Red Line Study Reveals Route Alternatives

Red Line Project Scope
Red Line Project Scope

The Indy Connect Red Line, which is now under alternatives analysis, has broken radio silence and as of this week have a few potential route alignments available for public discussion. If you attend one of the public hearings, you can see the details of these being provided by Indy Connect. Divided up by northern or southern routes, there are two alternatives for each and they offer a tantalizing imagination of future rapid transit service for the Red Line.

Originally scoped, the Red Line would run from Carmel through Downtown Indy and south to Greenwood. A rough amalgamation of corridors were identified which include Meridian, Illinois, Capitol, Madison, Shelby, College and Keystone Avenues; all major automobile throughfares. Along the way, major job centers in downtown Indy, as well as US31 in Carmel could be served with this new transit line.

To lay the ground work for this study, lets go to On The Map and plot out where our jobs are located. As I have reported in the past, the majority of existing IndyGo ridership is driven by using it to get to and from work; thus it is a good basis for beginning analysis of whether or not these are the correct alternatives. Since the Red Line travels north, it bisects Broad Ripple. I have written in the past about the importance of serving Indy’s second downtown and why it makes sense when I concluded that Route Matters. Then, as now, I used jobs to justify this. I have sketched the alternatives over the jobs map and you can see this below. The alternatives are not online at this point in time.

An update using 2010 jobs data still shows this to be an accurate area to serve (2008 jobs were used prior). Broad Ripple is on the way to Carmel, which is an important criteria for optimizing transit boardings. However, another suggestion comes to light with an analysis of the data. Not only is the US31 corridor in Carmel rich in jobs, but the Keystone at the Crossing area rises as a comparable blip on the radar. Note the darker blue area. However, one key factor to consider with both the Keystone and US31 job centers, is that they are nearly 100% automobile oriented. Large surface parking lots separate the travel corridors from the actual buildings that they serve.

Red Line Alternatives vs Job Locations
Red Line Alternatives vs Job Locations

As we look to the south, we discover an area which I have admittedly not spent as much time analyzing. Immediately, the University of Indianapolis, located at the confluence of Shelby Street and Hanna (and a few blocks from Madison) rises on the radar. This makes sense with Indy Connect scoping and has been repeatedly stated as a destination to be served by rapid transit. Between Greenwood and downtown Indy, it is one of 2 major job destinations that rise on the map; the other is County Line Road where Greenwood Park Mall is located.

North Alternatives

The north alternatives generally follow the trail of jobs available along Meridian Street between downtown and 38th street. Along with the jobs are a number of apartment buildings, The Children’s Museum, Ivy Tech and a host of other corporate and non-profit types of organizations. North of 38th street, the next big concentration of jobs is Broad Ripple Village where numerous small businesses operate providing a number of low cost retail and food service jobs. As I stated above, beyond this is US31 in Carmel and Keystone at the Crossing which both offer jobs but are separated by large parking lots which provide a serious barrier to robust transit boardings. The US31 corridor jobs are likely white collar and medical jobs. Most of the locations east of 31 are non-medical so these are the likely targets for providing service.

Conversely, Keystone at the Crossing is a majority service-sector employment cross section. These workers are much more likely to be transit dependent types as lower incomes require a larger percentage of total earnings be devoted to transportation costs.

So we have a large value question to answer here,

“Do we serve US31, where the 2nd largest Central Indiana job center is located but in which choice riders are likely the target market, or do we divert to Keystone at the Crossing, essentially a mall environment with an easier market to sell transit to?”

It is a tough question to answer even with a lot of critical thinking applied.

South Alternatives

My initial reaction to the south side alternatives is that Fountain Square is a great potential market. Thinking from an anecdotal perspective, the recent infusion of apartments along Virginia Avenue between downtown and Fountain Square provide an optimum market that would embrace transit. It is close to the core yet far enough that walking in adverse weather would induce one to choose a car. Additionally, the large concentration of jobs in Fountain Square proper are low wage retail and food service jobs. The confluence of Fountain Square and Shelby Street provide a perfect avenue to divert the Red Line from an excellent near-downtown market to the University of Indy where a large student population is likely to take advantage of rapid transit that would funnel them downtown and to the north side.

Further south there are some difficult decisions to make. The solid alternative highlighted on the map would follow Madison Avenue all the way to old downtown Greenwood. Along the way, Greenwood Park Mall would lie directly along the line and also hosts a number of retail jobs. However, the dashed line represents a diversion over to the major medical complexes of the south side. Health care providers have repeatedly expressed a wish for quality transit offerings which would assist with the health of patients, many of which have difficulty affording the trip for check ups and other medical needs.

As with the north side, critical thinking will be required to determine which is more valuable for the Red Line service,

“Do we serve the Greenwood Mall, a potentially large trip generator, or do we divert from the straight line and provide what equates to an arguably more justified destination in the medical centers?”

At this point in time, the alternatives that have been provided are simply ideas and will be refined by year’s end with additional details yet to come on the actual stop locations, guideway treatment and other potential amenities. You can see more about all the alternatives by attending one of the public hearings now being conducted by Indy Connect for the Red, Green & Blue Lines.

Comments 13

  • Would the traffic counts on broad ripple area justify a reroute of traffic from broad ripple ave. and the rework of the ave. in to a shared light rail pedestrian space from college to winthrop or compton? what about an extension of e. westfield blvd through the parking lot to the ave just south of the river?

  • Indyline – I have thought about that too but I think it would be tough. A big part of the problem is that the river reduces the east-west routes in the area. I don’t know traffic counts, but both BR Ave and Kessler are heavily used. Shut down BR Ave and the crosstown traffic will have to reroute to Kessler or 61st St (which is completely residential). That said, I’d love to see it if there was a way to make it work.

    Curt, your discussion of the Keystone alternative seems to run smack into the Orange Line that’s proposed but not part of the current planning. I have no idea how the process works, but isn’t prioritization of the Meridian corridor already baked into the choice of Red over Orange?

    • We asked these questions a couple months back and were told that even though there may be some crossover, the “Meridian Corridor” is just a loose location for the northside line. The Orange Line does look like it could potentially be mixed in here, but think about the current IndyGo 26 which runs up and down Keystone Ave. It crosses or duplicates portions of other local bus service indicating that there is demand for trunk lines, even outside the core.

      It could be too, that the future Orange Line could serve more than just Keystone. time will tell how that pans out. Good questions though.

  • My first reaction is “jeepers, those potential routes are a hot mess.”

    And I will say til I’m blue in the face that I don’t like routing BRT down College. College begs for a basic bus with 5 min headways and lots of stops.

    I say put it on Keystone all the way to FCParkway and then to 38th. Much simpler routing, the possibility of a fully separated system, and picking up the jobs/destination centers in the old-school office complex around 46th/Keystone and the State Fairgrounds.

    • Chris,
      I don’t usually comment on forums, but do want to clarify that BRT doesn’t replace or remove local fixed route bus in a given alignment. While it may not be 5 minute head ways as you suggest, local bus compliments BRT in any of the alternatives being evaluated for rapid transit technology, with the exception of the Green Line because the majority of its service is planned for an existing rail right of way. Thanks for highlighting it via your comment, because we always want to be better at communicating the Indy Connect vision. Thanks for engaging in this important conversation.

  • Curt’s alternate routes reflect a discussion we had either on Urban Indy or SSC…maybe a year ago? I agree that the Red Line should serve Broad Ripple, Glendale and Keystone Crossing and run through Meridian Kessler on College to pick up both northbound and southbound choice riders. I also agree on Fountain Square, though the route could be on East down to Morris/Prospect since so much ROW on Virginia has already been taken by The Cultural Trail and fountain projects.

    I think the northern St. Vincent North and southern St. Francis terminii make more sense than Olde Towne Greenewoode and the North Meridian Great Plains of Office Parking. Us old Boomers will still have to get to doctors and med centers after our kids take away the car keys.

  • Looks like tonight’s meeting will be a lot of fun. See y’all there.

  • Apparently another factor that will play heavily upon eventual routes is ‘scoring’ for federal funding purposes. Since, from Federal perspective, there’s a heavy emphasis on jobs, Federal transit money is looking for routes that connect residents to jobs, and that means a preference for route that run through heavier concentrations of 1) employers, and 2) population centers. Higher scores on both result in greater likelihood of Federal funding.

    To more than a small extent, that form of scoring runs contrary to development goals, which seems to be the poor stepchild of transit. Areas that are considered ‘ripe’ for commercial and residential development are so considered because they have vacant spaces that could more easily be developed. “Holes,’ on the other hand, detract, rather than contribute to Federal scores.

    An obvious example of this is seen along College Ave. south of 38th Street. Routing down that portion of College is more likely to spur new development because there’s nothing there but places to put stuff, but is far less likely to be scored well. And, the area immediately south of 38th, in Mapleton Fall Creek, is about to become part of the new Mid-North TIF District, which means any new development could serve to fund even more development.

    • A prime development site in MFC is Fairfield & College. There are “destination nodes” down Fairfield at 34th & Central and Meridian, and more development sites at 34th & Illinois/34th & Capitol.

      Fortunately, these potential development nodes serve densely populated (and low-moderate income) neighborhoods, also a target for Federal scoring.

      • The “redevelopment” quality of rapid transit is often the basis for philosophical differences for how transit should be delivered. Should we serve the poor neighborhoods in an attempt to bolster redevelopment?

        Should we serve job centers? Population centers?

        Its often tough to accomplish all of these with a single transit line.

      • “Poor” neighborhoods (census tracts with low-to-moderate median incomes) tend also to be the most dense and transit-dependent in Marion County. So connecting those neighborhoods with jobs via transit is critical.

        The current IndyConnect plan does not do a good job of addressing the East 38th Street and South Lawrence areas, which are low-mod income and higher density (2-3 times the county average of ~2200 people per square mile).

        There is no real tradeoff between “areas needing redevelopment” and “serving low-moderate income residents”.

        The next question to be answered is, which “choice” neighborhoods should we reinforce with transit?

        My answer is biased since I live inside the county (and inside 465): reinforce the older neighborhoods outside downtown that were built around transit to begin with. There are several higher-income ones: Butler Tarkington, Meridian Kessler, Broad Ripple and SoBro, Watson McCord, Historic Meridian Park, Irvington, Woodruff Place.

        The built forms of these places are dense and what we consider today to be “urban”. All have good walkability scores…because they have sidewalks, trails, and places people walk to.

      • To extend my remark above: Census Tract 3306 (bounded by Shadeland, Franklin, 46th & 56th) has a density of almost 5,100 per square mile and only one busline running around its west and north edges, #4 on its way to DFAS and Ivy Tech at Fort Harrison.

        To its southeast, Census Tracts 3304.03, 3304.04, and 3304.06 combined (1.625 square miles, from approximately 8300 east to Mitthoeffer, 38th to 46th) have a density of 7109 per square mile. It has a couple of regular buslines and quite a few “alternate” lines that run through on select trips.

        The Purple (38th St.) BRT line is not under current study, and apparently wouldn’t be one of the earliest lines.

  • Are you planning on doing an analysis of the Blue Line as well?

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