Residents of Indianapolis, I have a simple question to ask that is rooted in some deep philosophical debates.
What kind of city do you want to live in? Is it the type of city where you get in your car to go get everything? Is it the type of city where you can walk out your front door, and walk across the entire city on foot without ever walking along a street and fearing a car mowing you down because there isn’t a sidewalk? Do you want light rail or would youÂ prefer the bus system to go away completely? Do you value diversity of quality food choice inside the 465 loop vs outside?
These are the types of questions that ultimatley shape how transportation policy is written. By extension, it is another way of asking, “Would you pay an extra tax for additional transportation options?” Right now, our 25 year transportation plan is budgetted at $9 billion dollars. The vast majority of that budget is dedicated to roadway expansion, new roadways and maintenance of those roadways. Very little of it is dedicated to things such as operating funds for buses let alone improving or expandingÂ the current state of system.
I really began to think about this question in depth when a co-worker of mine returned from a recent business trip to Hungary with a bunch of photos. I have included two of them from Budapest and they show a vibrant street life. They also indicate that this European city hasÂ figured it outÂ when it comes to transportation. Note the bike track in the foreground of one picture and the tram running in the median of a busy automobile street in the other. It is also difficult to miss the classical architecture pretty much EVERYWHERE. Granted, Budapest is much older than Indianapolis, but it still demonstrates how vanilla today’s architectural offerings really are.
Sometimes I walk around Indy and I feel like we are beginning to see some change. Projects like the Cultural Trail, Georgia Street, bike lanes and such tell me that some change is coming our way. Then there are other times when I drive on a busy 3 lane street where all the lanes are headed in one direction, The Di Rimini and other crumby architectural plots.
Is this what we want for another generation or are we, as a collective urban citizenry, going to be able to affect change for the future sustainability of our city?