« We were right??? | Main | An IBJ online item... »

November 14, 2016


Leslie Baker

Is there anyone in politics any more, top to bottom, with a shred of integrity?

Karen Neiswinger

The election result was not the product of honesty. Red Line and general improvements to public transportation, which are two radically different concepts, were put into a single question. This forced voters in favor of improving public transportation to also support Red Line. This is how IndyGo and the Chamber got churches and civic organizations like the Urban League to support the referendum: by pushing for the "social justice" of the elderly, the disabled and economically disadvantaged to receive a better bus system. Few people opposed this aspect of the referendum, and many people did not know the downsides of Red Line, thanks mostly to the misinformation campaign of IndyGo and the Chamber. Even if the public did attend the IndyGo infomercial sessions, the information provided was not complete or fully honest. Red Line will not help the aged or disabled unless they live right by a station because 75% of bus stops will be eliminated. This likely also means fewer riders than the current College and Meridian buses. Most people voting in favor didn't fully realize that:

-College Avenue and Meridian Street will be closed for one full year, to tear up the street and install a median and little bus stations stuck in the middle of the street. This is because College and Meridian aren't wide enough for a dedicated bus lane in both directions. Businesses along College cannot likely survive for a year without their customers being able to reach them. Closure for one full year will wreak havoc on adjacent streets. Even after the construction year, the loss of street parking will likely mean the end of small businesses whose customers depend on street parking. Parking will be eliminated for 300 ft either side of the bus stations stuck in the middle of the street.

-No cross traffic or left turns, except at signalized intersections. Adjacent quiet streets will see an explosion of bypass traffic, threatening the safety of school children. The likeliest street to see a dramatic increase in traffic is Central, which has 4 schools: 2 at 57th Street, School 70 at 46th Street and SJOA at 42nd Street.

-There is no need for dedicated bus lanes--IndyGo could use curbside pickup, just like it does now, and just run buses more often and improve bus stops by putting in shelters and an electronic board advising of the next bus arrival time. Most of the cost of Red Line is to tear up College and Meridian and install the median. Why no curbside pick up? According to a prominent member of the City-County Council who investigated this issue, it is to protect the investments of developers who own parcels along College and who want to qualify for "transit-oriented development" grants to construct apartment buildings. If the promised 51% of increased ridership doesn't materialize, IndyGo would be forced to use the 60-passenger buses on routes where the need is greater. The median and bus stops in the middle of the street are to prevent this from happening.

-Cost: IndyGo has very likely under-estimated the cost, which they claim is about 1/2 of what most other systems have spent. They've never answered the question of how they could construct a system for less than half of other places. Taxpayers will be forced to make up the rest, in addition to the ongoing costs of running a bus up and down College Avenue every 10 minutes for 20 hours per day and every 15 minutes at night.

-Social justice: IndyGo is wasting $75million on tearing up College and Meridian just to benefit developers. This money should be better spent on routes where there is need for improved bus service, which isn't in Meridian-Kessler. Red Line would turn west at 38th & College, bypassing most of the current College Avenue bus riders, many of whom are minorities. Buses on lines on east and West Washington Street are heavily used. That's where the money should be spent. That is social justice. Red Line isn't about social justice.

-IndyGo lied to the FTA about the positive benefits of Red Line--in particular, that it will serve Butler and IUPUI, both of which are too far away. IndyGo claimed, in its application to the Federal Transportation Administration, that Butler was close enough for walking. Butler's eastern edge is 1.2 miles away, and most of the campus is west of there. They also claimed that IU Medical Center patients and staff would benefit. They would need a transfer, just like they do now. Red Line does not go to any destinations that current buses don't already serve.

-IndyGo lied to the public about many of the alleged benefits of Red Line: double residential and triple commercial property values. Many of IndyGo's claims are based on Cleveland's Health Line, a bus that runs from the suburbs east and west of Cleveland along Euclid Avenue, which was a complete slum before the Health Line. Health Line connects to Cleveland State University and the teaching hospitals of Case Western Reserve, so its students, faculty, staff and patients can use it. Red Line is by no means comparable. College Avenue and Meridian Street are not slums, and Red Line won't connect to I.U. Medical Center except via transfer. The only institutions of higher learning that Red Line will directly serve are Ivy Tech and University of Indianapolis. IndyGo's claims about ridership are thus seriously inflated.

-The citizens who opposed the referendum were outspent and out maneuvered by the developer community and the Indy Chamber, which opposed a tax increase for businesses and put up $449,000. ICAN, a coalition of church groups, put up $250,000 to push in favor of the referendum. Churches heavily stumped in favor of the referendum, believing they were supporting "social justice". Nevertheless, the vote was slightly more than 40% opposed. That is a remarkable result under the circumstances. There is clearly no citizen mandate to increase taxes.

-With the under-performing Indianapolis Public Schools, increasing county option income taxes would result in Marion County having the highest tax rate in the State, which would make outlying counties even more attractive to residents with good-paying jobs, especially those with school age children.

-Funding for Red line is dubious. It was to be funded via a $10 per barrel surcharge of crude oil. With the Republican super-majority, this is not likely to happen.

-Hamilton County voted against even putting the question on the ballot. A previous express bus directly to Downtown Indianapolis from Hamilton County failed due to lack of interest. A recent piece in the Indianapolis Star indicated that Hamilton County residents are losing interest in public transportation because the roundabouts are making travel much faster, with fewer traffic tie ups as people get used to using roundabouts. Hamilton County doesn't want Red Line.

-Demand: current College Avenue buses are mostly empty except for rush hour, and even then, they aren't crowded. Most people living in Marion County don't want to ride a bus. Many cannot because their job requires them to call on customers, pick up orders, deliver things, etc.. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to ride a bus. If the demand were there, it would make sense, but it isn't, and people aren't likely to ride a bus just because it comes more often. Not a good use of tax money when there are so many more pressing needs.

-Millennials: IndyGo and the Chamber claim that having Red Line will attract Millennials. This assumes that developers will get their way and receive grants to construct apartments that Millennials will rent. A recent piece in the Indianapolis Start quotes realtors as saying that Millennials are opting to purchase homes in record numbers rather than rent apartments due to rent being so high. Running a mostly-empty bus every 10 minutes up and down College and Meridian Street isn't going to attract Millennials.

Leslie Baker

Do Millennials even ride buses? I find it hard to picture the folks I know who fit that category doing so, but then, I haven't ridden a city bus in decades, so maybe they're all shiny and comfy and up-to-date now -- right?

The comments to this entry are closed.