Purple Line Updates

Earlier this spring, Indy Connect unveiled their initial ideas for the Purple Line.  The line is intended to primarily serve 38th street, which is one of the city’s most highly travelled corridors via all modes of transit.  A large amount of motorists use the arterial during peak and non-peak hours and a good amount of pedestrian traffic can be seen as well.  Last week, Indy Connect had another round of open houses to inform the local community of where they are at now in the planning stages of the line.

As noted in previous posts, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) requires that an alternative analysis be completed when studying a transit line.  Indy Connect first looked at vehicle options.  The alternatives studied were light rail, streetcar, and bus rapid transit (BRT).  When considering the route, costs, and ultimately the fact that no amount of income taxes set aside for mass transit can be used to fund a “streetcar type vehicle”, transit planners determined that BRT would be the preferred vehicle choice.

purple streetcar

Image credit: TheTelegraphandArgus

Regarding the actual route the line will follow, the alternatives studied consisted of 30th and 38th streets, a combination of both, and various options for travel to downtown and Lawrence.  The image below, courtesy of Indy Connect, shows what planners were originally considering.  30th and 46th streets are no longer a route alternative.  However, planners are still studying how to include vital portions of 30th street, particularly W. 30th near Marian University.  Since W. 38th street becomes a part of the I-65 interchange between Cold Springs Road and Industrial Blvd, diverting the western portion of the line to 30th street via Lafayette road is being evaluated.   Just as Indy Go routes 38 and 39 converge onto Meridian Street to travel downtown, there is consideration to make the purple line either west and east halves or to have it travel through downtown to get to the other side.  Either option still neglects a pertinent concern of many who use transit along the corridor.  Why must one have to go downtown to get across Meridian Street?

study routes

Image credit: IndyConnect.org

Transit planners have studied ridership data that has shown few riders who make the connection from the 38 to the 39, or vice versa, at 38th and Meridian streets.  However, that information alone does not negate the necessity of a crosstown route, considering the current network has so few.  There are talks that after the purple line is in service for a period of time, routes 38 and 39 will be discontinued.  Instead of discontinuing both routes, they should be merged into one crosstown route.  This way, riders won’t see their local bus stops disappear and they won’t have to make unnecessary trips to downtown in an effort to go to East or West 38th street.  If routing the purple line to downtown is the preferred alternative, the line should remain as one line and not operate as separate halves.  Doing so will keep the system simple.  Splitting the line into halves would require more signage at stations where both lines would travel and/or require BRT vehicles to denote “Purple West” or “Purple East”.  In trying to keep current riders and attract new riders, the system must have a sort of sensibility that lacks confusion and isn’t a deterrent.

As for Lawrence, there is still deliberation as to whether the route would be better served by taking Pendleton Pike or continuing along 38th street to Post Road.  While Pendleton Pike has a vast number of businesses, 38th street, east of Shadeland, is a mixture of businesses, residential, and a few areas of open land that some may argue need something like rapid transit to spark development.  During the open houses, transit organizers also highlighted the fact that Pendleton Pike is maintained by INDOT.   After putting in the work to expand the corridor into six lanes, it’s uncertain how willing INDOT is to allow two lanes to be used for transit only.  Not only is the 38th street/Post Road combination easily accessible for transit purposes, it provides direct access to 56th street at an area of Lawrence that is poised to become a very popular commercial node.  New mixed-use developments slated for land between Post and Lee roads will bring an appeal to that area that would only be further enhanced by mass transit.

Indy Connect will use the feedback gained from last week to prepare a final draft of recommended alternatives.  They are still accepting comments and feedback via the Indy Connect website and via email directly at info@indyconnect.org.  They hope to have the draft ready to present by the end of the year.








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