Indygo Needs Funding

I may be done with riding the bus for a while.  This is a shocking statement from such an ardent supporter of transit, but please bear with me.

Yesterday was a perfect day for a bus ride to my daughter’s day care downtown, and then a 3 block walk to my workplace.   The mild weather forecast and lack of post-work plans meant that I had some wiggle room to add a reasonable amount of time to my commute.  Reasonable eventually turned into ridiculous on the trip back home, as we waited at the stop for 45 minutes before eventually boarding the less convenient Castleton-bound bus out of frustration that the College Avenue bus may never arrive.   It’s one thing to do this by myself, but I was out of food for my daughter, which led to frayed nerves.  She pulled through the occasion like a champ, but that can’t always be counted on.  I left work at 4:15, picked up Maddie at 4:30, and arrived home at 6 pm.  One hour and 45 minutes for a 7 mile commute is simply too much to take.

My blame for incidents such as this is not on the IndyGo drivers or even IndyGo itself.  Instead, it goes directly to the amount of funding that is dedicated to provide more buses.  Buses can always break down or get stuck in traffic, but with more buses on the streets, these delays would still be minimized.  In addition, IndyGo does not have a real time bus locator app for smart phones, and their twitter feed did not mention any issues with the 17 bus.

I want to be able to teach my daughter that there are ways to get around town that do not involve hopping in a car.  However, for this trip at least, a bicycle with a trailer could have gotten us home faster than IndyGo did.  When will our leaders step up to the plate to dedicate a reasonable amount of local funding for IndyGo?  Any mayoral candidate who can stand firm on this may just win my vote.

Comments 13

  • Perhaps you know the answer to this. I understand that transit in other cities – i.e. Chicago – have GPS devices on their busses, and a patron can access the bus location via an inexpensive cell phone, which almost anyone can afford. This tells you where and when the next bus arrives, and if you just missed it. I also have been told that IndyGo HAVE the GPS system sitting in boxes, but neither installed nor implemented. Although I have not used public transit in some time (nor could I to get to work) the problem with sitting at the bus stop wondering if you missed the bus or getting to the stop an hour early is very real. Do we have such a system? Where is it, and has it been implemented.?

    • Great question. This was answered by IndyGo via twitter a while back. Here is what they told me:

      “GPS data housed in proprietary database. Need to develop API and safe access point. We’re aware of Google’s new real-time offering, but not there yet. Still working on getting static info pushed to Google. Technology grant $ in the pike we hope will help with real-time info for passengers.”

  • The Indygo buses already are equipped with GPS. That’s how the system that calls out the names of the cross streets knows where the bus is. The garage has the ability to track the buses. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, they have not developed a public interface. This was promised but not delivered upon a couple of years ago. The best that can be done is to follow the Indygo twitter feed, which announces which buses are running seriously late.

    While I agree that a huge influx of funding/frequency would be ideal, real time GPS info would make the system much more user-friendly, and it’s frustrating that it hasn’t happened.

  • I still believe the true issue is land use policy, and I am beginning to convince myself more and more. It is well known that a majority of the riders on Indygo are not choice riders. The system is meant to transport people to low skill, low wage service jobs in the burbs, a decision made with sprawling cities and seperated zoning. The majority of traffic travels just the opposite direction. We are not working to effectively solve traffic issues, but are just providing a public service. It is desperately needed, yes, but it will never change with our land development policies, or lack therof, and current thinking. If we get money to improve Indygo, lets use it to improve transportation in general. When we think about transportation not as status, social well being, or environmentally friendly, but begin to think of transportation as simply……transportation. Moving people and goods from one place to another effectively and effeciently. The most effective transportation is a dense urban environment with high ability and promotion of walking. Such a simple task that requires little upkeep or public investment dollars. A dense city will allow people to walk. Cross town/grid framed bus service begins to be necessary and urban rail becomes a likely candidate. We don’t have silly arguements about parking meters or free surface parking, because it simply isn’t cost effective to provide parking. Biking will increase dramatically as short distance, quick routes become more and more common. When Curt posts his ‘MDHC Quick Hits’ we won’t hang our heads at the new surface lot proposed or the lack of structural engagement to the street, because it wouldn’t make sense not to for a developer financially.

    Giving Indygo money should be a priority, but we all know it will never solve the underlying issue. The Metro region is set up for a car. We spend billions to provide space for it and sacrifice quality of live to arrange communities for it. Until we actually adjust development to fall more in line with efficient transportation, I am afraid no system will work. Give Indygo more money now, and sustain them for another year. Set up a landuse policy encouraging proximity development and sustain mass transit for generations.

    • You won’t find an argument from me, I completely agree with you. However, the article I linked above mentioned other similar cities such as Charlotte and Columbus have much larger dedicated local funding than Indianapolis, and it would be considered progress if we would be able to reach their levels. So I think we need both more funding for transit and a better land-use policy. They do go hand-in-hand.

  • I live two blocks from the 19 as well and WANT to use it, but 1 hour overheads really kill it for me. A bike is much more schedule friendly.

  • Maybe we should hold a donation drive? Never hurts to give money to Indygo unless they blow it away and waste it like in Washington D.C

  • Indy needs more density to support more frequent bus trips, but better public transit can theoretically promote more density… It will be a long process. Nashville is successful due to a large amount of city funding and Chattanooga is successful due to a large amount of private funding. Both are facing the same issue as Indianapolis, but both have been combating the economics of bussing in low density for decades and are still struggling.

  • I needed to have the car serviced. I planned it for today because of the weather. I bicycled back from south of Smith Valley Rd to the Beech Grove area, about 7 miles, in around 40 minutes. Using the bus never entered the equation for me. They don’t go far enouh south and I desides would have to go all the way downtown to pick up another line to get within a mile or so of home.
    I hate to think how long that would have taken.

  • Maybe your bus decided to take a random detour like mine did yesterday and as it has done on several other occasions just within the last month.

    After going south on Massachusetts from 10th Street to College, the bus driver went north on College instead of continuing south on Mass to East Street. As we turned, there was no evidence that there was any obstruction on Mass Ave. Then it proceeded north past 10th Street (again, no reason it could not have turned left on 10th) and pulled over to the curb at 16th Street. At that time, one person went to the driver and asked to get off the bus and catch the College Avenue bus that was southbound. That prompted 10 other people to get off the bus and run across the street to catch, as I expected, the full College Avenue bus. At this point, I was considering getting off the bus or at least finding out why we embarked on a one-mile detour. However, almost immediately subsequent to half of the passengers leaving, the bus lurched into the left lane, turned onto 16th Street, traveled to East Street and turned left until we got back to the intersection of Mass Ave and East Street and continued the route. At no time did the bus driver announce the reason for the seemingly random rerouting of the bus. All I know is that I was 15 minutes late.

  • I’m starting to get more engaged and follow the whole transit issue. I live in Mid-town but work in Keystone Crossing and downtown. I take the 18 and 35, I think it is, occassionaly during bad weather or when I just have the extra time.

    I had a thought one day and wanted to pose this. It seems like so many of our routes connect all the way downtown to the northside and the occasional transfer may need to ocurr. What if IndyGo had a dedicated (Central City or Mid-town) transfer station. if people were waiting for the connection at one of these facilities (instead of a bus stop) when IndyGo realizes one bus is way behind schedule, they can get the transfer, or any route, back on track by just releasing another bus to try to save some of the lost time. yes this would mean an extra bus on that route for a rotation or two, but I feel more “floater” buses need to be made available to help pick up sometimes a 45 minute delay between transfers when they should be shorter. I thought maybe a mid-town location could serve this instead of the “MAJOR” stops in downtown that have 5-6 connections.

    I’ve also noticed (driving up Meridian from downtown) between 65 overpass and all the way to 38th. Stopped at a light I can see maybe 6 bus stop stops in a row. Do we REALLY need a stop at EVERY intersection or cross roads. Yes, people argue ‘well handicapped persons and it needs to be accessible’. I agree, but leave the stops where there is a known diasabled person using it. But others, if I can see 6 at a stoplight – that means they are close enough to walk one more block. This I can see provide more efficiency of maybe not having to stop at every street to pick one person up. Eliminate everyother stop in these smaller blocks and have less impact on traffic, stops less, and can eliminate potential to lose minutes at every single road.

    Just initial thoughts from a policy and efficiency geek still studying the transit models and world.

    • Your suggestion seems like a variant of the hub and spoke approach. I’m still not sure why we haven’t looked at taking that route. Hub in Brip/Meridian Kessler, hub on the east side/Irvington, etc. Then use the double-length buses to take those hubs downtown. Just another problem with IndyGo.

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