Getting From Here to There

MIBOR and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce sent out a media release announcing the results of recent polling on Indianapolis’ upcoming transit referendum.

Poll results released today shows broad-based support across Marion County registered voters for this fall’s ballot initiative to improve mass transit in Indianapolis. Following last week’s public rollout of the grassroots initiative, Transit Drives Indy, there is clear momentum and public support for the Marion County Transit Plan.

As American Strategies reported, “Fully 61 percent support the referendum, which will appear on the ballot this November, with just 33 percent opposed. The measure attracts bipartisan support and majority backing in each region of the county.”

Support was broad-based. According to the self-identification of respondents, 74% of Democrats, 55% of Independents, and 47% of Republicans support the effort to expand transit and intend to vote for the tax necessary to support it.

 Across the region, support was strongest in the northern (66%) and central (62%) parts of the county, though support was strong across the entire county.

“We are pleased with the broad support among Marion County residents who recognize the value that improved transit service will bring to our neighborhoods, our business community and our city—jobs, quality of life, and greater independence,” said Mark Fisher, vice president of government relations and policy development of the Indy Chamber. “The Marion County Transit Plan will better connect job seekers and employers while ensuring Indianapolis remains competitive for talent.”

MIBOR (Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors) president Roger Lundy pointed out that all of central Indiana will benefit from improved mass transit. Transit is key to connecting neighborhoods, to providing access to housing opportunities, and enabling independence for vulnerable populations–the disabled, and especially the aging population that is growing dramatically as residents of central Indiana live longer.

It isn’t just older Hoosiers who want the ability to move about the city without a car. Downtown Indianapolis is in the midst of a housing boom, and despite the whopping number of new units being built, and the premium rents being charged, occupancy rates have remained well over 90%. Many of the people moving into the center city are millennials, and of that age cohort, some 10% do not own–or want–a car.

What they and their grandparents do want is what so many cities have: reliable, frequent, modern mass transit options that enhance the quality of community life. Convenient, cost-saving and environmentally friendly transportation options.

We’ve waited a long time to join the ranks of cities that actually work.


  1. I can think of two benefits not mentioned (unless I missed them); cleaner environment due to fewer private vehicles emitting fumes and clogging downtown streets and easing the parking problems. I enjoyed riding the bus; when I lived three blocks from a bus line I had a monthly pass. One Deputy Director of Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development rode the bus every day; doing paper work during the ride.

    Although I am unable now; I would have appreciated being able to take a bus downtown for a number of reasons. Would have to drive 6-7 blocks, park my car on a side street and walk a short distance to the bus stop but…narrow shoulder and unsafe bus stop areas on both sides of East 16th Street precluded trips downtown. Was the general area of suburban bus stops considered and researched during the study?

  2. I think improved mass transit is something Indy has needed for years. But here’s the rub: What do our fearless leaders mean when they talk about “improved” mass transit? Merely putting more buses out on the roads and streets in this county will solve nothing. Buses are already a major source of traffic back-ups, with their constant stops and slow movement. Before everybody gets all excited about voting their tax dollars into the hands of politicians who haven’t shown an ability to provide much needed services in this city (take, e.g., the terrible conditions of so many roads in Marion County), people should start demanding to know how, exactly, this money will be spent. Because even if a majority of those polled support improved mass transit, these very same people will probably end up driving their cars to-and-from work, shopping, school, etc. A plan that does nothing more than put dozens more buses on our already crowded roads will do little to nothing to alleviate the problems Marion County has (and will continue to have) with traffic. Am I cynical about this so-called plan? You bet I am. But Indianapolis hasn’t had a mayor capable of solving pressing issues since . . . well, I can’t remember the last one who did much of anything other than dished out money to Jim Irsay and the Simons. Keep this in mind, folks, when you vote in favor of the so-called “transit referendum”.

  3. I would dearly love to have quality mass transit in Indy and will be pleasantly surprised if it happens.
    And don’t count on any meaningful improvement to mass transit in Indy.
    The big roadblock to mass transit are the paranoid people in the suburbs who don’t want “those people” having access to their area. Remember the outrage when the MONON trail was extended further north?
    It doesn’t matter if the majority of folks in the area want quality mass transit. It isn’t about what people want it’s about money. The people with money and political influence have proven time and time again they don’t care about mass transit or anything else that will benefit the people of Indiana.

  4. Way back when, Indianapolis had a great transit system, with electric cars running every 20 minutes all over town. You could take the inter-urban to go to Carmel, Greenwood, Lebanon, and Martinsville. If you’ve ever wonder how those roads on the south side of Indy got their names, they were stops on the inter-urban. We still have Stop 10, Stop 11, and Stop 12.

    In the late 40s and early 50s, good old General Motors bought the transit company. They sold off everything of value, transferred the cash to their pockets, sold themselves a brand new fleet of diesel buses, and declared bankruptcy. Indianapolis was part of an anti-trust suit against GM. GM lost the suit, but won the war when the judge ordered them to pay the plaintiffs the sum of $1.00. That made Indy dependent on automobiles for transportation and GM was glad to sell to all of the citizens they’d just ripped off.

    That’s just a little history for those of you too young to remember such things. I am hoping for a reincarnation of the old transit comany. The tracks are still there, but they’re buried under the asphalt. If they just don’t patch the potholes, maybe the tracks will come to the surface and half the work will already be done. (Just joking, folks).

  5. I have been under the impression that voter approval of the referendum will enable, at first, a bus line to be built from north to south which will ultimately connect Hamilton and Johnson counties with downtown Indianapolis. Frankly, I can’t understand how Marion County taxpayers footing a transportation bill for white flighters will benefit most people who live in Marion County, not to mention that elected officials in said counties seem to be not at all interested in joining up. I understand I am ignorant of the entire scope of the transit plan. Therefore, next Wednesday I am going to take an Indy Go bus to my local library (a circuitous route in which I first have to go north in order to end up south) to listen to the presentation and I hope learn something.

  6. People have to become acculturated to mass transit. The present system, in Broad Ripple as an example, means a bus every hour. That does not entice people to ride the bus. The best things to do would be: 1) Identify the routes with the most potential for riders; 2) Increase the numbers of drivers and buses so that buses are more frequent (particularly during “rush” hours); and 3) Charge no fares for one (1) year. If fares are not charged for only a couple of weeks, riding the bus would be a mere novelty. In the space of a year, a lot of people would get the idea of how much money they can save—even if they own a car—by riding the bus. Once fares would be charged, people would be acculturated to the bus. If the idea does not work, we can always cut the annual handout to the Pacers by a few million.

  7. I will believe Indy is ready to do public transit when buses run on Meridian north of 38th. Currently the folks who labor in all those houses, gardens, yards, etc. have to hike in from the streets that do have bus service. The occupants are strongly encouraged by the lack of buses to drive cars when it should be unnecessary.

  8. Stuart, it’s the 21st century, it’s been that way for 16 years. David, how does one bus an hour along a lot of the routes really mess up your day. We need busses to come by oftener, and to expand several routes, and add a few

  9. Add on to Peggy Hannon — Indy Star retold last year its true story from 1954: a business man left 54th and College at 8 am, by city bus and inter-urban journeyed to Muncie, Greenwood, on to Chicago for a 1:00 pm luncheon appointment. THE SAME DAY. Several years ago when Broad Ripple Ave. was resurfaced, indeed trolley tracks were exposed. What progress we lost. Thanks GM.

  10. Sheila: You usually do your homework, but apparently not this time, so let me explain a few things you might have missed.

    First, the north-south route for Red Line was originally Keystone Avenue, which makes sense, given that Keystone is the north-south route where all of the shopping opportunities are, especially for the economically disadvantaged, and there is also Woodfield at the Crossing, Keystone at the Crossing, restaurants, lots of places where riders might work or shop. The route got changed to College Avenue, where there are no major employers or shopping opportunities. Why? Because if there is a BRT line on College, developers can qualify for “transit oriented development” government handouts for building apartments. There are available lots at College and Kessler, 46th & College, and other spots.

    They are planning on tearing up College Avenue, putting in a median which will restrict left turns and cross traffic and building little bus stations in the middle of the street. This is because College isn’t wide enough, like Keystone would be. (Keystone is 7 lanes wide, already has a median and turning restrictions). BTW: restricting parking 300 ft. either side of the intersections of 52nd and 54th & College will kill those little restaurants and bars whose customers depend on street parking–at least what is left of available parking after Blue Indy took spots without any input from the public.

    You might ask yourself why tear up College Avenue–couldn’t they just run buses more often? The answer is “yes”, they can, but as a prominent member of the City County Council has reported, the reason they want to put in the median and stations in the street, instead of curbside pickup, is to prevent IndyGo from abandoning a BRT line on College, if the 51% increase in ridership doesn’t happen (which they know it won’t). The reason: to protect the investments of developers so that they qualify for the “transit oriented development” and other government grants. No BRT–no government handouts.

    Why do we know that ridership won’t increase by 51%? Because most of the current College line riders live south of 38th Street. Red Line turns west on 38th Street, so these riders will be disenfranchised. Also, all bus stops along College will be eliminated except at the following corners in Meridian Kessler: Kessler, 54th, 52nd, 46th, 42nd and 38th. Lastly: no service to Bishop Chatard or Broad Ripple. Now, given these restrictions, do you believe ridership will increase 51% over current levels? No, neither do I, which again leads us to question: why build on College?

    Also, IndyGo claims that the line will extend into Hamilton County. Why won’t this happen? Because Hamilton County riders wouldn’t even take the express bus that was available about 2 years ago. That bus had NO stops, and it still failed due to lack of interest. Hamilton County declined to even put the matter of a tax increase on the ballot for a referendum.

    IndyGo touts Red Line as servicing Butler University and IUPUI. The eastern edge of Butler is 1.2 miles away from College. Do you think Butler students and faculty are going to walk 1.2 miles to catch a bus? IUPUI is also far outside the walking distance for a bus, which is 1/2 mile. At a recent public meeting, IndyGo admitted that IUPUI users and IU Medical Center patients would need to use a transfer, just like they do right now, so no improvement in service. Red Line will not go anyplace that current IndyGo buses don’t already go, so there will not be any huge uptick in ridership.

    Let’s talk about transit. Shouldn’t those who actually depend on transit receive the priority for funding for improved service? Where do they live? On College Avenue between 66th and 38th Street? No–they live near Washington Street, both east and west, where people stand in line to wait for a bus. Again, why weren’t the routes that serve these people given priority? See preceding paragraphs for your answer.

    If IndyGo wants to improve transit, why doesn’t it just run buses more often, to gauge ridership interest? Why doesn’t IndyGo just improve bus stations, like giving real time “next bus arrival” information and increased frequency of service? Again, no BRT, no “transit oriented development” grants. This explains the support of the Indy Chamber and MIBOR. These groups are not known for advocating for the needy, but they do advocate for wealthy developers.

    Once people learn the facts, they aren’t in support of the referendum as written. There should be 2 questions: one just for improvements in public transportation generally, and a second question for support of Red Line and the other BRT lines. The two are not synonymous, because Red Line will only help developers–not even the majority of current College Avenue bus riders will benefit for the reasons explained. People who are elderly, disabled, or who can’t walk long distances will be less likely to ride due to a decreased number of bus stops, which means walking further. Public transportation can be improved without a BRT, and without tearing up College Avenue to put bus stations in the middle of the street. See for more information.

    JoAnn: the electric buses IndyGo plans on purchasing cost 4Xs as much as current diesel buses and they cause more pollution due to the amount of electricity they consume, and, as we know, IPL burns coal, so no benefit there.

  11. I don’t have a stake in Hoosier problems but mass transportation is certainly one of the things that will be completely in the near future.

    Many who think about such things say that an additional mode will be the equivalent of driverless Ubbers. People don’t own, drive, insure, park and house, fuel, or maintain cars. They Ubber for day to day trips and rent for special occasions like vacations.

    Whatever Hoosiers decide to do to serve those who can’t afford that needs to consider that same future.

    From what I’ve been exposed to here perhaps it’s true that Hoosier government tends to be short-sighted and that’s going to become a more and more costly limitation.

  12. I’m a natural skeptic which is not altogether a bad thing. When viewing survey results, my initial reaction is ‘who conducted the survey’.

    Consider that American Strategies is a PR Consulting firm that conducts surveys on a hired basis for specific organizations who may, or may not, be looking for specific results. Did MIBOR and the Indy Chamber of Commerce fund the survey conducted by American Strategies? Keep in mind that American Strategies does not work for free. We may never know, but I am reminded of selection bias in polling. At present, I accept the results of the American Strategies survey with a very large grain of salt.

  13. Natacha; I wonder if the same people who drew up the development for College Avenue also drew up, and saw completed, adding a lovely median to Main Street through New Port Richey, Florida, to U.S. 19. The median with palm trees and tropical flowers was in the center of the three-lane street, it also crossed the bridge across the river. The bridge already had sidewalks but they added benches; this made the entire street one lane in each direction.

    Main Street was the hurricane evacuation route out of New Port Richey. It shure did look purdy, though.!

  14. Improved public transit is obviously a good thing. Unfortunately, the transit plan being pushed on voters is more waste and fluff than substantive improvement. Running more frequent busses and express busses on highly travelled routes makes a lot of sense, but that frugal good plan is just a tidbit of the money involved in the transit plan. The biggest expense is to set several bus routes in concrete in the middle of the road (the essence of BRT vs just more busses). This produces a huge construction cost, huge continued maintenence cost, and destroys the flexibility that is one of the biggest advantages of busses over trains. BRT also forces people to wait for the bus in the middle of the road, and the medians make a mess of car traffic. I think the choice of prioritizing Redline over more heavily travelled and necessary routes (labelled as such by their own Indygo study) says a lot about the goals of this supposed transit improvement. Not only is BRT an expensive way to provide bus service, but they have chosen a lightly ridden stretch of bus route to spend the first big money. The numbers from several parallel lines were combined, and where the routes were ridden was ignored, in order to feed the story of this downtown to Broad Ripple line being a legitimate transportation priority. This line will do little to improve transportation for those who need the bus. It will provide essentially no increased access to jobs, and paying for it may well reduce existing stops, routes, and coverage that people rely on. If the city and Indygo are not prioritizing legitimate transportation needs, there is no point sending more money their way.

  15. I support better and more frequent bus service and where riders are most likely to need and use it. Hopefully the money will be put into buses, drivers, and service and not into unnecessary medians we can easily live without. Besides, I wouldn’t want to get into a bus from a median unless the buses are going to have doors on the left side of the bus.

    As a Butler student in the 60’s, I depended on the bus service arriving every 20 minutes connecting the campus to downtown. Since my classroom schedule varied from day to day, that frequency was imperative to get to work. Bus stops were at frequent intervals making service VERY accessible for residents all along the way. We passed right by the old St. Vincents and Methodist Hospitals – two major employers and service providers.

    It seems too easy for decision-makers to forget that the priority of public service is SERVICE. I’m guessing that most decision-makers are not dependent on public transit. I suggest they try living without a car for a couple of weeks to get to work, church, doctor’s appointments, the grocery and drug store, relatives and friends. That might prioritize routes, frequency, and expenditures real quickly.

  16. But how will IUPUI make up the $19 million a year it gets in revenue from charging its employees and students outrageous parking fees?

  17. A lot things to clear up in the comments here:
    1) There are two separate issues being discussed: Red Line and referendum. The Red Line Phase I has received a federal grant that pays the majority of its cost and Phase I is moving forward regardless of the referendum. There is a referendum this Nov. 8th that will enable a 70% increase in the IndyGo fixed route system, build the purple line, build the blue line, and build the Red Line in Phase II and III. If you want to support better transit service across Marion County, vote yes on the referendum. Read here:
    2) Keystone Ave. was never the route for the Red Line. An earlier version of the plan imagined Keystone for what was then called the Orange Line. Funding restrictions to the plan eliminated planned BRT service on Keystone, although service on Keystone is being improved from 90 min frequency to 15 min frequency when the referendum passes. If you want to improve service on Keystone, vote yes on the referendum.
    3) You may not like the poll results, but they are legitimate and exhaustive, n=2500. Read the methodology here: This follows at least two other polls conducted with similar results.
    4) We significantly under-invest in transit in Indy. As a region we rank 33rd in population and 86th in transit investment behind Mission Viejo, CA and Omaha, NE. A more appropriate investment will provide more convenient service: Bus Rapid Transit stations, faster trips, more frequent service, longer hours of operation will yield more riders. We’ve seen this in Cleveland, Eugene OR, LA, NYC, etc. Even with the referendum, we’ll go from 86th to 65th as a region. Its a modest and needed step in the right direction.

    I could go on, but at the end of the day this is a needed investment so people who can’t afford a car can get to work. IndyGo has lunch and learns coming up that can help clear up any more questions:

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