The World’s Worst Legislature–Again

Okay–every once in a while, Hoosier legislators introduce bills worth supporting. Indiana’s ACLU tracks them and you can find them here, along with several abominations that probably have a better chance of being passed by the culture warriors that dominate the Indiana Statehouse.

Speaking of the multiple deficiencies of that body…

Indiana’s legislature is run by a super-majority of Republicans who represent–and are responsive to– rural parts of the state. Even districts that include parts of Indianapolis and other Indiana cities have a majority of suburban and rural voters, thanks to the extreme gerrymandering that “marries” carved up urban areas to larger outlying precincts.

The absolute dominance of rural interests explains a lot of the retrograde policies beloved by the members of the General Assembly, but it doesn’t explain the extent of legislators’ resentment of Indianapolis. You would think that lawmakers would at least occasionally try to accommodate the needs of central Indiana residents, if for no other reason than recognition that the city is the economic driver of the state.

But no.

When the culture warriors aren’t attacking public education and schoolteachers, they take aim at the needs of urban Hoosiers. I’ve previously pointed to the ways in which state distribution formulas shortchange city roads and schools; this session, two State Senators have decided to overrule the needs and express wishes of Indianapolis residents by once again trying to kill the city’s belated effort to provide citizens with accessible public transportation.

As the Indianapolis Star reported,

2022 presents IndyGo’s third go-around with challenges in the Indiana General Assembly.

In the previous two legislative sessions, lawmakers introduced bills seeking to restrict bus rapid transit expansion until IndyGo raised a percentage of its revenues through private dollars, and make IndyGo, rather than utility companies, pay for utility relocations for its projects. After drawn-out debate, neither of these came to fruition.

This year, Senators Jack Sandlin and Michael Young introduced a bill that would prohibit future dedicated bus lanes outside the Mile Square, effectively tanking the Blue Line project, the city’s third bus rapid transit line that would run along Washington Street between Cumberland and the Indianapolis International Airport.

“It’s disappointing,” Evans said. “But, you know, we’re hopeful, as we always are, that the voice of the people” — the 59% of Marion County residents who voted for the referendum in 2016 for a public transit tax — “will be heard.”

There are plenty of reasons to support public transportation in Indianapolis, but even people who don’t agree–people who were in the distinct minority who voted “no” on that referendum–can see that this attack is simply one of the legislature’s regular, despicable efforts to show citizens of the state’s largest city who calls the shots.

It took three sessions just to get our legislative overlords’ permission to hold a referendum to tax ourselves. (Even then, the “we know what’s best for you” yahoos at the statehouse forbid such tax dollars to be used for light rail. Why? Who knows?) 

Business and government leaders in Indianapolis have worked for years on IndyGo’s plans to extend public transit. They’ve fielded studies, investigated the experiences of similar cities, and–importantly–managed to obtain significant federal financing for the project.

As Inside Indiana Business has reported,

The line would be Marion County’s third bus rapid transit line in a year’s long plan to improve mass transit. Using dedicated lanes, the routes are intended to more effectively move bus traffic and improve service. 

IndyGo is set to receive federal funding to cover nearly half of the 220 million dollar project. Years of planning have gone into the line that also includes infrastructure improvement along the westside corridor with miles of new sidewalks, pavement, ADA ramps and traffic signals.

This is not the first time the Blue Line has been under scrutiny. Last session, a measure from Republican Sen. Aaron Freeman (Indianapolis) sought to change IndyGo’s funding arraignment.

These attacks come from petty would-be tyrants with histories of demonstrated animosity for Indianapolis and the diverse–and largely Democratic– folks who live here. And since the state does not have anything remotely resembling home rule, lawmakers can choose to ignore a democratic process that allowed citizens of Indianapolis to voice their preferences. They can vent their spleen with impunity.

There is no principled policy reason for the Sandlin/Young bill.; it’s a sheer expression of vitriol. They are proposing to overrule the democratically-demonstrated desires of Indianapolis residents because they can.

After all, they only answer to rural Hoosiers who don’t need public transit.


  1. What do these Republicans have to say for themselves. Just amazingly stupid to shoot off one’s nose to spite the face.

  2. I guess it would not do any good to mention that public transit systems release far fewer carbon emissions than private vehicles, because the troglodytes in the legislature probably don’t believe that carbon emissions are responsible for the highly variable weather the country and the world have been experiencing. They probably consider Climate change is to be a hoax devised by antifa.

  3. Hoosiers: Do not feel isolated. Do not feel the cold, lonely angst of Republicans thinking you are unique in the United States. EVERYWHERE Republicans control government – at all levels – they screw it up. They are completely corrupt and beholden to the big money donors. None of the politicians or the donors give a good goddamn about governing for the benefit of the majority of their constituents, the environment or anything else relating to the general welfare of the nation.

    No, you are not alone. Take Texas…please. Take South Dakota, Georgia, Oklahoma…please. Somehow power madness has completely turned these state governments into mere mouthpieces for corporate/banking America. History shows us that ever since Lincoln was shot, EVERYTHING Republicans touch dies.

    Karl Marx predicted that capitalism will destroy itself from within. Republicans and their capitalistic donors are showing us how easy it is to corrupt the innocent into thinking that shooting their feet off is a good thing.

  4. The Blue Line will remove two travel lanes on West Washington leaving it a two lane road. It will have a devastating effect on the businesses in that community as well as the residents and anyone commuting through that area. It’s a truly awful idea….even more awful than the Red Line (which, for some reason, was ran up College Avenue instead of Keystone) which has proven to be a bust. I totally support the Sandlin/Young bill.

    The expansion of the bus line is all about taxpayer subsidized economic development, not serving the transportation needs of the community. Every time city officials get the authority to raise taxes or fees for some corporate welfare scheme, the response is to raise those taxes/fees to the maximum amount possible. Given the long support of Indy city officials (of both parties) when it comes to raising taxes to hand more money over to corporate interests, I welcome some fiscal responsibility from our state legislators.

    The reason mass transit has not caught in in Indianapolis is not because of a lack of funding.
    It is because of a lack of population density. Indianapolis has the least dense population of any major city in the country, with the exception of Jacksonville, Florida.

    Plus, Indy’s approach to expanded mass transit is completely out of date. With telecommuting, fewer people need to live in urban areas and fewer are needing rides to work. Also, with a lack of population density, smaller buses should be used to meet people’s need for bus service. Instead, we continue with a hub-and-spoke bus system using large, heavy buses. That approach is completely outdated and the fact you use (overpriced) electric buses doesn’t change that.

    Transportation officials have taken the “Build It And They Will Come” approach to bus service. That never works and isn’t working this time. See Red Line.

    If city officials ever get serious about mass transit in Indy, they will take a foreward looking position that takes into consideration Indy’s unique lack of density. So far that hasn’t happened.

  5. Pascal,

    Yes, public transportation systems release less emissions than private vehicles. But what you’re missing in your calculation is that removing travel lanes results in more congestion, and more time on the road for private vehicles. So, you end up with more emissions and more pollution when there are dedicated bus lanes that replace travel lanes. The reduction in cars on the road from Indy’s improved mass transit system is miniscule at best and doesn’t offset the increased emissions problem caused by more traffic congestion.

  6. For a while Indygo (Indy’s bus service) ran a shuttle to and from the airport. On two and three week vacations, it made a lot of sense to for me to take a taxi downtown, pick up the shuttle and ride to and from the airport. I did not need to pay the parking fees or leave my car sitting exposed to increasingly violent Indiana weather (hail storms, tornadoes, ice storms).

    Yes, Washington Street will lose a lane of traffic, but like most former state highways, these urban stretches of road need to go on a sever diet since the traffic peaked on them about 1975. The design of the bus lanes, unlike the College Avenue Red Line, will allow left turns for the full length of the route. I regularly travel College Avenue, and I will have to say the lane diet had made the traffic move more steadily, and with less crazy since there is no longer an intermittently open park lane where idiots can pass you on the right.

    I took a look at the districts for these two Senators. One of the districts has about 4 miles a West Washington Street in his district, but most of it is in Plainfield, beyond the reach of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line. His district stretches almost to Coatsville, and I suspect that less 5% of his constituents ever even drive on Washington Street. The other district is another fine example of Gerrymandering, where it slices deep into Indy and covers a few miles of East Washington Street, but dives almost to Whitestown as it does a wonderful job of slicing Democratic Indianapolis into safe Republican Districts.

    Like Sheila pointed out Indy is the economic engine of the state, despite the constant attacks by rural Republicans, the city along accounts for 25% of the states GDP, and the 9 county region accounts for 50% of Indiana’s GDP. I suspect it would be higher if state funding were more equitable and a mile of 5 lane Washington Street did not get the amount state tax funding as a mile of 2 lane county road 500 in Green county gets.

    I took the time to contact these two state Senators telling them I oppose SB 369, but I have no idea if these guy even bother to look at their communication since I have gotten no response. I did get an acknowledgement from my own Senator and Representative, so I do have some hope that some communication does get through.

  7. Self-government of, by, and for the people is a fine concept but the GOP is teaching us that it can be defeated by determined authoritarianism. I don’t think that this development would surprise those who conceived of and wrote the Constitution, but perhaps they counted too much on the intentions of those who rise to public service and therefore did not erect sufficiently codified guard rails in the case of purely self-serving public servants.

  8. Paul, The Red Line travels College to serve the people that live there. Nobody lives near Keystone Avenue. It was designed around cars. College Avenue had a street car line running up and down until the 1950’s, so you get lots of houses and small clusters of businesses. Keystone was developed after the car was king and like you pointed out, while it has lots of businesses, it does not have the population density.

    Speaking of population density, I don’t know where your density stats came from, but Indianapolis is far from the worst for density. You left the king of urban sprawl off your list and that is Atalanta GA. Indy does lack some of the density, but the BRT seems like a perfect compromise between cost vs service.

    I have already mentioned that as a former state highway (US 40), Washington Street, from an urban design perspective needs a sever diet to bring it back in line with current traffic loads. It will make it more people and transit friendly. I know you bemoaned the subsidies, the only way Washington Street is going to get curbs and sidewalks and maybe even proper drainage is with a Federal subsidy, since the state is dead set against properly allocating street dollars.

    Wile the Red Line got off to a terrible start, it is just one piece in a multi year plan to change the transit system in Indy. Once all of the BRT’s are running many of the bus routes are going to be revamped to become branches on the BRT lines. It is transit “SYSTEM”, and not just a few busses.

    In addition, the College Avenue businesses along have complained about loosing parking to the now failed electric car share service, but I don’t think I have heard one complaint about the new traffic that BRT brings.

    The BRT won’t instantly fix all of Indy’s transit woes, but like the ghosts from that long ago street car line, I think you will see significant shifts in development patterns as the system matures and people see the value.

  9. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the real problem is a moribund state Democratic party. Follow the Abrams model and get into those rural counties.

  10. I haven’t lived in smaller states, but I can say unequivocally that where I have lived, everyone hates their largest city. Everyone in New York state hates NYC; all of Illinois hates Chicago; Detroit (when it was a large city) was hated by everyone else in Michigan (still is).

    Why? Well, where are the zoos, art museums, symphonies, and generally venues of culture? Where are the higher paying jobs? Jealousy, a feeling of inferiority, an assumption that the “city folk” look down on “us real Americans”. They live in the Hallmark movie world where all “city slickers” are arrogant, selfish, and don’t value what’s truly important, while the small town and rural folk are “genuine”, kindly, and value the truly important things.

    It is a variation of the old ’60s/’70s joke – “Here I am living through the sexual revolution and all that I have are pimples” — I often wondered if that was on the mind of the National Guard troops at Kent State.

    As for the transit project, I don’t disagree with Paul that much on the design. Having lived in seven states, Indianapolis is the hardest to get around. I live about a mile from the Red Line, but it would be a real pain, involving a hike down the Monon, and a walk across Broad Ripple, toting a backpack with a laptop, to use the Red Line, which wouldn’t take me to where I used to work. I wouldn’t take College that way anymore. Fortunately, I now work from home.

    However, to have the State Legislature make that decision is just plain wrong — unless you subscribe to the oft repeated meme:

    “The government closest to the people governs best — unless they are controlled by Democrats”

  11. Only to be outdone(?) by legislation that is being considered in Florididia that would put microphones on school teachers, enabling parents,
    at home, to be able to monitor what is being taught. Talk about abomination. Called both of my state legislators and used that very word, yesterday.

  12. I said this before doing an internship at the Statehouse back in 2013 and that internship confirmed my suspicions. The GOP has been attacking cities that primarily vote Democrat–they took out Gary, Terre Haute, years ago and have been slowly trying to take out Indpls.

  13. As a resident of an extremely rural county in north Indiana I must take issue with the statement that the legislature only cares about the rural counties. The state highways in rural counties don’t get resurfaced until they begin causing damage to vehicles. The county roads are the responsibility of county taxpayers and if you live in a rural area you accept that you mist provide your own transportation.

    However, the legislature does listen to and respond to business requests that can be described as corporate welfare. If the business owner or top management makes a sizable campaign donation their request will be considered important. Corporate welfare always wins whether it is urban or rural.

    Why must Indianapolis get permission from the legislature to create and fund a bus system? Is it because they need the entire state population to fund it? Or is it because it may involve state highways or both?

    For the past two decades Indianapolis has been the beneficiary of almost all of the new employers coming to this state, which includes most of the higher wage jobs. As a rural resident I have no interest in being forced to help fund a bus system in Indiana. I also was not happy about being forced to subsidize a train line between Indy, Lafayette and Chicago that had very low ridership. It was used mostly by out of state and foreign college students to travel to Chicago and O’Hare when they were on break. It was occasionally used by business employees to travel from Indy to Chicago. A huge waste of taxpayer funding for no more than it was used. Now if it had come through my area and would have given our residents something of value that would be a different story and opinion.

    Unless you have lived in a rural area of Indiana you don’t realize how nice it is to live in or near Indy. We rural citizens were forgotten years ago, if we ever mattered. The businesses in rural areas are a different story.

Comments are closed.