We’re back to mass transit - this time with emphasis on the proposed "rail service" proposed for the "northeast corridor."
Considering what we have heard recently, we’re troubled by a lack of specificity about this part of the proposal. The "Summary Report on Transportation Alternatives in Central Indiana," published about two years ago by the Central Indiana Transit Task Force (CITTF), refers to "passenger service on existing freight rail lines."
This is in addition to the generally widened use of busses, and of "light rail," in other areas. We understand light rail to be the equivalent of what used to be known as street cars. The report, and a follow-up press release from a year ago, gives no indication of the kind of equipment to be used on these "existing freight rail lines."
There is no indication as to whether this would be single, self-propelled units or something resembling a train of cars. We have heard that the vehicles - individually or severally? - will make use of Cummins power units.
We are particularly disturbed by other information which we have heard is under serious consideration. We certainly would be happy if someone officially connected with CITTF would verify or specifically deny the following concept.
The distance between Noblesville and Union Station is said to be 21 miles. The proposal is that distance will be covered, by whatever type of vehicle is used, in 21 minutes on a rail system at grade level. The 21 minutes will include 12 stops. If each stop, not including losing and regaining speed, is 30 seconds, that is 6 minutes out of the actual travel time. Our little hand calculator tells us that covering 21 miles in 15 minutes would require an average speed of 84 miles per hour - through a dense urban area with grade crossings at every street.
Quite frankly, we’ve thought of the possibility that someone is spreading this story in order to make the CITTF look ridiculous. As a matter of fact, we do hope that is the case!
The CITTF report cited is 30 pages. We saw no specific estimate of the cost of this particular part of the proposed expenditure of $1.3 billion for the entire program.
A table labeled "Figure 8" on page 15 of the report estimates a "9.9% rate of Return on local investment" for the entire recommended proposal - rail, bus, etc.. One more question. Are these the same people who have supported the "investment" of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars downtown where the "rate of return" has left the municipal budget in a shambles?