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.Â 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.Â 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.â€œOur calls at customer service have almost doubled in the last couple of weeks,â€ said Ronnetta Spalding, a spokeswoman for the transit service.
Iâ€™m very lucky as I live near a bus line that stops a block from work, so Iâ€™ll ride on days where I donâ€™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.