What Cleveland could learn from Indy

Thursday, a post on Rust Wire written by Streetsblog‘s Angie Schmitt, really made some waves across the twitter and blogosphere today. In the post, Angie detailed how a regional planning official basically laughed off what she had to say about their aims as an organization and paid little heed to the Rust Wire’s criticisms; albeit as true as they are.

Cleveland BRT at Station (image credit: Graeme Sharpe)
Cleveland BRT at Station (image credit: Graeme Sharpe)

To be sure, Cleveland is a city experiencing it’s share of sprawl related issues. They have rail transit and a world class BRT (bus rapid transit) line called The Health Line. One would think that these forward thinking infrastructure projects would indicate a region propelling forward through the ranks of sustainable and livable cities. That is not however, the case.

The paradigm really struck me as one personally invested in Indianapolis’ efforts to move transit forward. Indianapolis gets a tremendous amount of national coverage for it’s compact and walkable downtown. We are listed often as a place to visit for weekend destinations and we even have a budding bicycle culture that gets some attention at the national level. I generally feel that Indy is headed in the right direction despite a lot of criticism offered here at Urban Indy.

Taking this a step further, a couple years back Ehren Bingaman, Executive Director of CIRTA, reached out to Urban Indy and proposed a blogger forum. This first meeting was held at my house. Two fellow Urban Indy bloggers joined Ehren and I where we drank local beer and my wife cooked some delicious food and we talked about the coming release of the Indy Connect proposal. Since then, we have had a number of these. So many in fact, that I have lost count of the number. We have added other regional planning officials to the meetings and we have had dinner at other people’s homes as well.

While we aren’t sitting around crafting policy or transit plans while intoxicated on local beer, what we ARE doing is forging productive cooperation between regional planning officials and bloggers. Whatever it was that Ehren sought to start, it has resulted in first name basis dialogue that I’d like to think has benefited all involved. For my part, I certainly feel like I’ve contributed more than the average citizen.

Hopefully in the coming years, Indianapolis can be counted among cities with rail transit and a world class BRT system right along side Cleveland. Hopefully, Cleveland can be counted along Indianapolis as a region willing to listen to it’s dedicated and positive thinking citizen-base and take advantage of their educated and much needed perspective.

Comments 9

  • Actually, access to people in positions of authority is one of the key selling points of Indy. I’m pretty sure if any serious person wanted to meet and chat with almost anybody, it would be possible.

    • I have found this to be absolutely true. For example, Doug Day is a friend of mine who grew up here, moved away, and moved back home a few years ago. He calls himself “a neighborhood shmoe.” He got started in civic activism during the neighborhood fight over preserving the Old St. Vincent Hospital at Illinois & Fall Creek. He helped with the Mid North QOL plan from the start.
      Since then, he has gotten himself in front of a lot of people in authority (with money to spend) as champion of a set of ideas from the Mid-North plan now known as “Destination Fall Creek”. He has pulled together an array of area residents and leaders and is focused on what we can do TODAY, not someday.
      Like Curt and his Urban Indy associates, a highly motivated person can raise a team and do a lot in Indy.

  • I think the lesson is that if Cleveland and other rust belt cities can build transit and BRT, then Indianapolis should have no excuse. But no matter how well-run Indianapolis and the region is, the state is always going to be there to block transit progress because it doesn’t align with supposed conservative values (how spending money on a car payment, insurance, gas, and maintenance is conservative I’ll never know).

  • It sounds like your planners in Indy are relatively humble and enlightened people. I’m not sure it would help a whole lot for me to meet with Steve Hambley. I had a meeting with Howard Maier, who runs NOACA, about this stuff. It was a total waste of time.

    It ended with him telling me NOACA would do a better job, if people would just bring them better projects. I was floored. Like, it’s your job as the MPO to let people know what your expectations are for the projects. Otherwise, you might as well not exist. And yeah, that was it.

    He also said he does not often meet with young women like me, because that would look funny. Ugh!

  • “a highly motivated person can raise a team and do a lot in Indy”

    Bingo. That’s what makes the city a great canvas for people who have an idea and some entrepreneurial instincts.

    As good as many things are here in Indy, we still have so many opportunities waiting for someone’s passion to pursue them.

    For better and worse, a lot of Indy folks don’t get to other cities to see alternative ways of being in action. Those of us who travel a lot have first-hand experience in the way things could be (and often, should be).

  • What is the obsession on rail? Why can’t we take the money from rail and have a massive, all inclusive bus system?

  • I would not say that there is an “obession on rail” in Indy. The IndyConnect regional multi-modal transportation plan proposes improvements of all modes. Along with adding, expanding and upgrading a good number of roadways in the region, a large amount of the transit improvement plan focuses on improving bus services. It increases the number of buses and bus routes – improving bus frequency along with extending the number of hours when buses are available. It also adds some cross town bus routes, adds some express bus services from the suburbs into the central city and some “Bus Rapid Transit” buses on a few of the busiest transit corridors in the region. It does propose putting commuter rail on the existing NE corridor rail line to connect people to jobs and other travel needs in the corridor between downtown, through the near NE side, near the State Fairgrounds, along the Binford Rd corridor, past Castleton and up through Fishers and Noblesville near SR 37. Another commuter rail corridor is also being considered that would run south – from downtown towards UIndy, Southport, Greenwood and Franklin.

    Improvements to bikewaysm, greenways and bike lanes are also part of the plan. Light rail may occur in some areas where Bus Rapid Transit proves to be very successful. Again — rail is part of the long term transportation improvement plan for the region, but I would not say that there is an “obsession” on rail.

  • FYI – not that it relates to this topic, but Indianapolis & IndyGo were mentioned on NPR this morning during the Marketplace Morning Report where they talked about rising use of public transportation.

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