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IndyGo ridership spikes during Super Bowl

IndyGo and Super Bowl organizers were thinking ahead when they were planning transportation and parking for the Super Bowl week in Indianapolis. Park & Ride lots were located, shuttle services were organized, and IndyGo submitted for and received a CMAQ grant to provide free fixedroute boardings from February 2nd through February 5th. As a result of high demand for parking downtown, ridership on IndyGo fixed route service has spiked tremendously. The first week following the AFC & NFC championships, IndyGo observed a spike. Friday January 28th, Saturday the 29th and Sunday the 30th ridership increased 12%, 38% and 36% respectively. Keep in mind that fares were still normal then.

A full IndyGo bus during Super Bowl week (image credit: Zach Adamson)

A full IndyGo bus during Super Bowl week (image credit: Zach Adamson)

Starting on Friday February 3rd, my twitter feed started filling up with tweets stating that buses were full. Indeed, through the weekend I saw multiple buses with the message displaying, “Sorry — Bus Full”. Friday night, I saw two sheltered stops on the southbound 17, north of 38th street, that were so full of people that they were spilling over onto the sidewalk waiting on buses to arrive; at 9pm at night! That is unheard of here.

Downtown Parking during Super Bowl (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Downtown Parking during Super Bowl (image credit: Curt Ailes)

For Indianapolis, this is unprecedented and represents a key concept we have talked at length about here at Urban Indy; that being the link between properly valued parking and public transit usage. For the first time that I can personally remember, market value overcame the glut of subsidized parking in downtown Indy and as predicted, Indianapolis’ meager transit provider was stretched like a body builder putting on a bad fitting tank top. Granted, free fares contributed to the overflow that we have observed this past weekend, however last weekend is proof that demand for transit in Indy exists when parking supply is properly allowed to fluctuate at market value.

With the recent failure to pass a bill for local transit funding at the statehouse, perhaps the city can use this lesson as a way of raising support for transit improvements in the future.

11 Responses to “ “IndyGo ridership spikes during Super Bowl”

  1. Richard W says:

    I was glad to see IndyGo running routes and running free fare on the weekend, but they failed during peak traffic, running HOURS late. Not sure why they thought that cross-town routes could still happen, trying to get through downtown with all the festivities. My 17-year old rode the bus on Tuesday from Far-Eastside to SB activities and back with no issues – on time and everything. Friday night a different story. Bus 40 min late (and a bus is scheduled every 30 min) at dinner-time on Friday, then when trying to get an Eastbound bus at 10p.-ish, no bus for over an hour and a driver of another route said they were 3 hours behind. So I ended up having to drive downtown to retrieve him and his friends.

    Really should have been running out-and-back routes (with more frequency) for the “free” weekend instead of trying to get through downtown with a normal schedule.

    Increased ridership is great, and will introduce new riders. and they excelled up through Thursday I believe, but they fell on Friday.

    All that said, a stronger bus system may have meant stronger leadership and planning for such a special event.

    • Ben Houle says:

      I absolutely agree, Richard. I tried to ride the bus Friday 1/27 at 4p. Almost an hour later (waiting without a shelter or bench with two kids under 7, no bus. I heard similar stories from several folks and I think IndyGo was ill-prepared for the detours and initial rush in combination with the regular weekday traffic. That said, we gave it another shot on Superbowl Sunday (this time with my wife and all three kids under 7) and had an outstanding experience. Easy, clean, comfortably crowded, and within 10 minutes of on time each way.

      Additional funding can only lead to a better rider experience, and if Indy can learn from the heavy programming that came with the Superbowl, I hope my family will have a lot more use to make similar trips in the future.

      • Richard W says:

        I’m sure Friday night was the height of ridership, as it rained Saturday and Sunday was the game. I think for downtown events where parking and traffic is an issue, I’d now consider IndyGo as an alternative for my family. While it is a 40 min ride from Cumberland to downtown on the bus vs 20 or so in the car, if it means I’m not paying big $ to park, sitting in traffic, or driving around hunting for a parking spot, then it becomes a net win. We’ll be on the bus again.

  2. Chris Barnett says:

    Something clear: the “bus loop” downtown doesn’t work during major events. I had a similar experience a couple of years ago riding in when the Indians, Colts, and Fever all had games on an August night. Street closures made it tough to get any closer to games than Ohio and Capitol, and buses were jammed after the game.
    .
    Clearly a straight turnaround is what’s needed to support large special events, rather than trying to loop every bus all the way through downtown for pickup. Bypass the “events core”. Use Ohio Street between Penn and Meridian as a “transit center” and close it to cars.

  3. Ryan Puckett says:

    I was among those who took advantage of the free fare over Super Bowl weekend. However, the last bus left downtown at 9:20 p.m. That’s 10 minutes before the final musical act in The Village took the stage. In my opinion, this is just one good argument for why we need to improve this system. 9:20 is too early and for those who take the bus to work, 9:20 is way before the 2nd shift ends.

  4. CityBeautiful21 says:

    Curt et al- Indy should look into what Raleigh and the NC State Fairgrounds do during the state fair. It’s not entirely the same thing- the Fairgrounds are well outside of Raleigh’s downtown, but working with the city and DOT they cone off a series of bus-only lanes that come right to the front gates of the Fairgrounds complex. Over the last 5-6 years, the network of bus-only lanes has expanded, making the bus to the fair more reliable and more viable marketwise. They charge a fare of about $4 roundtrip. Parking and traffic to the fair location are generally insane, so once people try it, they don’t go back to the old way of doing things. The NC in-state Amtrak services also make special stops all during that week, again, right across from the Fairgrounds gates.

    http://www.ncstatefair.org/2011/General/GetToFair.htm

    Bottom line- the city ran transit to the fair for years in mixed traffic, and it was a disaster. I once sat on a bus for 2.5 hours to go from North Raleigh to the fairgrounds, and we got out and walked with 3/4 of a mile to go. In normal rush hour traffic, the same trip took 20 minutes back then.

    Now that buses have their dedicated access, the experience on the bus feels like being a VIP in a limo. You get to zoom by all these other people sitting and waiting, sitting and waiting, and go exactly where you want to go.

    If the Super Bowl strategy worked well but was wearing at the seams, the bus-only lanes are the logical next step. Keep in mind that 1 bus that takes 60 minutes to go 2-3 miles because of heavy traffic can be turned around for 3, 4, even 5 roundtrips if the bus gets an exemption from the congestion.

  5. Joe Smoker says:

    I think all of you have very valid and tested points for this. The one thing I am pleased is that we are discussing the issues of huge demand, overcrowding and a congested DT…….I’d say we are facing the best test for the city to expand the system. IMO, we had a good problem. I waited for the 17 on saturday, which was on time…..but had the bus full sign on and zoomed on by, indy’s version of BRT I guess.

    • Chris Barnett says:

      Joe, I suspect Glendale’s big outlot on the east side of Rural (and other big suburban mall lots) probably became a de-facto “park and ride” Thursday through Sunday. I saw some “Sorry Bus Full” signs on Meridian mid-afternoon on Friday on 18, 38, and 39 buses.

      • Joe Smoker says:

        yeah, I know a lot of people around Hendricks County used Metropolis for a shuttle and the old airport parking for the 8.

  6. J. Hilton says:

    “For Indianapolis, this is unprecedented and represents a key concept we have talked at length about here at Urban Indy; that being the link between properly valued parking and public transit usage. For the first time that I can personally remember, market value overcame the glut of subsidized parking in downtown Indy….. Granted, free fares contributed to the overflow that we have observed this past weekend, however last weekend is proof that demand for transit in Indy exists when parking supply is properly allowed to fluctuate at market value.”

    If we are going to go 100% free market on parking, then I demand 100% free market on everything else. This sounds like another example of: Socialize what I like, privatize what I don’t like.

    • ahow628 says:

      “If we are going to go 100% free market on parking, then I demand 100% free market on everything else. This sounds like another example of: Socialize what I like, privatize what I don’t like.”
      .
      The form of subsidy is very different here.
      .
      Parking isn’t paid for with public dollars, but is required, making it an economic subsidy. Looking further, parking displaces space that should be more properly used for residential and commercial purpose, generating tax base. It is a net win all around in an economic sense.
      .
      Transit is a social subsidy, providing mobility for lower classes and improving quality of life (congestion, air pollution, etc).
      .
      Please don’t confuse those types of subsidy.

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