Important Transit Meeting Tonight


Just a reminder: for those of us who know how good the IndyConnect mass transit plan is and how vital it is for the future success of Indianapolis in so many different ways, there is a very important council meeting to show your support at tonight at 5:30 in room 260 in the City County Building. It’s absolutely vital that as many of us show up to this meeting as possible in support of the full transit plan. It’s still a very doable and needed plan even if the federal funding does not come through. If you’d like to say something at tonight’s meeting, please email Transit Drives Indy as they will be able to get you registered to speak tonight as well as for the final two meetings before the council votes. This is the last bit of our multi-year marathon to improve Indy’s mass transit system and we all need to push harder than ever to cross the finish line.

Now for your reading pleasure, here’s a great article that shows what we already know: effective mass transit, and we know the IndyConnect plan is just that, becomes an enormous economic development force for a city and is the best way to help a city grow more prosperous by allowing for more financially sustainable development patterns.

Public Transit Worth Way More to a City Than You Might Think

Comments 45

  • You might want to try some actual facts on for size before you attempt to claim that 67% of registered voters voted “yes” to raise everyone’s taxes.

    Below are the actual referendum result, which show a mere 21.25% of registered voters voting “yes”. There is clearly no mandate for raising everyone’s taxes, especially since the pre-election representation that the federal government would cover most of the construction cost is no longer true.

    Referendum results by Marion Co. registered voters:

    2016 registered voters = 715,154

    Voter turnout = 370,498 (52.93%)

    Of the 370,498 Marion Co. residents who voted, 191,989 voted Yes (51.75%); 131,426 voted No (35.47%) and 47,083 didn’t answer (12.7%).

    Of registered voters: 26.84 percent voted Yes. No votes = 18.37 percent. Didn’t answer = 6.58 percent. (No votes and didn’t answer almost equal yes votes.)

    Of registered voters in MC, only 45.22 percent (323,415) voted on the tax.

    Referendum results by Marion Co. residents:

    According to the 2010 census, there are 903,393 residents in Marion County. Population estimates for 2015 are higher 939,000. Using 2010 census data, Yes votes cast in November on the transit referendum equal 191,989 or just 21.25 percent of Marion Co. residents. No votes equaled 131,426 or 14.54 percent. There were 47,083 MC voters (5.21 percent) who chose not to answer the transit question. Of Marion County residents, only 41.01 percent of residents voted.

    Data at:

    • Natacha stop expecting facts to matter. We are living in the time of “Fake News”. 67% of registered voters did not say yes only 21% did

      Abstaining is not support. If anything it’s an indication of ignorance on a topic.

      • Transit opponents who failed to vote in a widely publicized referendum during a presidential and gubernatorial election year have no one to blame but themselves.

      • Elections have consequences; Donald Trump is president because he won less than 80,000 more votes across PA, MI, and WI than Hillary Clinton. Transit tax opponents lost by more than 60,000 votes just in Marion County.

        If people can’t be bothered to show up and vote, then their voices are silent for these purposes.

        The fact is, that of those who cared enough to vote on the matter, 59% voted “yes”. Your spin doesn’t change the fact.

      • Steven by your metrics has anyone ever won an election?

      • Well then I prefer to think of it this way:

        Less than 15% of residents in Marion County voted no to transit.

        P.S. Yay! Natacha’s back!

      • so less than 1% of MK residents opposed Milhaus?

      • Steven, we have something called elections for a reason. If there are 100 million registered voters, and only 1 registered voter votes, then that 1 person determines the result of the election. That is how it works. It does not matter if someone stays at home because of apathy, ignorance, or a bad cold. If they stay at home, what they think about the subject being voted on is irrelevant.

        The number of registered voters is irrelevant. The number of individuals who ACTUALLY VOTED is the only number that matters. That is the only real fact, not the “alternative facts” that you and Natacha keep pushing.

        If you do not like how the system works, you are welcome to move to a different country which employs a different system for determining elections. As long as you live here, you live under the consequences of our elections.

    • By this logic nobody has ever won an election ever. Please just stop, you’re embarrassing yourself now.

    • On a side note, is this rationalization better or worse than the, “if you give no-voters an extra 9% and take 9% away from the yes-voters then you’d have a tie” argument?

      (for the uninitiated: )

  • Perhaps some residents were hoping that the City County Council has enough sense to see through the rhetoric and look out for what’s best for everyone. I wonder how many of those voting “yes” believed IndyGo’s line about double residential and triple business property values, or that Red Line would reach 90% of area college students.

    • Yes, the CCC does have “enough sense to see through the rhetoric and look out for what’s best for everyone.” They saw that NIMBYism was at work once again and deferred to the greater good.

      • When, and how, exactly did the Council “defer”. When did they vote? Did I miss this?

        • The Council is well-aware of your concerns and has decided to not take action opposing the transit plan.

          The definition of the word “defer” is:
          to put off action; to yield respectfully in judgment or opinion

          Every plan or action does not have to come up for a vote. If they did, nothing would ever get done in a timely manner.

  • Elections are never truly decided until we let Natacha come and tell us what they meant. This might be news to a lot of people but winning a higher percentage of votes is not actually winning an election, apparently it is as good as losing.

  • Why did you take down the header that claimed 67% of registered voters approved the referendum?

    • I assume you’ve heard the old adage “if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.” Registered voters is not the proper sample population. By your logic, nobody elected in this last election has a mandate.

      Please stop trying to polish the turd, all it’s doing is getting turd all over your hands.

  • In retrospect, I should have had Jim edit out that old polling image before he posted it. However, it doesn’t really matter in the long run. Transit passed 59-41, and we have the data.

    • First, it wasn’t 67% like you initially claimed.

      Second, “transit” didn’t pass. There were 2 questions on the ballot, intentionally conflated to avoid having voters outright reject Red Line, and to garner support of civic organizations and churches who supported system-wide improvements to bus service. Voters were told that the federal government would pay the cost. Initially, IndyGo said “all” the cost, but after some of us reviewed their numbers, they were forced to admit that it was only part of the construction cost. Voters were told that residential property values would double, and commercial property values would triple, that Red Line would serve Butler University and IUPUI. All lies, but these are the facts presented to voters that served as the basis for their vote.

      When the underlying facts change and when voters were lied to, the only ethical thing for the Council to do is to disregard the referendum results.

      • Would you have supported the Referendum if it included everything except the Red Line?

      • (1) The number of registered voters is irrelevant. The number of voters who ACTUALLY VOTE is the only number that matters. That is how all elections are decided. Even if only one registered voter votes and everyone else stays at home, then that one person determines the election results. We never base election determinations on the number of voters who may have hypothetically voted but who decide not to vote.

        (2) The language of the ballot is the language the voters choose to vote upon. Facts and circumstances outside of the actual ballot language are irrelevant. You may argue that the language is unfair or “misleading,” but there was nothing in the ballot language that said anything about any of the transit improvements being contingent on a federal grant. Also, it was well-publicized before the election that the federal grant had NOT yet been approved in an appropriations bill by Congress. If some voters were confused about this, then they should not have voted “yes” or voted “no’ if they found the language ambiguous.

        I get that it chaps your butt that the ballot passed, and you can cry about all the “unfairness” of it all, but at the end of the day, this is the system we live under, whether you or anyone else thinks it is fair or not is irrelevant. If you do not like it, you are welcome to move to some other jurisdiction that holds elections in a different manner.

  • Jim, I couldn’t agree more that transit is needed in Indy – for areas that are already dense enough or have a chance of being dense enough to support it. Which means the Red Line is a great investment, going through densely populated (for Indy) neighborhoods and commercial nodes.

    That said, is the whole expanded transit plan a good idea? In many ways I believe it takes the opposite of the “Strong Towns” approach. For example, one of the stops is at the Wal-Mart on the far east side. Funding service to this Wal-Mart is essentially subsidizing this revenue-destroying pattern of development, just as we subsidize it with sewers, roads, etc.

    The obvious argument against this line of thinking is one of equity: yes, people live out there in the less productive, less dense areas, but not everyone can afford to live in the gold-plated condos downtown.

    While this is true, shouldn’t we invest our tax dollars where it makes the most sense (for example, by subsidizing affordable developments downtown or along the Red Line), instead of throwing good money after bad on the far east side?

    Just wondering what the UI community thinks. I think we all (myself included) like to believe that expanded transit can only be a good thing, when in reality transit can only be sustainable in certain situations.

    • Matt: I largely agree with you that one of the BRT lines go to some places that really don’t make for very effective transit. In my opinion, the Purple line is the one that fits in this category, although it’s the line I’ve looked into the least. The Red Line makes the most sense as it hits the densest nodes and hits the most walkable areas around its stations compared to just about anywhere else in Indy. Routing the Red Line down Keystone would be a total disaster and would not result in increased ridership. There’s really no chance for more intense land use along the way since Keystone Ave is one of the worst car sewers in the city. Saving Keystone Ave from its auto-centricity is a larger project that one transit line won’t solve – it’ll need to be solved in a much more organic/long-term set of projects. The Blue Line makes the most sense to build after the Red Line because it connects a productive airport to downtown and to a productive Irvington. These are all places where people can get to many things without the use of any car. The traditional grid is in tact all along the way, although I’d like to see Washington Street go on a road diet in several areas that make it very dangerous for pedestrians of all kinds.

      The Purple line may go through some areas that could be revived since it’s part of the older grid pattern, so I’m hoping that more intense land use will spring up from it. However, I do believe more frequent regular bus service would be adequate for this route along with true real time bus location via Google Maps. We could upgrade some stops to actual at-grade stations along the way as well and that would be a great enhancement, but I’m not convinced that the full BRT buses are needed for this route (at least the eastern parts that you point out).

      But I do strongly believe, in a Strong Towns manner, that Indy has hit the critical point where it needs to do the following things because it’s already hit the right incrementally arrived stage:

      1. Balance out the modes of transit because car-first design is financially killing the city, especially given that we hate tax increases (look at how much some people fight a 0.25% increase in this case…that’s a tiny increase compared to many cities).

      2. Make our mass transit effective with a dedicated funding source, otherwise we have no other choice than to keep building more parking garages, parking lots and low density sprawl to fit all of our cars. Our denser nodes that already exist in Indy have been gaining momentum lately and they will gain a lot more momentum once we have effective transit in place simply because we can design new developments with less parking. Indy Rezone already puts the right provisions in place for this to happen. Add a bus stop or bike parking and a developer can reduce the amount of parking they must provide. Transit provides a very efficient and enjoyable way to get to these places if you can’t walk or bike there.

      3. Indy is already sprawled out and needs an incremental upgrade of its transit system since many people can’t walk or bike to these nodes. BRT is that incremental upgrade. Most cities have placed huge bets on immediately jumping from subpar bus service all the way to light rail. That’s not smart. Moving to BRT is an incremental and very Strong Towns approach in my opinion.

      4. Forgetting the new BRT lines for a moment, a lot of this tax increase is simply about improving on the bus system that we already have. Most of the money would go to more frequent bus service which requires more buses, better bus maintenance and more drivers. It’s also paying for a redo of the network into a more effect one. See what Houston did with their system. Their ridership went WAY up simply by reconfiguring where the buses went and how frequently. Without this dedicated funding stream, IndyGo can’t even afford to do this basic thing.

      Those are some of my thoughts at the moment. I’d like to hear some more of yours Matt. Thanks for your original comment.

      • I think a lot of our views line up.

        The dedicated funding source is essential. The real problem IndyGo has is one of perception: first, as Hoosiers we’ve been told from birth that low taxes are what makes our state great. While I don’t enjoy paying taxes, I do think that all it takes to overcome this idea is a trip to a place where government services are plentiful and the quality of life is high. Second, many people don’t put transportation into the same “public good” category as education, road funding, etc. and so think user fees should cover the cost. That’s a major issue for IndyGo and I’m not sure what the answer is.

        As for the developers, why are we subsidizing any kind of car dependency at all? At the risk of making good the enemy of great, there shouldn’t be a tradeoff of parking spaces for bike racks. Instead, I’d propose we ditch parking minimums entirely in many areas (Buffalo, NY, just did this). Look at any recent development and you’ll see that parking is at least half the entire project cost and likely covers 15-100% of the site. Not only that, but look at the developments where the city chips in money to help – in almost every case, this wouldn’t be necessary if parking wasn’t necessary.

        My point is that we are subsidizing the very development patterns that are killing us (financially and in a literal, physical sense), and we’re restricting the kind of development that could lead us out of the mess we’ve created.

        Here’s the issue with the transit plan: IndyGo has proposed bringing everyone in Indy within 5 minutes of a transit line (or something to that effect). That makes no sense at all. We can’t subsidize the people (businesses and households) at 82nd and Allisonville, east side Wal-Mart, etc. with transit, just as we’re discovering we can’t subsidize them with roads, bridges, streetlights, and sewers. Instead of bringing transit to them, we need to incentivize them to come to areas that work financially.

        This is the kind of culture shift we need.

        • With regards to your last paragraph, I’ll just throw in a plug for getting rid of Unigov.

          A few UI commenters had a brief conversation with Maggie Lewis (CCC president) about it and it sounds like:
          1) The State would have to approve dissolving Unigov. Seems unlikely, but who knows.
          2) The City has annexed out (deannexed?) a few small parcels but it is unclear on how that would work on a large scale basis, say, going back to the pre-Unigov city limits.
          3) It is unclear what the current split is for tax and utility revenue vs expenditures. My gut feeling is that the core subsidizes the sprawl, but perhaps it could go the other way.

        • The conversation was on Twitter, so it was not super informative, BTW.

        • IndyGo’s “problem”, if that’s what you want to call it, is the simple fact that most people living in Indianapolis don’t ride on a bus and don’t want to. It doesn’t matter whether the bus is a 5-minute walk or a 20-minue walk. Most people don’t want to ride a bus. There’s nothing wrong with that.

          You speak of “car dependency”, but it is simply a fact that most people living in Indianapolis enjoy driving their cars. You are saying that bike racks should replace parking spaces? Is that what the majority of people living in Indianapolis want? The answer is “NO”.

          You think that “development patterns” are “killing us” based on what? People strive to live and invest in single family home neighborhoods. Individual home ownership is not just the backbone of a successful community, it is the American dream. Renters do not put down roots and help a community to succeed.

          I don’t recall ever being asked to vote on whether I wanted Indianapolis to be re-designed in accordance with the urbanism fad. That’s why IndyGo has no right to try to force this on the taxpayers by prioritizing Red Line ahead of system-wide improvements in bus service. BTW: they lied about this, too. We taxpayers didn’t ask for it, and we don’t want it. The connivance it has employed to try to get it done anyway–enlisting the support of churches and civic groups by combining general bus service improvements with Red Line, lying about double and triple property values, for instance, ought to be criminally prosecuted.

          You have a different philosophy, and there’s nothing wrong with that, until you try to force upheavals in neighborhoods to comport with your beliefs.

          • Criminally prosecuted???

            The hyperbole is strong with this one.

          • Andy, could not agree more. UniGov was great for its time, in that it saved Indy from complete collapse, but now it is obviously a hindrance.

            An alternative to de-annexation is Detroit’s (admittedly ugly) process of “right-sizing”.

            Going by that philosophy you could argue that the city shouldn’t invest in building out entirely new neighborhoods (coke plant site, old airport property), instead looking for close-in infill development.

          • Matt, I think the biggest obstacle that we face to right-sizing, de-annexing, or having the state undo parts or the entirety of Unigov is that people (citizens and leaders alike) don’t understand that it’s a primary cause of Indy’s financial woes. They still see it as primarily being solvable through growth. While I agree that growth is necessary and will happen, we also don’t understand which type of growth is best. As Strong Towns points out, we’ve funded things through horizontal low density growth since WWII, and it’s literally impoverishing us now – there’s no where close to enough people per square mile paying for the relatively expensive infrastructure of Indy’s built environment. We just assume and remain ignorant that it does cover it and each time the budget comes around, we look externally from the city’s tax base to make up for it. This is insanity but it’s not unique to Indy – thanks to many federal policies it’s basically been every city’s model for decades. We’re the ones that need to keep fighting Indy’s culture to wake up and stop buying into this growth ponzi scheme. It is the status quo and we’ll end up worse than Detroit shortly if we don’t change course.

          • With few exceptions, the single family detached neighborhoods are stagnant. Many single-family detached neighborhood in Indy and elsewhere–areas that clearly capitalized on the American Dream circa 1950–are failing. Look at Eagledale, Northwestwood or Brightwood. These neighborhoods clearly met middle-class standards for the time, and now they are all borderline slums. Did anyone force these upheavals? Well, I guess yes, if you consider desegregation of the schools to be the great evil forced on middlebrow life. Then, of course, look at Detroit: still the most homeownership-oriented city in America, but a complete disaster.

            Those who cling rigidly to a single form of development fail to take into account how shifting tastes could render them victims of their own single-minded advocacy. Some of the most economically productive regions in the country have very low rates of homeownership. Forcing one type of housing (like the shortsighted people in Chatham Arch) is the same as a non-diversified portfolio, which also usually collapses due to shifting tastes. And nothing that has happened in the recent “urbanism fad” (a trend which has capitalized on Meridian-Kessler’s indisputably transit-oriented history) indicates that this may not be the REAL status quo. Natacha may be right: this could be nothing more than a fad. But suburban America isn’t foolproof like it seemed back in 1980. Look at what’s happening to malls all across the country. The suburbia that has already failed areas like Eagledale (or Harvey outside Chicago, and Jennings outside St. Louis) might very have been the true fad.

            None of us have a crystal ball, but aligning the built environment with those tastes as we witness them unfolding helps position us toward economic resiliency. Golf was a big hit in 1999, so we built a lot of new ones. Now they’re going bankrupt left and right. Oops. Do we just let the land sit idle, with the hopes that golf might enjoy a comeback someday soon? No sensible community or landowner would do such a thing.

          • Absolutely Eric, well said. The biggest takeaway from your comment for me is in everything, diversify. Indy is far too singular in its housing and retail type at the moment, primarily catering to being forced to use a car to get anywhere instead of being able to use the cheapest and most sustainable form of transit – your own two feet.

            This transit plan is about diversifying and allowing many more people the freedom of not having to own a car. It’s about diversifying the built environment which makes it more resilient to bad macroeconomic trends. It’s about going back to the traditional style of development that has been done for thousands of years. The single family home suburban style of development has been an experiment and one that is showing signs everywhere of being a spectacularly epic failure in many ways, financial being the primary one.

          • Natacha, your point about Indy’s car culture and riding the bus is fair. I personally enjoy driving. That said, I do believe our preferences are influenced by our environment. I know many people who grew up in New York and hate driving.

            I also believe that just because we prefer something doesn’t mean the government should subsidize it. I’m not saying they should outlaw it – I’m simply suggesting we should stop being part of the “problem” by mandating parking minimums, extending transit out to Wal-Mart, etc.

            And it is a problem that is “killing us”. By that I mean financially – it is a fact that car-based development patterns are not financially sustainable – and physically – it is also a fact that a car-based lifestyle is less healthy than one based on active transportation.

            That’s not to say people should not own homes. I agree completely that homeownership builds community and causes people to invest in a place.

            But, maybe people should not own *detached homes on *1-acre lots with *1% property taxes AND expect pothole-free roads, good schools, and other necessities. It is just not mathematically possible. Not to mention the people who use our roads which we paid for (assuming you are an Indy resident) to access our city from their outlying town, made possible through, yes, car-dependent development patterns.

            Finally, traditional development patterns (“Urbanism”), whereby people live close together in mixed-use, walkable communities, is not a fad. It has quite literally been around for thousands of years. The American Dream and widespread automobile ownership? Maybe a century.

            PS – Totally different conversation, but for the record I agree that the numbers have been exaggerated by IndyGo in a very unscrupulous way, IMHO. But I personally don’t think the taxpayers should be asked to vote for everything anyway. Isn’t that why we elect politicians – to make the big-boy decisions that kind of hurt to make?

            Do I think having the Red Line will greatly improve my life? Probably not. But I also wasn’t asked if my tax dollars should support schools (I don’t have kids), Medicare (I’m 27), or President Obama’s pension (he’s doing ok).

      • #4. A lot is improving the current system, but not enough. How much more could be done by dumping the Red Line?

        • I don’t understand why we would “dump the Red Line”. People who live along the Red Line’s route voted for the tax increase. The opposition proved to be a minority of voters. I’ll be happy to finally have a reliable, dedicated transit system 3 blocks from my house.

        • The Rapid transit lines provide a spine to the entire system. Is it that hard to envision how central north/south and east/west routes running frequently on dedicated lanes will be able to speed up all routes if oriented correctly?

        • The Red Line is the one rapid route that makes the most sense logistically and financially. It connects the two most dense parts in the entire city that are also highly walkable, and the entire route is also pretty dense and walkable. It’s just time to accept the fact that it’s the best possible route at this time and move on. It’s the route with the best chance for heavy usage of people who currently travel that route and for those who would like to if the buses were nicer, timelier and more frequent. The Red Line will provide all of this. I look forward to using it on a very regular basis and seeing the huge benefits for downtown, Broad Ripple, all of the homes and businesses along it and any connecting bus routes that intersect the Red Line and provide a real place to transfer that isn’t downtown. That alone will be revolutionary for travel times in Indy.

  • What is the problem with a route that goes to a Walmart? These people have to shop, and that is where they can afford to go. Sure, don’t worry about those people where this new transit might provide the incentive for growth. Just keep Broad Ripple and Downtown happy with the hope that a Red Line might make people stop driving. I have no idea where Paul, Kevin and Jim work, but most people need to drive somewhere, the grocery, hardware store, Walmart. I couldn’t work without driving. Sorry you have to hear that, but it is a fact.

    • Scott, this is part of a much longer conversation, and one I’d love to have with you in person some time. But Indy needs to start to change away from being auto-centric as you’ve very clearly pointed out that we currently are. I definitely won’t deny that. The reason I can so confidently say that we need to do this is because auto-centricity is literally killing us. It makes us obese, it makes us socially isolated, it makes us fearful of our neighbors because we hardly ever need to interact with the immediate people around us, it literally kills more people per year in car crashes and pedestrian fatalities by far than murders in the most crime-ridden areas – the list goes on. Not only all of these very real social realities, but stark financial realities as well. Do you know why Indy’s roads, bridges, sidewalks, pipes, etc are in pretty terrible shape? It’s not because leaders are corrupt and incompetent. It’s because Indy stopped growing fast enough and we don’t know how to prioritize maintenance over paying for new stuff in this city. And it’s not just Indy – this has been the entire US development pattern since WWII when mass car-centricity became the federal government’s priority with the Interstate system. It spreads things out too much with too high of costs per acre and no where near enough people paying for all of these liabilities. So if Indy wants to continue to be relevant and if we want to increase the quality of the infrastructure and services around the city, the only way to do that is to switch to a development pattern where as many people as possible can walk to things, bike to things and take transit to things that are out of reach of walking and biking. The cities that are doing well in the US are the ones that realized this years ago. Indy is starting to wise up to this and I know that it’ll be much better because of it. After all, this is really about restoring the traditional style of development that was normal even in Indy up until WWII when we doubled down on the great suburban experiment. That experiment has been an utter failure. Don’t take my word for it, learn more:

Leave a Reply to Matt Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *