seems ideal but does this site encounter the same problems as the proposed South St. site? Or, how about the giant state owned parking lot directly north of the Capitol building and between IUPUI and the CBD?

  • The difficulty with the market square lots, is that while Alabama is a one-way street, it really doesnt provide good in and out access in all directions. A place like Pan Am Plaza while sort of sharing in the pitfalls of the South Street location, is at least closer to the core and would benefit from Illinois & Capital being close and being higher capacity roadways.
    The Indiana/New York//Capital location is also good. At the intersection of so many streets and near some high employment density centers.

    • You make a good point, Curt. I admit, I conjured up the idea while typing on my phone getting ready for work at 7am, haha. I’m not sure how I feel about Pan Am, however. With the Georgia St conversion to the north, and an alley of a Louisiana St to the south, I’m not sure about how well busses/etc would get turned around on that block.

      I think the OneAmerica parking lot location would be best, as that’s a much overlooked area that’s bursting with potential, and with fairly open roads along all four sides, it would be easy to get busses in from all corners of Indy.

  • To me the big criteria is to avoid the usual solution, which is to determine which politically connected developer has an orphan property he can’t find a use for and take it off his hands. I am quite sure almost all the useage will be bus only, not train, and many of the clients will be handicapped, elderly, etc. They don’t need an extra 5 block walk to assist the developer. And, you can be sure the few middle class professionals from suburbs will NOT want an even less convenient solution.

  • On an off-topic, I just noticed there’s no park & ride avail for IndyGo except for the Fishers/Carmel tour-bus experiment.

    I live in the Geist area, and the nearest IndyGo stop is in Castleton. If they would be able to lease out a chunk of parking spaces in the mall dedicated to P&R, I would be more than happy to drive the few congested Castleton miles, park, and then ride downtown. Just venting.

    Anyways, back on topic.

    • Not likely. I seem to remember someone mentioning that Simon malls tried sueing IndyGo for “damaging pavement due to heavy buses on mall property.”
      I cannot imagine that relations are good between the two despite that fact that there is a TON of parking that is never used and it is even located close to the Castleton Mall IndyGo stop…
      Good idea though. I’d suggest sending an email to IndyGo about this.

  • Is it crazy to think about going underground?

    • No not really. Have you seen what Denver is doing? They dug a huge hole in the ground, put their bus terminal in the hole, and are constructing their new union station on top of all of it. Light rail. Commuter rail. Amtrak. etc… its not a stretch, but obviously, Denver has been at the rail game a lot longer than we have.

      • The Denver Plan was incredibly ambitious. I visited the site in October last year and was very impressed. They had to overcome a great deal of resistance from people who didn’t think it was a good use of the money. But once it is completed it will be a cornerstone of one of the best public transit systems in the country.
        I’d love to see something like that done here with an underground hub on the old market square site, a redesign of Alabama and New Jersey nearby and light rail from irvington to the airport and U of I to the fairgrounds instead of all the way to noblesville.

  • Denver was my first thought. I have been there several times and there underground system was in mind when I offered the suggestion. It also allows room for any kind of development above.

    • What about cutting a deal with OneAmerica to put a transit center underneath the southern end of their parking lot at Capitol / New York / Illinois? At the same time, convince them to build a parking garage above it with ground floor retail. Then they sell of all their surface lots for redevelopment.

      Boom. Make it happen Curt.

  • Seattle put bus tunnel/transfer station underground as well, and has adapted it to include light rail. Diesel buses wont run underground, but hybrids should, otherwise need electric powered buses for the underground portion.
    To help with the circulation of getting workers to their jobs from the transit station, downtown should be designated as a “Ride-Free” area which should entice ridership. If riders have to pay twice, its not likley. Again, see Seattle’s network.

  • I wonder about the block between the jail and the city-county building. It is bounded by Washington Street to the north, Delaware to the west, Alabama to the east, and Pearl to the south. It appears to only be a parking lot for the jail/city county building.

    It seems like you could take that space, make a reasonable size station, parking garage, and even a few shops. It’s just on the edge of a lot of good things, but starts the section of East Washington and Maryland streets that become barren. If we can make the garage in Broadripple work, I would think this spot could as well.

    If more space is needed, move the jail to the large parcel just east of the city county building and take this whole block for a transit multi-use facility.

  • There’s always the GM plant. It has the advantage of being right next to the IndyGo garage and the CSX rail line, near both Washington and the Interstate. If the city builds that spiffy new South Street bridge, it would have good circulation.

  • The block north of the jail is designated as a site for a to be determined future new courts building, but others want to hold it for a jail expansion.

  • In every other developed country in the world, the train station is colocated with the transit and bus stations. To do otherwise in Indy would be ridiculous. Union Station needs to be redeveloped as a intercity, interurban, intercity bus and transit center. Incidentally, Milwaukee did exactly what is proposed by this article. In 1991, they built a transit station where it was supposedly convenient for bus operations and near centers of employment. Nobody used it. It is now going to be abandoned and demolished. The new transit center will be moved to the intermodal station which includes Amtrak, intercity bus and soon, a downtown streetcar service. Indy already has Amtrak and Greyhound together. Include transit and improve connections where required.

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