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.
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.
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.