T.S. Eliot wrote, â€œWe shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.â€
In 2014, I spent nine months in northeast Brazil teaching English. This region of Brazil is stereotyped within the country as backwards and slow in contrast with the economically and culturally more developed southeast region. As a Midwesterner who has heard a fair share of disparaging remarks against my region from coastal Americans, I identified with my adopted communityâ€™s struggle to fight back against the stereotype thrust upon them.
When I came back to Indianapolis, I was more energetic than ever to experience my hometown from within the now thriving urban core. So I made my home downtown and chose to try out a car-free lifestyle. A year and a half later, I still live car-free, using IndyGo daily to get to and from work.
I now work in International Admissions for IUPUI, which means I get to brag about Indianapolis and our premier urban research university for a living. I have the opportunity to talk to students from all over the world and tell them what they can accomplish, gain, and contribute within our community. It is truly a privilege to share my enthusiasm and local pride with people from all over the world. The most rewarding moment is welcoming these new students to Indianapolis and IUPUI and hearing how much they enjoy the campus, the city and the friendliness of our fellow Hoosiers. In return, international students make our city more diverse and economically stronger. IUPUIâ€™s more than 2,000 international students represent 145 different countries. They actively engage in community service projects and give back through formative internship and work experiences in our city. And these students contribute $79.7 million to the Marion County economy annually, supporting over 1,000 jobs.
Despite all that is great about Indy, I pause when prospective students ask me about transit within the city. I get around fine without a car and I know they can, too, but I also know that thriving in Indy while using our current transit system works best for a privileged few of us who can choose to live near our workplaces and within walking distance of neighborhood amenities. Without an expanded transit system, reaching the opportunities located throughout our spread-out city will remain challenging for any car-less student, international or local.
Improving transit would not only make IUPUI and Indy a more attractive place to study, but it would help our cityâ€™s profile overall. Remember the 2012 Super Bowl? Indy got fantastic reviews as a host city, but what if visitors had had access to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and buses every 15 minutes to transport them through our city? What if all of our convention goers, from firefighters to Gen Con enthusiasts could navigate the city easily to explore our different cultural districts? Letâ€™s indulge in imagining how much better our city would be able to welcome our visitors, whether international students or convention attendees.
And why is bolstering our Hoosier hospitality with improved transit infrastructure important? After all, these visitors donâ€™t pay income taxes. Itâ€™s clear: when a cityâ€™s downtown economic activity is so heavily centered around tourism, sports, and conventions, that creates jobs. Residents who live outside of the city center need to be able to commute in and out easily so they arenâ€™t restricted from taking such jobs. As proud as I am of our international students and our increasingly diverse international population, what makes me most proud of the Marion County transit plan is how it will benefit Marion County residents. The plan will increase transit access to three times as many people and twice as many jobs. This is something to be proud of.
I am a native-born Indianapolis citizen and I love my city. I know, however, that loving a city means working to improve it for all residents, and Indianapolis has a lot of work to do to achieve that goal. Improving transit by passing the Marion County transit plan would both improve our city for visitors, whether international students or tourists, and for our own residents. The plan would connect IUPUI students (and other university students, too) to broader opportunities through the Red Line and would double access to jobs for Indyâ€™s residents on a whole.
Letâ€™s live up to our potential. Letâ€™s make our city better for all. Join me in voting â€œyesâ€ to pass the Marion County transit plan this Election Day.