Greg Meckstroth writes for the Urban Out website. He has been gracious to share his vision with us.
Earlier this year, the IndyConnect plan was released that set a vision for Indianapolis’ mass transit future. From the onset, I have been critical of the plan’s suburban orientation and its focus on commuter rail. While such improvements are certainly needed and heavy and light rail should be a part of the IndyConnect plan, what I believe is missing is urban transit options such as urban circulators that cater to non-commuting travel and allow for urban and transit-oriented development to occur along the lines. For a detailed critique of the IndyConnect plan, check out this post, and for specific ideas on urban transit improvement ideas, check out this post.
If Indianapolis is to become a bigger and better version of its current self, the city must provide a world-class transit system that caters to multiple users, not just suburban commuters. On top of that, developing a mass transit system around peak hour use (rush hour) is as efficient as Wal-Mart planning parking lots for peak use (day after Thanksgiving). Thus, a plan focusing on urban transit that caters to trips occurring at all hours of the day (trip to the grocery store, bank, haircut, other daily needs) instead of 2 hours a day would increase the likeliness of the system’s success and be a better investment for taxpayers.
After talking about this topic for the last six months and complaining to all willing to read or listen, I have finally taken the time to put together a plan for an urban transit system in Indianapolis. The plan below outlines a 6 phase, long-term approach to implementing an urban transit system in Indianapolis. Essentially, these are the routes I believe will best capitalize on what urban Indianapolis has to offer, on where urban redevelopment can easily occur, and on where high density populations currently exist. As always, click the image for a larger view of the plan.
Phase 1 – Downtown Loop: Meridian St. – South St. – Delaware St. – Michigan St.
I believe an urban transit system should start here because a downtown streetcar loop would act as a base for all urban transit to build on. Plus, there is great development/redevelopment/infill potential along Delaware Street, nearby Alabama Street, and around South Street. Also, this loop will connect the active southern half of downtown with the underutilized northern half of downtown and all the great public spaces located there. Finally, the incredible amounts of conventioneers and tourists downtown year round provides an immediate ridership base.
Phase 2 – North Meridian Street: Extension from Michigan St to 38th St.
North Meridian is perhaps the most urban, densely built corridor in Indianapolis outside of downtown. There is a lot of potential for dense, mixed-use development and infill along North Meridian Street up to 38th Street. Also, numerous institutions including the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is located along the corridor. Thus, a streetcar line off the downtown loop and extending up to 38th Street would be perfect for North Meridian Street and allow the corridor to develop into an urban thoroughfare with transit oriented development.
Phase 3 – Mass Ave to N. College Ave Extension: From Mass Ave. to College up to Broad Ripple
This leg of the urban transit system would most likely be light rail or a high-speed streetcar. Along Mass Ave. and N. College Ave. there exists great potential for infill development in areas where people desire to live. Plus, this extension would connect downtown to Broad Ripple, urban Indianapolis’ two largest regional centers. A route along College Ave. would allow the numerous commercial nodes located here to develop into significant transit oriented development centers around light rail stops.
Phase 4 – IUPUI Loop: Michigan St. – University Blvd. – New York St. – Delaware St.
A streetcar loop through IUPUI would tap into a large population base that is highly likely to use mass transportation. Thus, this loop would allow IUPUI to become a more urban-oriented campus, shed its commuter campus label, and see significant infill urban development along Michigan and New York Streets.
Phase 5 – Fountain Square Extension: Virginia Ave. to Shelby St.
A streetcar extension to Fountain Square along Virginia Avenue would tap into an urban population base that is likely to use mass transit. Plus, there is a significant amount of infill development potential in and around Fountain Square, an increasingly desirable area to live that is in need of high density residential development to reach critical mass. A streetcar line connecting the Square to downtown would allow for such development to occur.
Phase 6 – 10th St. Extension
A 10th Street streetcar extension would be the final phase of an urban transit system for Indianapolis. This extension would serve some of the city’s higher population density areas. Plus, the corridor presents a significant amount of pedestrian oriented commercial redevelopment potential that would be easily developed around a transit system. Finally, a streetcar line along 10th Street would take advantage of the current attention, progress, and energy along the corridor surrounding the Super Bowl Legacy Project. A streetcar could be marketed as a continuation of the ongoing revitalization of the Near Eastside.
I look at this plan as a conversation starter, something that is draft form, something that can act as a platform for an urban transit system in Indianapolis. Hopefully these types of ideas can be refined, polished, and eventually be included in the IndyConnect plan as a priority transportation improvement. I truly believe urban Indianapolis and the city’s future would be better for it.