A recently completed study by private consultant Storrow & Kinsella looked at the future of the Carmel region and how to lay a road map to sustain the success of recent and current projects going on in the quickly urbanizing suburb located 15 miles north of downtown Indianapolis. (click here to be taken the report on the Indianapolis MPO website) a number of the maps referenced are also easily viewed here
While I philospohically struggle to justify putting this story here at Urban Indy instead of my own blog due to it’s not-so-Indianapolis geographical location, it has regional implications that are worth the reading, and could also serve as a call to action for Indianapolis’ civic leaders.
The study recently completed was funded by a federal transporation grant and represents the collaboaration of the City of Carmel and the Indianapolis MPO. Contained within, are a number of suggestions that would nudge Carmel into a modal shift from a car centric city center, to a more transit oriented mode; a move which seems to be matched by the current pattern of development in the Carmel city center area. The study aims to provide ways to sustain that economic development through transit oriented means.
The report is 232 pages and represents a complete and in depth look at what the future of Carmel could look like, should city officials decide to pursue the recomendations and proper funding be put into bringing it to fruition. It plots a path starting with multiple transit districts laid out in parts of the Carmel area which are geographically similar and which are all connected to a central transit hub that is located near where the current IndyGO ICE routes pickup and drop off.
A “rubber tired” based trolley system would be used for the first phase. Complete routes are recommended for additional future circulators also utilizing rubber tire based vehicles. The report examines future funding being used to impliment rail-based streetcar vehicles like those seen in Portland, Seattle and recently adopted into plan by Cincinnati.
The report also emphasizes that creating places should be an important part of the implimentation. It lays out a number of scenarios that take in current trends in the Carmel area and exploits them to the advantage of a more pedestrian oriented environment. The current Carmel Bike Plan is referenced as are “complete streets” strategies of connecting places and making the areas walkable; a theme which is pushed all over the country by urban activists intent on reviving our city’s urban cores. Another theme which is hit on often in the report is that Carmel should emphasize that it is a “City of Neighborhoods” and that the transit plan would be used to connect these neighborhoods using the circulators. The neighborhood theme is one that fellow Indianapolis blogger Greg Meckstroth of Urban-out.com touched on in comparing Cincinnati’s neighborhood centric pattern of development, to Indianapolis’ car centric pattern.
Dreaming even bigger, the study pins some faith on Indianapolis and the Indyconnect plan and suggests that whatever Carmel decides to impliment, it should coordinate with the region’s long range transportation plan. To that end, the plan suggests some sort of rail based rapid transit along College Ave to Indianapolis’ downtown area. That portion of the report seems to have been aligned with the HARMONI group of Midtown Indianapolis, which is also a neighborhood based non-profit that pushes similar neighborhood based improvements in the Broad Ripple and Meridian-Kessler area of Indianapolis. HARMONI has also advocated for some sort of rapid transit along College Ave.
The study is so in depth that it even covers suggested methods of branding the potential transit system in a way that is marketable and attractive to the general public. “It would include specific vehicle types and well crafted graphic imagery of color, route associations, and the brand/name/logo applications to vehicle, stops, shelters stations, wayfinding elements and system maps and guides. Beyond graphics and names, vehicle types (to the detail of specific models) are extremely important considerations, as are the style and form of the architectural elements of stops, stations, and transit centers.”
I would be remiss if I did not give my opinion of the report. I think that it is large in scope for a relatively small community but reads like a summary out of the Portland, OR design guide. It promotes green infrastructure at every turn. It prioritizes pedestrians and bicyling and maximizes land use in a smart and dense manner; the overiding transportation theme ties it all together. While Carmel is not laid out in the most efficient grid pattern in which the most successful transit systems are implimented, it’s current pattern of dense devlopment does lend well to mass-transit’s theme. 232 pages later, I feel inspired to advocate for a similar type of report for Indianapolis and the Indyconnect plan. With Carmel’s record of success in developing innovative transportation design along Keystone Avenue, it’s development of the Art’s District of Carmel and the currently under construction City Center I would not be the least bit surprised to see a majority of the parts of this study already started down the path to implimentation.
The implications for Indianapolis’ transportation system could be huge if one of it’s prominent suburbs were to institute a transportation system of the caliber described in the report. Should this reports suggestions be implimented soon, it could represent an embarassement to Indianapolis’ civic leaders for not coming together to put a similar plan together and impliment it sooner.
Editor’s Note: A special thanks to the IBJ’s Chris O’Malley for passing along some information to help in my research