If you are a reader of Urban Indy, then you are most likely a supporter of public transit improvements and thus, have more than likely kept up with the ongoing saga that has been building momentum in Central Indiana for the past two years. I am referring to Indy Connect, the regional plan to improve mass transit for Indianapolis and it’s surrounding counties. Hundreds of public and private meetings have set the state for the push. Thousands of signatures have been collected as well as nearly a hundred petitions (Urban Indy submitted one) in support of dedicated transit funding. HB1073 was the first real effort in the legislature to push for this and failed to move out of committee late last month in what can be chalked up as collateral damage in the right to work episode that has consumed this year’s short legislative session.
Last week, the transit task force published an op-ed in the Indianapolis’ Star indicating that time had run out to successfully lobby lawmakers to amend a bill with the transit language from HB1073.Â Senator David Long of Ft Wayne had indicated that he was not willing toÂ allow any current bill in the senate to be amended. Leadership in the House followed suit and as we have seen multiple times in the past, Central Indiana’s public transit efforts remain stuck in neutral. It was particularly stinging as Mr. Long told leaders of the task force that Indianapolis needs to go back and, “…talk about it some more.”
With that said, and a potential long wait ahead, what can we do? First, Indianapolis can lead by example. There are plenty of examples where the city can change zoning laws, reduce parking requirements and also take on local transit projects like the Downtown Indianapolis Streetcar Corportation’s starter route. These are some areas that the city could lead and show that we truly want good transit in the capital city and that we are willing to take bold steps to make it happen. Could zoning changes that trade automobile parking requirements for bicycling be put into place to encourage smaller amounts of parking at new developments?Â The city is already acting on behalf of cycling interests with it’s massive investment in bike lanes, trails and related infrastructure around the city. Cycling is closely tied to transit as a “last mile” alternative to getting people where they are going.
Improved stops for existing IndyGo routes would also goÂ long way towards creating sheltered spots for the existing riders. There are many places along the heavier travelled corridors that could benefit from covered shelters. In Fountain Square, and associate with the Cultural Trail, a new bus stop has debuted. The stop itself is so nicely built, that in and of itself, it creates a sense of place just by looking at it. Poetry and creative tinting of the glass make for a soothing atmosphere. Steel pipe and safety glass is not expensive so nice shelters like this could be erected around town. Perhaps a public-private partnership with some local fabrication shops could be undertaken to create more nice stops like this. Coupled with People for Urban Progress’ Bush Stadium seat re-use, a multitude of creative looking bus stops are available for marginal amounts of money.
Improvements such as this are small efforts that the city can make, with little funding changing hands, that could move the needle a little more towards building support for mass transit. Perhaps next time, we will not be as disappointed at the outcome if we do more locally, to raise the game. With the recent success of the Super Bowl and civic leaders now claiming that Indianapolis is a world class city, there is no time to waste on improving the state of public transit in our city.