Indy a World Class City? Not without good rapid transit

What about this picture motivates lawmakers want to create more of it?
What about this picture motivates lawmakers want to create more of it?

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. Senator David Long of Ft Wayne had indicated that he was not willing to 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.”

Shelby Street Bike Track nearing completion (image credit: Curt Ailes)
Shelby Street Bike Track nearing completion (image credit: Curt Ailes)

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? 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.

Fountain Square Bus Shelter on Cultural Trail (image credit: Curt Ailes)
Fountain Square Bus Shelter on Cultural Trail (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Improved stops for existing IndyGo routes would also go  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.

Fountain Square Bus Shelter on Cultural Trail (image credit: Curt Ailes)
Fountain Square Bus Shelter on Cultural Trail (image credit: Curt Ailes)

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.

Comments 51

  • Curt, some stray thoughts.

    I’ve noticed that the white Bike Lane stripes along quite a bit of Madison Ave have already worn (or been scraped) off. The Madison Avenue bike lanes were already a problem (as they seem to come and go near many intersections), but the loss of the stripes just makes them flat out dangerous.

    For the rest, it continues to be my opinion that holding fixed rail up as if it is the only “real” transit solution will get proponents nowhere until gas goes above $8.00 a gallon (and perhaps higher). Indianapolis isn’t dense enough (population-wise), and is most certainly resistant to any lowering of convenience provided by just jumping into a car.

    Deleting parking before a replacement is accepted by the general public will lose you the whole nine yards in the court of public opinion. Bad enough that traffic lanes have been deleted for bike lanes that go lightly used (at best) in some higher traffic locales (like Broad Ripple).

    Instead, somebody ought to float the concept of completely closing some non-arterials to motorized vehicles for dedicated bikeways in certain areas (Broad Ripple, Butler, U of I). Painful for property owners in the short run, but in the long run a better solution for riders and drivers than sharing the roads. Just a single success would provide a better foundation to build on than what is available now.

  • Kurt, you don’t need to completely close non-arterials to get the desired effect for bikeways. What we need is a stop-as-yield law for cyclists coupled with non-arterials that have very low speed limits (20-25mph) and lots of stop signs. Oh, and police ENFORCEMENT of traffic laws, especially against cars running stop signs.

  • Because we all know how these discussions turn out, let’s not turn this into a bike ways and bike lanes arguement. This post is about simple improvements to benefit transit planning. There are many items, as Curt points out, that we as a city can do without waiting around for state lawmakers to quit being politicians. Indy continues to increase its branding. Perhaps a scattering of unique and artist inspired bus stops could be our signature for now.

  • I agree that the city can do small steps to jump start the process. I would add another small step in that direction (and I know this will be controversial for many, but we are just brainstorming here) — close BR Ave for vehicle traffic (other than smaller supply trucks) between College and Guilford. That would allow bars/restaurants to add patio seating, possible outdoor cafes, etc….In the long run if the Canal promenade ever becomes a reality, you would end up with a fairly large pedestrian friendly area which with good programming can become even more attractive all day destination.
    Of course, this would create some traffic headaches — Westfield traffic could only continue on Westfield going west (instead of BR avenue), which can get pretty congested, etc. But this is where I philosophically disagree with most residents in Indy since I have a somewhat Machiavellian thinking on this issue (i.e. the end justifies the means) — I think it’s ok to make it less convenient for car traffic in order to get better public transit and more pedestrian friendly city.

  • True Paul, but I do think that something beyond such a step as you suggest is best for the long term.

    JP, I agree that there should be some radical adjustments on a micro scale, and Broad Ripple might surely be a good test bed. How did traffic survive during SuperBowl? How many people came to Broad Ripple, or didn’t come, during the traffic restrictions?

    • According to a Star article, Broad Ripple didn’t get much of a boost despite being a designated Super Celebration area and having live music performed in a (tented?) area. Someone from the BRVA is even quoted as saying “I’m glad it’s over”.


      Transit advocates need to start small. Yes, I know, I know, Indy Connect’s plan includes a LOT of funds for bus and even includes funds for roads and highways. But reading this blog, you’d never know it, because transit proponents highlight it the most.

      The focus needs to be on the bus system, and more specifically, Marion County’s bus system. That’s the place with the residents who are most likely to benefit from any type of expanded public transit.

      If Marion County can serve as a model, and can show that there is a demand for other forms of transit, it’d be a much easier sell to the legislature.

      • I don’t think the turn out was as large as expected, but my guess would be more than usual. I think a lot of people naturally decided to go downtown. I am not sure if that really tells us anything about its potential as a destination (I mean it already is one of the most visited pedestrian friendly destinations in our city). The traffic seemed to be ok (people adapt).
        But back to Curt’s main point – I would love to see our city do bunch of small steps in the right direction. If we lead, others (state/region) will eventually follow. It kind of goes hand in hand, we still need to make our city more pedestrian friendly to get the most out of Indy Connect (when passed). Even with the increased bus/bike funding, you still need “destinations”, better bus stations, improved zoning, changes in parking requirements, etc. to get more bang for the buck.

      • “The focus needs to be on the bus system, and more specifically, Marion County’s bus system. That’s the place with the residents who are most likely to benefit from any type of expanded public transit.”
        The problem I see with this is that cars are just too easy in this city. I have a bus that goes by my house regularly on Virginia Ave. I have never once used it because it is about 1000x easier to hop in my car if it is >2 miles or hop on my bike if <2 miles.
        When I lived in Chicago and Seattle, I regularly used the buses because they went everywhere and came often, but the biggest reason was that getting my car out was just a hassle. Lots of traffic, horrible parking. The catering to the car HAS to stop. It is a social subsidy that is hurts the poor and working class.

  • Indianapolis needs to have an urban appeal as well as an event hosting one. I would say the majority of people in Indianapolis do not fully understand how big of an appeal transit brings to neighborhoods and urban cores. As a college student I know that transit is one of the most impressionable components a city can offer. I have to New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Montreal, Boston, and Toronto within this year alone. What I notice is the transit system is very very impacting on our view of the city. I believe Broadripple, Fountain Square, and obviously downtown could support rail line connection. Maybe even ready for a broader scale. Broad Ripple is very vibrant. I don’t think the potential of that are should be under estimated. My friends from all areas of the nation visited with me and still comment on the great atmosphere they experienced.

  • Good discussion, as always. I especially like the push for “brainstorming” although I can’t imagine how East-West traffic would be handled without Broad Ripple Avenue — there being nothing else from Kessler to 86th that gets you from Meridian to Keystone.

    While we discuss buses vs. fixed-rail transportation and the density equation, we sometimes forget the in-between model that much of Indianapolis already — trolleys — that were largely self-sufficient, allowed for multiple stops (or not), and usually didn’t even have a “station.” As I think has been noted here before, they were removed in the mid-1950s because GM offered the city a great deal on a fleet of buses that promised versatility. The problem with “versatility” is that, on its face, it is not permanent. One can’t trust that the particular line will be around next year. We certainly see that with IndyGo with each year’s revisions. While the trolleys of the first part of the century weren’t always attractive due to the overhead electrical cables, something like it could certainly be tried again. The difficulty, as with buses, is the stop and start nature of a non-dedicated lane as well as traffic lights. Frankly, I’d rather give up a lane on a busy street for a trolley that would be widely used than a bike lane used by too few due to safety concerns.

    Sorry for the ramble.

  • Well, I like the bus shelter pic. However, it does cross the mind that Indy does not like bus shelters and didn’t express much interest until a “higher class” group got interested. Poor folks can stand in the rain, apparently. And, as mentioned before, putting a GPS system on each bus with a phone number that gives you the location (as other cities do, and as The Urbanophile mention some years ago) strikes me as the quickest and cheapest transit improvement possible. Low capital costs, and minimal operating costs. Plus, I keep hearing that INDYGO have such a system sitting in boxes, getting older. Volunteer install by ham radio operators? Just FWIW.

  • Urbanophile some time back IIRC said Chicago public transit had the GPS – Public transit interface working and could probably be convinced to add our IndyGo to their system for very modest cost, as in Indy folks calling a 1-888 number for a 1 minute call on a cheap cell phone and reaching CTS who feed us the important data i.e. did I miss the bus?.

  • As stated, just because the State Legislature failed us (again), there are plenty of opportunities for Indy to get something going. I see no reason why Lilly, IU Health (Clarion) and Welpoint can’t partner and figure out a way to privately fund an extension of the People Mover. It doens’t have to be an extension of the system in its current monorail form, but a streetcar line along Ohio, Michigan, Penn, Senate Ave, etc could easily be accomplished. If we are able to rip up traffic lines for the Cultural Trail, I see no reason why we can’t get a road share system for a street car line linking IUPUI, downtown and Methodist!

    I love the idea of reducing parking req’s. Let’s be honest, our req’s are excessive anyway you cut it. Further, we need to reduce set-back req’s along major thoroughfares to incourage more pedestrian-oriented development – not just in the Regional Center, but in all neighborhood commercial nodes.

    It’s frustrating to read that Cincinnati is breaking ground on it’s streetcar system. That is a City that used to dominate our region – until Central Indiana was able to steal a lot of it’s thunder. Indy better watch out or Cincinnati will once again be the primary metro area in the region.

  • I had no idea about the Cincinnati streetcars. I admit to not being as up on this as much as I should. I do know the need, however. Frustrating? Embarrassing.

  • The Cincinnati streetcar project has not been without opposition, but the only opposition that has come from the state, particularly the governor, has been the elimination of a large chunk of funding. Despite this, there has been enough local support from the all-Democrat City Council that ground breaking has been scheduled for Friday. For Indy, why does a senator from Fort Wayne or any other non-Indianapolis jurisdiction have a say in Indianpolis having a streetcar? Indiana Legislators and Mitch Daniels need to realize that state government does not need to have its hand in everything local governments want to do. A streetcar in downtown Indianapolis is not a statewide issue and is obviously going to fail when you have someone from Ft. Wayne who has probably never been on a bus, streetcar, or subway voting for it.

  • I have had a proposal floating around for 2 years in re expanding the People Mover to IVY TECH (linking cheap college courses to IUPUI students) and then possibly (too late now) to Winona if it had been converted to nursing Home, Elderly Apartments, etc. as proposed by a Denver firm in IBJ about 2 years ago. This would be along to proposed Life Sciences Corridor and near many apartments that are as high density as we usually get in Indy. Everybody we talked to seemed to like it but it was too cheap, simple, and useful to make big $$$ for the folks that want space ships to Noblesville as a starter.After all, the Chinese still have more $$ to lend out and we are not broke (quite) yet. Indianapolis won’t be a big time city until we are big time bankrupt. Total cost probably cheaper than Neu Georgia Strasse.

  • “Indiana Legislators and Mitch Daniels need to realize that state government does not need to have its hand in everything local governments want to do”

    The problem with this is local inability to control spending. When one is a 30-50 something mayor or city-county councilor, it is much easier to pull out the credit card and go to town. This is especially true if one is running for re-election or higher office. The entire property tax debacle was a prime example of locals spending wild: K-12 (mostly IPS territory), police, fire, etc.. All of these things seem to get bigger and bigger as a city gets larger and larger. Unfortunately the growth isn’t uniform, and when things need to be cut, no one wants to cut and be the bad guy. Like it or not, a lot of counties in the entire state bailed out Marion County. For sale signs went up overnight when upper income and rich folks in Butler-Tarkington/Meridian-Kessler got their property tax bills a while back.

    Home rule for some things doesn’t bother me. I don’t think Indy is alone in this. We have a lot of spending on things by the public sector that should be left to the private sector, and who knows where this ends up. It is very easy not to care if you are a politician, especially if your kids are open to up and moving. Central Indiana has another problem which is no real physical boundaries to basically “trap” the money. If people in Marion County vote for higher and higher property taxes, people will move. What people need to realize is that if you have a large % of lower income people, they don’t feel the brunt of the taxation. $10,000+ property tax bills on $400K homes in some neighborhoods is crazy.

    I can see the state wanting some control. Who do you think the city will go to in 20, 30, or 40 years if the economy worsens, the tax payers move away, and the city is on the hook for huge police, fire, transit, etc. pensions? They always try to get the state to give some sort of bailout. They already got a regional tax bailout with Lucas Oil and the expanded convention center. The original Indy Transit plan was really just another regional tax bailout. The entire goal is to “trap” the tax base, but unfortunately with the original Indy Connect Plan, a huge % of the population really saw nothing in return.

    • A state “bailout”?
      More like payment in lieu of taxes. The state and its institutions own a staggering amount of untaxed land and buildings inside the IPS school district (also the old police/fire service districts). So do statewide nonprofits, regional non-profit hospitals, and the like, which serve the whole region or state. Old city taxpayers paid for two police forces for decades (IPD and MCSD) because the legislature didn’t require merger in the Unigov legislation.
      Indy property taxes were high because too much isn’t in the base, not because of wld and crazy overspending. Would love to see legislators’ faces if Marion County sent them a huge bill for back property taxes on the Capitol complex, other state offices, IUPUI, Ivy Tech, Deaf School, Blind School, Fairgrounds, old Women’s Prison, Stout Field, INDOT and State Police facilities.
      Bailout? Bailout? Don’t talk to me about “bailout”!!! (Apologies to Jim Mora Sr.)

      • The state provides their own police force for their property. IUPUI provides their own police force for their property. IUPUI also, at least in the past, pays IFD $100K flat fee for coverage. Deaf school and blind school also have their own police agency. Same for IPS and most of the township schools. How many people work at those facilities and live in Marion Count and thus pay income taxes? Do you think Indy would be in worse or better shape if half of the property of the above was spread all over the state? What if half the hospitals were located just outside the county line?

        This is an argument folks make on a constant basis, yet most of the property they complain about either supplies their own police or security. Yes, some of the non-police protected entities may have to use IMPD, but again, what is the usage rate when you factor in enough taxpayer subsidized apartment complexes (via voucher) that hold the same amount of people? Example, say Methodist hospital is 3,000 people during the day (I have no idea if this is even a close number), now take enough lower income areas that have 3,000 and compare runs for service for IFD and IMPD. Who is using the most and are they paying their fair share?

        • Indy’ facilities and infrastructure and services are scaled to serve tens of thousands of job-holders the folks commuting into the county . This includes many employees of all those state-related institutions and regional med centers. They drive to work on streets paid for by county residents. If they have a wreck or a medical emergency, our services take care of them. When they flush the toilet, our sewers and treatment plants handle the waste. When it snows, our plows and salt clear the way. The subsidy we provide goes far beyond tax-free land. They hit both sides of the ledger, cost and income
          No, it is not wild-eyed overspending that causes Indianapolis to charge higher taxes than its suburbs.
          Nor is it welfare or overspending to provide public transportation infrastructure that is something other than roads, streets, and highways. (They don’t “pay for themselves” either.) All are part of a reasonable portfolio of public goods in a large “regional center” city, especially when there are large numbers of lower-income household that don’t own cars and jobs at the bottom of the ladder that don’t pay a wage tht would support car ownership.

        • Let’s not forget that Indy is a donor city when it comes to taxes, especially transportation. What we dish out gets spread across the state to communities that have their roads subsidized. In return, we get to try and provide roads for a mass of population commuting in and out from DT everyday. These people just happen to live in many of the communities that see the benefit from our tax dollars. Imagine if Indy was able to retain all of their transportation dollars and use the new “surplus” to fund transit improvements or even our backlog of infrastructure problems instead of mortgaging the future.

  • I have a question/thought that I continually think about. Does anyone think that there is a need or want for a public bike sharing program here? I think it could work downtown/IUPUI especially. Everyone needs to make short trips to the grocery etc. A lot of people don’t have cars, and don’t want to wait for the bus. It can be done cheap. Thoughts?

  • remember that much of the tax free property is in Marion County but especially in Center Township, the traditionally minority township that loses taxable base but gains luxury suites and job opportunities as parking attendants and chambermaids.

  • PER Matt Stones post: The focus needs to be on the bus system, and more specifically, Marion County’s bus system. That’s the place with the residents who are most likely to benefit from any type of expanded public transit.

    If Marion County can serve as a model, and can show that there is a demand for other forms of transit, it’d be a much easier sell to the legislature.

    Couldn’t have put better Matt! Lets fix the buses first! More stops (1 every 20 minutes would be a good start) and more routes in the inner city. If the legislator doesn’t jump on board then the Marion County city council should step in.

    Please keep Indy Go and light rail legislation separate. One of the arguments for light rail is we spend large amounts of money funding the highway systems and roads into Indianapolis. The problem with light rail is it won’t lighten the load on the roads to any extent that spending will decrease on upkeep of the roads. Thus it’s another tax for a white elephant that will never be able to support itself through ridership revenue. At least the roads are used 24 hours a day and support a vast array of commerce. This being Indianapolis the only good reason for light rail is 4 hours a day five days a week during rush hour. That averages out to under 1000 hours a year (throw in holidays that lighten the traffic load downtown and probably under 1000 hours. Getting out my calculator that averages out to 41 24 hour days out of 356 days a year that only a small portion (Hamilton County would get the best benefits) of the population would benefit.

    Better yet lets revisit light rail in 5 to 10 years down the road. Makes absolutely no financial sense in this present economy.

    • Did anyone even read the IndyConnect proposal? It WAS primarily a bus plan. It would have more than doubled bus service and added express bus routes, etc. The plan was to fix and expand the Marion County bus system first, and then add light rail in later years.

      I am not quite sure what all the piping up is about with respect to improving bus service? The legislation that did not make it out of the General Assembly would have provided a mechanism for greatly improving bus service in Marion County. While there are some cheap improvements that can be implemented to improve existing bus service in Marion County, any substantial expansion/improvements will necessitate a heavy investment of public funds and there has to be a new tax revenue stream to generate these funds.

      IndyGo is going to remain a crappy system, until it gets additional money allocated toward it, and that will never happen without some form of a new tax.

      • The Indy Connect plans was partially a bus plan, partially a light rail plan. This is another example of playing with numbers. You see massive numbers of buses and people proclaim “See, its a bus plan.” The problem was that when you look at the expenditures, half the desired tax income would be spent on a very small % of the plan, the light rail portion. We can proclaim this is a bus plan all we want, but the fact is, given the numbers, Indy Connect could have easily asked for half the requested tax amount and still had enough money for the bus portion of the plan.

        Indy Connect needs to offer two referendum questions. One for expanded bus service, one for light rail service. My guess is that bus service would pass by a large majority, but they know they would lose on the rail question, which is why I doubt this suggestion will never happen.

        • We can debate whether or not the revised Indy Connect plan was a bus plan or a rail plan or a combo plan. We can also debate whether or not voters would have overwhelming approved a bus only plan while rejecting a light rail only plan. I do not think we would come to an agreement.

          However, you are ignoring the fact that the state legislators in the General Assembly, and specifically the conservative Republican legislators (and I am not trying to insult anyone, but just pointing out the facts), were philosophically opposed to any referendum on taxes being allowed to pass because they viewed simply passing legislation to allow a referendum on a tax increase to be equivalent to voting for a tax increase.

          So, it matters little what you think a large majority of people would have voted for if given the chance to vote because the current majority party members of the General Assembly are dead set against giving voters the right to vote in the first place.

          IndyGo will remain what it is, until and if, Marion County is allowed to raise additional revenue to properly fund it. Property tax caps and the current restrictions and prior appropriations of funds from the local county income tax ensure that there will never be enough money for any significant investment in Indy Go, so until there is a new funding mechanism in place, it will remain a third-rate system. I recall how 25 years ago how the local media, local elected officials and residents of Indianapolis talked about the need for better mass transit in the city, and I also recall the details of various mass transit plan proposals that were never implemented. Unless, there is a grassroots coalition put in place and concerted effort to engage in lobbying of the General Assembly, another 25 years will pass without any significant improvements to public transit in Indianapolis.

  • I put together a rally of sorts. Tonight! At the statehouse. To rally for mass transit.

  • Phil you are absolutely right. Bus service for those who need it should be job no.1. Its also the cheapest improvement and might attract new riders if it was really usable. Many people do not realize the economic cost of riding the bus and how it cripples you financially. A more useful system would enrich $$$ the folks that have to use it.
    When I was a child in a previous century many things were done downtown ….doctors, dentists, banks, Woolworths, office jobs, Sears, etc. The Noblesville line is to permit people to once again shop downtown at L.S. Ayres and get their glasses made in an elderly high rise before banking at AFNB and going to the big library. I suspect this rarely happens lately.

    • Huh? Indianapolis has one of the most successful downtowns in the Midwest (and one of the most successful in the country). Many people work downtown and visit downtown for dinner and entertainment, etc. No one would go downtown just to buy glasses, etc. There are numerous parking garages/lots downtown that are regularly full because visitors going downtown currently there, so it is both misleading and absurd to claim that a light rail that happened to run through downtown (and also several other work and residential centers along the way) would only serve as some attempt to resurrect some long lost way of life.

      That said, what I see some posters continuing to ignore is the fact that the IndyConnect proposal was first and foremost a BUS plan, it would have provided substantial funding for an improved and expanded bus system in Marion County and it would have done this FIRST before any construction of a light rail line. IndyGo is not going to get more funding, and thus, it will not get any better, until a new funding mechanism for it is put in place. There will never be legislative support for a new transit tax, etc., unless other counties can participate in it, and other counties are not going to help support funding buses in Marion County, unless they get something out of the deal–and for them that means some form of commuter/light rail.

      • I framed it this way in a post a couple months back.
        We (Urban Indy) knew then that this was a BUS plan. A single commuter/light rail line does not make it a LIGHT RAIL plan. I personally feel that it should have been a rail plan but thats here nor there. Indy Connect would have made a nice bus operating system a reality and built support for changes later, as public sentiment in support of transit built. As you have pointed out though, our legislature is leary of acting on behalf of the capital city. This is even more frustrating when they are the ones that stand in the way of locals such as ourselves creating a change. It’s a self defeating cycle that will only fix itself when the state gets out of the way.

  • The framing of the question takes at least two perhaps very different approaches:

    1. Increase mass transit ridership; and/or
    2. Make bus transit more convenient and accessible to those without other modes of transport.

    It is a possible outcome that some people who don’t have to take the bus will begin to do so if new routes are nearby and go where people want to go, wait times are minimal, and buses run on time.

    But I don’t think that the approach will draw in all that many of the “don’t haftas.” Routes can’t be counted on as they change each year, some “stations” are unpleasant (due to weather, seating, or threatening youths), and buses still have to deal with the street construction and stop lights that cars do, making the travel time unpredictable. Besides, the buses themselves generally feature seats intended for junior high school pupils and don’t lure new people with creature comforts. They are basic — but not exactly alluring. Expanding this basic form of bus transportation will certainly help out the crowd who NEEDS to use the bus, but it will do very little to encourage the “middle citizen.” What would? I’m not sure but dedicated lanes without lights, more comfortable seating, wi-fi, a “fun” style of bus or trolley….all that would start to make bus transit more interesting to the guy who likes his car.

    • I should mention that my reference to “threatening youths” comes from personal observation of several fistfights, untoward references, and shouting towards other passengers — chiefly at all of the Downtown stations.

  • In the recent article in IBJ (if you have subscription, here is the link ( ) they talk about the recent goal of city’s leadership to erase surface parking lots in downtown Indy. This is a move in the right direction. However, they are not going as far as changing parking requirements or changing property tax system (which gave incentives to a lot of property owners to tear down the old buildings and use the land for surface parking since land is often assessed at well below market value for tax purposes).

  • Chris:
    of course people don’t go downtown for glasses, banks, etc. any more. That’s the point. There is very little to go downtown for. And the old days of masses of office workers, shoppers, etc. going downtown HAS GONE. Only a small number of people – mostly wealthier ones – entertain there, and entertainment is not a sustainable operation. You go to Wal Mart in Fishers, Nordstroms in Castleton, the bank on th corner or the internet. I-465 is loaded w/office buildings scattered around the loop. These are the children of people who used to work in downtown office buildings. I am sure a few people frequent St. Elmo Steakhouse, etc. as a few go to Chicago or Paris often. This is not a transit sustainable model, however. To have a strong downtown you need daily reasons to visit for average people, and a usable and affordable transit system.
    As far as the mass transit system being primarily a bus system, the articles I see seem to stress light rail to Noblesville, an extremely expensive proposition, and not the relatively cheap implementation of extended bus hours and routes, safe, clean, and GPS enabled with a few new bus stops.

    • In some respects, J. England is correct. There is very little that is unique in the way of shopping or banking that can’t be found elsewhere in town. Two thoughts, however:

      As someone who works on the Circle each day, however, there are far more office workers working Downtown (1 mile in each direction from the Circle) now than there were back in the “heyday” pre-60s. The difference is that the population is larger and office buildings along 465 add to that. Of course, Downtown has add a few sizable buildings and towers as well in the past 30 years.

      The number of people who live Downtown must also now be close, if not more, than the number that lived there then as well. (That’s a stat I don’t have handy.)

    • J, when was the last time you came downtown? From your comments it sounds like you haven’t been there since the early 80s.
      As someone who lives a mile from the circle, almost all your assertions are off base. You can buy glasses at Ossip, on the Circle (that’s where I go). Entertainment has nothing to do with wealth as we went to the Happy Hour at the Symphony for $20 last year, WRSP has shows about once a week in the summer, and there are concerts in FS at Radio Radio for cheap. It is simple to get around on the Cultural Trail. There are no less than 5 breweries within 1.5 miles of the Circle. Food trucks are scattered around at most times the day. Colts, Pacers, Indians all right downtown. If you can’t find something you want to do downtown, you are not looking very hard.

  • While shopping may not be as much of a downtown destination trip, a significant percentage of our performing arts facilities and cultural attractions are still located here along with our major sporting venues. Add to that the growing and increasingly residential IUPUI campus, and you have a community fare more vibrant than what I believe j.england is describing.

  • I hate to harp on this subject, but safety at certain bus stops is really tenuous. I’ve mentioned before that I occasionally take the 18 and, being middle-aged, have watched fistfights and been threatened. My nephew just witnessed a fight at the Ohio Street stop — serious enough for the police to be called. A simple volunteer corps of Guardian Angel types at certain stops would go a long way in keeping the peace and encouraging others to use the bus. One can spend millions, but if someone feels uncomfortable it just won’t work.

  • While I don’t doubt your statements, I have yet to feel uncomfortable at a bus stop and have used many in several locations including DT. I have seen police at the Ohio transfer stops before, but nothing personal towards me. I don’t think we should encourage groups like the “Guardian Angels”. I know for a fact that some of their members have the wrong intentions…………..It seems if more poeple were using the system, the watching effect would occur. Fights happen everywhere including in cars on streets.

  • The majority of the people screaming for this unnecessary, and unsustainable government entity, are the people who won’t be paying for it…

    • The reason I believe why many people believe this is unnecessary is because they haven’t been shown the facts. If Indy Connect and the Metropolitan Planning Organization want to get the majority of voters on board with this idea of mass transit, then they have to show people the facts. First, Downtown Indy Inc. can’t just say ‘there are many employers who would like to come here but when they see the lack of mass transit, they back out’. While I believe them, many don’t. Therefore, we need to see a list of employers who have decided not to bring their company to Indianapolis. If the mayor of Noblesville is claiming potential employers keep asking about the level of public transportation, he needs to compile a list, and show it to the people. Show us what we’re missing out on. Second, Indy Connect should provide a succinct report of small, low density cities that have expanded transit and the benefits that have come from it. By benefit I mean the amount of return per dollar invested on transit through the subsequent transit oriented development. People need to see how for every $1 invested into mass transit here in Indianapolis, there can be a return of at least $5 or more (give or take). People here continuously ask “why hasn’t development spurred along the bus lines?” Therefore Indy Connect needs to show people a report of some sort that shows that bus lines don’t spur development due to their ability to be easily moved (i.e. #4, which didn’t always go through 38th street). Studies have been done that shows how BRT and light rail provide a sense of permanence to investors, hence why those options spur more development. I think once people can see evidence, they will be on board. I’m already on board, but then again, I do my own research.

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