This is for us

Mass transit will never be the same again in Indianapolis. Finally, after years of planning, public meetings, and construction, Indianapolis is going to kick off the Red Line in less than a month.

Lately, I’ve been seeing some online hand-wringing from residents that seem to be rooting for the system to fail.  And I suppose that’s only natural here in Indy. It’s big, it’s obvious, and it’s…not for cars? It took away auto lanes? What a not-in-Indy thing. Sure, we’ve nibbled around the edges with reclaiming the public space for all things non-auto (thank you Cultural Trail and the greenways), but the Red Line takes a large chomp. And the buses are big. They will run more frequently. They will operate for longer hours. It is…maybe a bit of a gamble? Here in cautious, conservative Indiana?

I’d like to think that it’s not a gamble. And seriously, if you look at Indy’s history, when we do make a rare gamble, it usually pays off. In this particular case, I’d guess there is an untapped market of residents who would take the bus if it were easier or more open to newcomers. The ride will certainly be faster than a regular bus route, with its dedicated lanes, level boardings, and stops that are spread out every few blocks. As for the drivers sitting in traffic? Soon, those drivers will suddenly be overtaken by a Red Line bus. Some will scoff. But, maybe some will think…well, might as well get on board.

Transit advocacy has been a major backbone of Urban Indy since it was first founded. The first mention of IndyGo was on May 21st, 2007. Here’s the quote towards the end of the article:

IndyGo officials are hoping recent high gas prices will translate into more riders for the bus system in metro Indianapolis.
“Our calls at customer service have almost doubled in the last couple of weeks,” said Ronnetta Spalding, a spokeswoman for the transit service.

I’m very lucky as I live near a bus line that stops a block from work, so I’ll ride on days where I don’t really have any plans after work. If ridership goes up, then Indygo could possibly expand their service to places where a car is the only viable option.

Not too long after this article was written, I decided to throw caution to the wind, and ride the bus downtown daily. I tried to honor the mantra of the mailman. Neither rain, nor wind, nor snow, nor sleet would keep me from riding the bus. I was able to keep this up for the better part of 2-3 years, until the arrival of kid number one.

Unlike me, thousands of local citizens do not have a second option for traveling around the city. They are our neighbors. They do the jobs that are not glamorous, or high paying. They’ve depended on IndyGo. Sometimes, the infrequent service has let them down. One hopes that, starting in September, a dose of reliability will come their way. It’s just the beginning, and the full network buildout is years away, but we have to start somewhere.

I thought for years that Indy needed a light rail line, to battle with the big boys, to be a real city. If you would have told me a dozen years ago that I would be this excited about a bus line, I’d wonder what happened. Well, here’s what happened: I’ll take what I can get. Mass transit expansion by rail was banned in Indiana by not-so-small-government types. Plus, a bus is more flexible. The cheaper price tag is also a benefit. With the new Red Line, IndyGo has sought to make a bus look and feel as much like a train as possible, at a fraction of the cost. And did I mention: they’re making it free for the first month?

The Red Line should be a big win for the mobility of all citizens of Indianapolis. Let’s ride.




Comments 53

  • Hi! I couldn’t agree more with your comments. Excited about the Red Line and as an east sider, I am disappointed by the Blue Line delay but understand why that is happening. I am curious of something. A few years ago I remember seeing a plan that included an Orange Line and a Green Line for a long range transit plan – connecting parts of the city like Speedway and Castleton. Have anyone heard if that is still being discussed or has the plan been watered down to just the three main lines – Red, Purple, and Blue?

    • What is IndyGo’s reason for delaying the blue and purple lines by an additional two to three years? I heard it was happening, but didn’t hear why? Such a delay is a pretty big deal and allows plenty of time for opponents to attempt to block the projects or prohibit exclusive lanes and such. But, the legislature wouldn’t get involved in such things, would they?

      • My best guess is that they are looking for a change in the White House before they request more federal funds.

        • Mike Pence is out best bet to get dollars from Washington DC….. Really !

          The Power Players just have to pony up the guts to ask and Mike Pence will see that it gets done….

      • Hi! I was of the impression the reason for the delay is that with the ramp up of the I69 work connecting Indy south, and the major overhaul coming for I65/I-70 downtown, there would be a significant need to ensure that Washington and 38th street are open for east-west traffic given the interstates (both urban and ring) will be experiencing significant construction and shutdowns. . Also given those two significant infrastructure events, I’m sure it would be challenging to get resources (ie experienced road construction workers, companies, etc) to do massive infrastructure work for the Blue and Purple lines in the proper way. The delays are a year or two for completion, and if I were to guess, a way for IndyGo to hedge its financial position with an additional year or 2 of tax review to underwrite the projects. A delayed completion date won’t be remembered in the long run – a failed, or poorly built system will be. Just my two cents.

    • Anyone notice how the buses are dragging and pulling up the center lanes? Or how they don’t meet the energy needs to make the promised trips?

  • Money

  • The world isn’t black or white. I hope the Red Line succeeds. I live near a stop and hope to ride it. In fairness, there are concerns that this project is being done in isolation and there are neighborhood needs unmet – languishing for some time such as, by way of example, sidwalks in disrepair (or no sidewalks at all). And, the city’s failure to enforce the traffic laws generally as well as the change in traffic patterns due to the Red Line construction have amplified the need to address these issues. Just yesterday I witnessed a car driving approx 50 mph in a 30 mph zone, attempting to pass on the right on north/south residential street as kids are walking home from school. Where are the traffic calming measures here as the car cuts through the neighborhood to avoid College? We can both support the Red Line and also support other community needs as well, some of which have increased or need heightened priority as a result of this project.

    • Thanks for the comment. I will address a few of your points:

      First, traffic (especially speed and crosswalk encroachment) enforcement is definitely underwhelming in Indy.

      Second, There were many miles of new sidewalks installed near or around the Red Line, but of course, there are still major gaps to be found. A few decades ago, Indy had a moratorium on new sidewalks for 16 straight years. It will be tough to catch up to those years of neglect, if we ever do.

      I think there will likely always be unmet neighborhood needs. Cities are full of people, and people aren’t perfect. I’m personally looking for good-enough, and that includes the Red Line. I’m sure there are critiques that can be had, and they need to be aired. But I go back to my basic point: Indy’s finally prioritizing mass transit, and that’s much needed.

  • I am old enough to remember when Indygo took over all the bus lines in 1975. The suburbs were given a chance to keep their routes IF they would subsidize them. ONLY Greenwood did. Read this a.m.’s Star. The Red Line was SUPPOSED to go to Westfield, but doesn’t. GUESS WHY? lET’S LOOK AT BLUE INDY. It’s a failure, WE’RE stuck with, just like stupid scooters. I wonder what they will cost us. I hope the red Line works, but many of us who voted for it, DIDN’T VOTE FOR THIS and I know older resident’s and business owners who are moving. I have also been privy to private polling that shows that Hoosiers would drive downstairs to breakfast if they could andI don’t much that changed since that poll was taken.

    • Voters in Indy supposedly voted for a bus line going well into Hamilton County that they knew Hamilton County had neither approved nor had any tax in place to pay for?? If there were some voters like that out there, they were pretty clueless. In any event, the Marion County transit tax is helping to provide better bus transit throughout the county, and the Red Line is just one small component of the overall plan to improve countywide bus service. The transit tax was never positioned as a Red Line only tax, and most of its construction was funded by federal grants.

      As for the Red Line, it seems it will be a great start to a larger bus rapid transit (BRT) system, but just as important as the BRT plans are the overall changes and improvements being made to IndyGo’s total bus system.

      • The “Hamilton County rejected this idea” talking point is gaining a lot of traction. Mostly because there is important nuance to it and it’s very easy to dismiss when all you want to do is get a win for your side. What Hamilton County actually did was decline to hold a vote on the transit initiative and wait and see what Indianapolis actually did. The Red Line to Hamilton County was always going to be a future phase. This overall seems like a prudent move for Hamilton County because politics can be tricky and voting for a tax to plug into a system that may have not come to fruition would have been a loser politically.

        • I read Kevin’s comment to be more along the lines of insinuating that Indianapolis voters had somehow been mislead into thinking that (A) the Marion County transit tax was solely, or primarily, about the Red Line (which I pointed out was only one part of a much larger county transit improvement plan and which already had its construction budget funded, mostly by federal transportation grants), and (B) that the Red Line’s continuation into Hamilton County was a done deal (which seems to ignore the fact that Phase 1 of the Red Line has always clearly been disclosed as terminating in Broad Ripple).

          In any event, I believe it is irrelevant what Hamilton County does or does not do in the short-term, so far as the success of Marion County’s transit improvement plan is concerned. Hamilton County can join when the time is right for Hamilton County, but that county’s decision about joining into a regional transit plan should have no impact on Marion County delivering an improved countywide public transit system.

          Finally, I think all this melodrama about the supposed exodus of the senior citizens and business owners from Marion County because of the Red Line is not only pure nonsense, but also mendacious propaganda.

    • The Marion County Transit Plan was very clear when it was presented to voters on Election Day of 2016. I’m not sure what is happening with regards to the Red Line that is upsetting, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to residents. I posted them here a full year before the vote. Now, I’m just a guy with a website, but I linked to publicly available information.

      • Kevin, see my comment above in response to Paul. You are free to like or dislike the Red Line, but I take issue with your promotion of mendacious propaganda. We get it, you don’t like the Red Line, you think it is doomed to fail (you are a veritable Cassandra) and it has destroyed the city and now all its residents are fleeing in terror and despair. It is amazing that something as mundane and common as a bus line can have such power.

        In any event, I am glad to see the Red Line will be starting operations soon, and I am excited that Marion County has taken concrete steps to implement its county transit improvement plan.

        • And, to clarify, I am responding to Kevin Schafer, not Kevin Kastner

          • Chris, I am certainly NOT a Cassandra. NOR do I dislike The Redline per se. I don’t care about it one way or the other. NOR am I promoting propaganda. My opinions are my own. In fact, because I have a disability that makes it difficult to drive I took the bus for most of my 40 year working career so this isn’t my first time at the rodeo. I retired in January and I can say in my 67 years as a resident I’ve seen plenty of “Next Big Thing” projects started, only to see them fail and quietly go away. So I am simply voicing my skepticism. Frankly, I would LOVE to see a revival of the old Interurban lines, but that’s not going to happen. I would also say, take a look at the negative signs and talk to some of the older residents and business owners who either have left or are leaving, that’s also where my skepticism about theh Red Line comes from. Finally, I am NOT a new comer to this neighborhood. I’ve lived here since 1977.

          • Kevin,

            While It is perfectly reasonable to be skeptical of this entire project I just can’t have too much sympathy for some of the people who picked up and moved already. We are still 3 weeks from the opening and it seems that some people in MK became so obsessed with their own fever dreams of catastrophe that they painted themselves as victims of something that hadn’t even happened yet.

  • This Hoosier is rooting for the BRT to be a success – and I think it will be. We returned to the Midwest in 2011 from the east coast, where we saw how efficient and dependable mass transit is an attractive and oft-used option. When Blue Indy arrived soon after moving here, we bought the annual membership, sold one of our vehicles, and get around just fine knowing we can use Blue Indy if we need to. Now we look forward to taking the Red Line down College Avenue for a night out on the town, or go all the way downtown, without having to pay for parking, gas, insurance, or aspirin. A city without good mass transit is not really a city, or at least a good city. And we know many who will joining us in using the BRT.

    • Blue Indy is dead. Just like the Red line will be. Light rail would be the ultimate waste of our resources. We need to promote and subsidize vehicles—particularly electric or hydrogen, and ultimately self-driving and eventually drones.

      A city without good mass transit is not a city, you say? Wrong. A city with ample parking and efficient traffic routes does not need mass transit. Those without vehicles would be better off if public transport was an Uber-like or taxi service (with cars, not buses) subsidized by the city— we would all be better off financially— but people are trained to think that “we need mass transit”. We certainly don’t in Indy–at least not in Red line or light rail forms.

      Trying to use yesterdays solutions for todays issues and with todays technology is not wise, especially when you try to duplicate solutions from one very different city to the next

      Mass transit is not a one-size fits all solution. When 85% of commuters in Indy drive their own vehicles (1% bike and the remainder are “other”), we are better off promoting that resource and making it cleaner and more efficient by subsidizing those without vehicles, not building massive, expensive, inefficient “arks” (aka the Red line) that will carry only a handful of people at any given time at an exorbitant per user cost. We all lose in that scenario.

  • I’m really looking forward to the Red Line opening. I’m hoping that it’s successful enough to get more buy in from the city.

    In the future I would like to see improvement of sidewalks in the areas surrounding the red line. I know the missing sidewalks near my neighborhood (Canterbury) are a big deterrent for my neighbors as the two roads they would use to get to a station (54th or Kessler) have blocks with no sidewalks.

    I would also like to see the city adopt some Transit Oriented Development policies creating incentives for development near BRT stations.

    • Canterbury is a neighborhood of quiet streets without sidewalks, connected to College Ave. via Canterbury Park, the Monon, and Forest Hills (which has sidewalks connecting to College). It’s inconvenient for about half the neighborhood but not bad for the rest. And it’s a really pleasant shaded walk.

      • There’s absolutely no excuse for not having complete sidewalks along 54th St & Kessler Blvd in the year 2019. It’s a big letdown that the folks at IndyGo and the City of Indianapolis could not make it a priority and find the funding to complete these missing sidewalk segments, which are critical to attracting choice riders to the Red Line.

  • Could we just focus just for a moment how the Red Line’s infrastructure improvements (especially on College & Capital Avenues) will benefit future development?
    I know “CHANGE AINT SO EASY IN INDY” for many people. But chill out naysayers: it’s just the first baby step. This stuff takes time.

  • Like most commenters here I eagerly anticipate the Red Line running and know I will put it to good use for trips now done by car. I do hope folks interested in the Bottleworks/Mass Ave area see it as a viable alternative. The 9th and Capitol station still leaves a good mile walk.

    • That would be a good case for using bike share.

      • If you’re going to use a bike to get to Bottleworks from MK, skip the Red Line and ride down to the foot of the Monon.

        • You’re both assuming an able-bodiedness that not everyone who uses mass transit possesses.

          • The coming frequency enhancements on other local bus routes will be helpful. While it would require a short jaunt down to the transit center and a transfer, having 15 minute headways on overlapping routes on 10th Street, Central Avenue, and Fort Wayne Avenue will provide a great level of connectivity to the Red Line.

  • Indianapolis Traffic Becomes Dreadful as Bus Red Line Swallows Up Critical Travel Lanes Also done without and thought on Fire apparatus traveling on College during rush hour. Also whose going to clear the bike lane on Illinois St or the stations in the winter after snowplows push the snow?

    • While you might not agree with the choices made, it is pretty hard to imagine that any of what you describe was done without thought.

    • I am pretty sure that if the fire apparatus of which you speak found the Red Line to be an obstacle, you would have read numerous new articles quoting the IFD leadership about the problem. But you didn’t, because the IFD did not object to what was planned or what now exists. As for your characterization that the Red Line has made traffic in Indianapolis “dreadful” most of us have found it to be otherwise. Traffic is calmer along the BRT route and trip times are roughly the same as they were before construction began. But if you dread driving ear the route, do what most of us intend to do: ride the new bus!

      • No you witnessed the continued assinie thought process for this so called city! Open your eyes and you will see much better. Tax payers subizdize the Colts Pacer and now indy go for what? Narrow lanes for traffic?

    • Which fire station is on College Ave.? As pointed out elsewhere, there are many parallel routes that fire apparatus can use.

      And, pray tell, how did they get through College/Kessler at rush hour BEFORE the Red Line construction?

  • Can we discuss something else for a change?

  • I agree with Mike, this is a BRT not Armageddon. The world has embraced BRT’s. Recently visited Seattle and transit lines including BRT everywhere. Property value along transit lines has increased and auto traffic has not come to a screeching halt. Transit ridership is also up.

  • In regards to safety, I suppose I should link this article from earlier in the year.
    Designing streets so that emergency vehicles can go as fast as possible leads to unsafe streets the other 99.9 percent of time.

  • brian said on
    August 31, 2019 at 9:22 am

    Red Line buses have hit three vehicles. All three happened on the same tricky street.

    Or … three vehicles failed to appropriately yield to Red Line buses, causes avoidable accidents.

  • All I can think about is wondering if Natasha road the bus yesterday or if she has already fled Indy.

    • Natacha was (apparently) either banned or voluntarily left NextDoor after doxxing another poster with whom she disagreed.
      While I do somewhat miss her rants here, I hope she finds some peace.

  • Wrong. And shortsighted. I would venture to say you have not lived in a larger city based on your comments (by larger, I mean larger than Indy) and have not based your info on data or studies. Even Indy’s own studies did not support the red line, but they rolled the political dice and lost because it “sounds good” to promote public transportation. For towns like Indy, it is a ludicrous endeavor

    Just like Blue Indy, the Red Line has and will fail. Light rail would as well. It is a waste of all of our taxpayer money. Indianapolis would be better off subsidizing vehicles for those who can not afford them as opposed to paying millions for small-town-wanting-to-be-big fiascos like Blue Indy, Red Line or light rail.

    Being “like the big boys” is being smart—not necessarily doing exactly what they are doing if your situation or city is different from theirs

    One size does not fit all. Adding light rail or more buses will not make your city bigger or better. When 85% of commuters in Indy drive their own cars and parking is relatively ample and cheap and congestion is minimal compared to larger cities, 1% bike and the rest commute via “other”, you are wise to encourage policy that benefits the majority of what people desire and do currently— assuming you can make it work. And we don’t have parking or traffic problems in Indy, generally.

    But we create them when we remove parking and traffic lanes for un-needed buses and blue indy cars and vastly underutilized “street-lane-wide” 2 way bike lanes. Ever tried to parallel park along College Ave lately or watched what happens? An entire lane of traffic is blocked—in other words, ALL traffic in one direction, now that College is 1 lane only for cars in either direction. Similarly on Meridian. This discourages people living in these areas and businesses from re-locating there. Ludicrous.

    Look at Carmel— their population has tripled in the past 20-30 years. Indy is not even close to that. Have they (Carmel) added light rail or buses or massive bike lanes or blue carmel cars. No. And for good reason. Not needed.

    What Carmel did do was promote car driving. Roundabouts everywhere, and in the downtown area— free parking garages. Smart. People use these things.

    For bikes, not massive bike lanes, but widened sidewalks, a la bike and walking paths so as not to make driving more difficult—which the vast majority of people do—-they drive and park. Bike paths for commuting are largely nonsensical in cold (or even hot) weather cities. Car traffic count in Indy is consistent year round. Bike traffic falls from its low levels to nearly zero on hot, cold or rainy days.

    If your concern is environmental, the roundabouts are hugely green. No more idling at 4 way stops. My commute from north carmel to 465 cut in half by roundabouts. Same with a cross Carmel trip.

    But Indy cant do roundabouts en masse, so in the interest of green Indy needs to subsidize those who purchase electric or hydrogen vehicles—not push public transportation that eliminates car traffic. Expand the existing bus routes if anything or add express routes. Have you ever looked at the red line route times? you might as well walk—-they add minimal benefit beyond a normal bus route

    Self driving cars (not buses) will eventually replace public bus or rail transport in indy, we will never get to the light rail phase. It will always be faster, cheaper, more nimble and more efficient to have cars vs buses— even for public transport. And eventually those will be replaced by drones that replace our electric or hydrogen cars

    As our vehicles become connected and self-driving, congestion issues will be largely eliminated, and transportation will be cheaper. This is what we need to promote, not policies that attempt to imitate big city “solutions” when we have very different issues and variables.

    The red line, blue indy and light rail type solutions are a waste of all of our resources now and for the fore-seeable future

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