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Could a new People Mover Station spur development?

Clarian People Mover at the Station

Clarian People Mover at the Station

The Clarian People Mover in Indianapolis is a privately owned and operated elevated fixed guideway transit structure. It closely resembles a “monorail” but in fact is not. It was built with the purpose of connecting medical facilities in downtown Indianapolis’ NW medical district.  It connects Methodist hospital on it’s north station, with the IU Medical complex on it’s south end, and by extension, IUPUI; if you are willing to walk a few hallways and take an elevator to get there. There is one stop midway through it’s route to serve another medical related facility. The service is also free of charge to anyone from the public who wishes to ride. For these purposes, it does a great job.

Interior of a car on the Clarian People Mover

Interior of a car on the Clarian People Mover

However, what it does NOT do, is function as a proper modern mode of transportation. While it is a fare free service, it really doesn’t serve anything else besides the medical facilities efficiently. The rail passes by numerous apartment developments and commercial developments. It stands to reason that given access to the People Mover, efficient non-automobile related transportation of people could thrive. However, getting on the people mover presents a challenge. All the stations are buried within facilities that you must really make an honest effort to reach. Once there, the facilities provided are very clean, and function nicely. In most places where a public rail system is built, private development follows it. It is this function that largely fails the Clarian People Mover. You can make a strong case that Clarian has planned it’s facilities around the People Mover and to that affect, it has spurred SOME development, but how much has the People Mover really done to promote this? Additionally, it hasn’t cut down on any parking lots, nor spurred any sort of talk about modifying zoning standards to make accommodating the people mover a motivating factor in development. It also has zero interface with the city’s transit agency, IndyGO.

Rendering of The Avenue at 10th & Indiana

Rendering of The Avenue at 10th & Indiana

Recently, property development around the 10th street and Indiana Ave area has begun on its own. A large development called, “The Avenue” will take the place of the former Fall Creek YMCA. Also, across Fall Creek, 1201 Indiana Ave, a medium density apartment complex, is being constructed. Both show that there is interest in this area as far as residential interests are concerned. The current Wishard Hospital also resides at this intersection and will become vacant a few years from now. It is unknown at this point what sort of development will grow up on the former site of this medical facility but if current trends are any indication, it will be another medical facility of some sort that could benefit from a connection to the People Mover. Also of note are prospective plans for the former Lockefield Village to convert it to student housing. A feasibility study is underway to determine if this is a good reuse. Additionally, the Van Rooy owned Campus Apartments just east of The Avenue are slated for redevelopment at some point in the not too distant future.

View under the tracks at 16th Street crossing

View under the tracks at 16th Street crossing

The case being laid out, could the Clarian People Mover be modified to interface this rapidly improving node? Could a new station located in the 10th & Indiana area usher in more private development? There are a number of smaller low density commercial nodes in this area that could also be redeveloped in a manner that complimented an oft served transportation mode such as the people mover. A mixed use transit oriented type of development seems logical. It’s fair to assume that could a compromise with Clarian (or IU Health as it’s slated to be renamed to after the new year) be struck, a more dense area that served the residents of the area and promoted a less auto dependent mode of transportation could be developed.

Proposed People Mover Station and associated development parcels

Proposed People Mover Station and associated development parcels

This is merely one transit advocate’s idea of how the area could be improved with some small changes by a corporation that has already demonstrated it is capable of providing a nice transportation service and a city badly in need of alternatives to the automobile. For years, transit advocates have bemoaned the missed opportunity that the People Mover represents. It essentially turns it’s back to the neighborhood. Perhaps it could be modified to make it a little more accommodating and in the process, provide a great service to the neighborhood and city both. Selling Clarian on the idea is obviously the largest hurdle, but a medical agency that promotes good health practices, could be the biggest advocate of a mode of transportation that promotes walking and other health benefits associated with alternative modes of transportation.

As always, Im open to thoughts regarding this off the wall idea.

6 Responses to “ “Could a new People Mover Station spur development?”

  1. Chris Corr says:

    Very interesting analysis Curt. This area will probably look completely different in 10-15 years and I expect it will revolve around high density PRIVATE student housing and commercial to serve it. How great would it be to have a 5 story wall of buildings surrounding the Bloch Cancer Survivors Park, with commercial space on the entire ground floor?! A true outdoor living room.

    My guess is it’s going to be a domino effect. The Avenue will finish, IUPUI will determine that student housing is a good fit for Lockefield Village, Van Rooy will pull the trigger on replacing Campus Apartments and finally the commercial strip (at least the outlots with Taco Bell, Papa John’s etc.) will become too valuable to languish with drive-through fast food entities.

  2. Chris Barnett says:

    Folks have told me that at least a few savvy Northside commuters to IUPUI and the IU Med complex prefer to ride the bus on Capitol to 16th, then make their way to the campus via the People Mover from Methodist. This avoids the whole downtown bus rodeo loop.

  3. Chris Barnett says:

    Curt, People Mover is driving the location of additional Clarian/IU Health development: head of the canal (three new buildings in the past 5-8 years), and south of Methodist (Neuroscience Center and more administrative offices).
    .
    It seems to me that the most-likely renters of all the new non-student apartments in the area will be faculty and IU Health employees, and thus it would seem smart to grant them commuting access to the line.

  4. Scott says:

    My wife and I have lunch in this area pretty regularly, and have commented several times that it would be great for the People Mover to have a stop somewhere there. It seems to me that the various fast food places and restaurants would be very interested in having a stop available. There’s not a lot of great places to eat around any of the current stops, so I’d imagine a good number of workers would consider going out for lunch occasionally, if they could hop off near there. (Not that the area needs more foot traffic at lunch time… it’s always swamped)

  5. Andy Arenson says:

    I could see a station at Lockfield helping to spur residential living in the area — being used both for people who live there to get up to 16th street and for IU Health people to get to lunch, or other shopping.

    The trains, though, are pretty slow, so I fear the utility of the line is minimized as only people who are already at one stop or another would bother to use it — otherwise the time to travel to the line plus the time to travel on the line gets onerous.

    The line is also subject to a lot of weather delays — primarily ice and snow in the winter, but also high winds, if I recall correctly.

  6. Johnathan Doe says:

    “It was built with the purpose of connecting medical facilities in downtown Indianapolis’ NW medical district.”

    I believe it was built more for a reduction in the reliance on shuttle buses more than anything. Shuttle buses may have been cheaper to operate, till such time that one runs a red light and smashes into a 15 passenger van at 35-40 MPH. I could be wrong, but I’m sure the above played a decent part in the go ahead with the people mover.

    “The current Wishard Hospital also resides at this intersection and will become vacant a few years from now. It is unknown at this point what sort of development will grow up on the former site of this medical facility but if current trends are any indication, it will be another medical facility of some sort that could benefit from a connection to the People Mover.”

    The entire Wishard campus is now owned by IU, but will be used by Wishard till their building is done. There technically is already a connection to the people mover. The people mover stops off just south of the Wishard Campus, with a skywalk to the IUPUI Cancer Research building. Once developed, it wouldn’t surprise me if another skywalk is built over Wishard Blvd. from the Cancer Research building.

    This actually brings up a pet peeve of mine: Laziness. It seems folks in Indy have a serious dislike for walking anything longer than two city blocks. No wonder we are a state with lots of overweight and obese people. Even if the people mover station wasn’t connected to the Cancer Research building, one could walk around the building and pretty much be right in the middle of the Wishard Complex. Maybe you over looked this, but is it too much to ask people to walk four or five blocks to their destination?

    The only suggestion I would have would be to extend the mover down Barnhill Dr. (which is now a pedestrian only walkway anyways), then west down Middle Dr. (again, now a pedestrian only walkway) and have it connect to the new Wishard facility. It would also be nice if a skywalk was built from the new Wishard Hospital to the VA Hospital.

    “Also of note are prospective plans for the former Lockefield Village to convert it to student housing. A feasibility study is underway to determine if this is a good reuse. Additionally, the Van Rooy owned Campus Apartments just east of The Avenue are slated for redevelopment at some point in the not too distant future.”

    Lockefield Village won’t be student housing. It appears that schools/departments that carry a bigger stick than IUPUI Housing got first dibs on this building. While it would have been a nice housing addition to the campus, the fact remains that there are two student housing developments going up, with rumors of a third down at 16th/Pershing Ave./Lafayette Rd.. The rumors were that IUPUI Housing was going to get the building, at least the upper floors, which are more like apartment units than the first floor. However, this seems to not be the case. The Campus Apartments are gone. This will now be the third or fourth time the occupants have been notified of the complexes closing. There is going to be a big push to rid this cesspool of this up-and-coming area. This place is a haven for robbers. I would say at least 90% of all robberies that happen in Lockefield Commons ends up with the robber being last seen running into the Campus Apartments complex. The destruction of that dump will go a long way in helping with crime in the immediate area.

    Overall, I like your idea, but the entire concept of the people mover was to move hospital related folks to and from in a manner that would allow for the elimination of the shuttle bus system. It would be nice to have a few more stops, but I don’t see IU Health wanting to pay for it, since it provides nothing to them. If they want to promote health of the surrounding area, have them walk to one of the stations. If a half-mile walk is too much, then I doubt the person’s health can even be saved!!

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