Indy’s soon-to-be-complete Cultural Trail has been heralded since its inception as a triumph in public-private partnership. Combining federal grants and private donations, the Cultural Trail has significantly added to the walkability of downtown without much reliance on local tax dollars. With the recent influx of development in Fountain Square in anticipation of the trail’s completion, it’s hard not to see the project as a success.
My question for the day is this. Could Indy create a better transit system using a similar public-private partnership?
At its core, a transit system runs up against the same basic issues that the Cultural Trail faced – primarily the repurposing of land and streets for the project. A streetcar or elevated rail system could use the Cultural Trail as its model for taking away lanes from auto traffic. After all, if the city-county council went along with something as unique as the C.T., how could it not agree to a transit model that uses a similar funding technique.
Obviously, a transit system runs a significantly higher bill than the Cultural Trail did. The C.T. will be completed for $55 million, while the recent Indy Connect plan calls for funding of $2.5 billion. However, between the many foundations that generously gave to the Cultural Trail and the many corporations in the city that would benefit from doing business in a city with better transit, I’m positive that a number north of $100 million could be achieved. $100 million is certainly enough to build a streetcar system not unlike the one in Portland.
In a community so traditionally auto-centric at a time when taxpayers across the country are balking at government spending, I think the public-private funding approach might just be the best way to jump start our city’s public transit.