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.
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.
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.
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.
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.