The Indy Connect Red Line, which is now under alternatives analysis, has broken radio silence and as of this week have a few potential route alignments available for public discussion. If you attend one of the public hearings, you can see the details of these being provided by Indy Connect. Divided up by northern or southern routes, there are two alternatives for each and they offer a tantalizing imagination of future rapid transit service for the Red Line.
Originally scoped, the Red Line would run from Carmel through Downtown Indy and south to Greenwood. A rough amalgamation of corridors were identified which include Meridian, Illinois, Capitol, Madison, Shelby, College and Keystone Avenues; all major automobile throughfares. Along the way, major job centers in downtown Indy, as well as US31 in Carmel could be served with this new transit line.
To lay the ground work for this study, lets go to On The Map and plot out where our jobs are located. As I have reported in the past, the majority of existing IndyGo ridership is driven by using it to get to and from work; thus it is a good basis for beginning analysis of whether or not these are the correct alternatives. Since the Red Line travels north, it bisects Broad Ripple. I have written in the past about the importance of serving Indy’s second downtown and why it makes sense when I concluded that Route Matters. Then, as now, I used jobs to justify this. I have sketched the alternatives over the jobs map and you can see this below. The alternatives are not online at this point in time.
An update using 2010 jobs data still shows this to be an accurate area to serve (2008 jobs were used prior). Broad Ripple is on the way to Carmel, which is an important criteria for optimizing transit boardings. However, another suggestion comes to light with an analysis of the data. Not only is the US31 corridor in Carmel rich in jobs, but the Keystone at the Crossing area rises as a comparable blip on the radar. Note the darker blue area. However, one key factor to consider with both the Keystone and US31 job centers, is that they are nearly 100% automobile oriented. Large surface parking lots separate the travel corridors from the actual buildings that they serve.
As we look to the south, we discover an area which I have admittedly not spent as much time analyzing. Immediately, the University of Indianapolis, located at the confluence of Shelby Street and Hanna (and a few blocks from Madison) rises on the radar. This makes sense with Indy Connect scoping and has been repeatedly stated as a destination to be served by rapid transit. Between Greenwood and downtown Indy, it is one of 2 major job destinations that rise on the map; the other is County Line Road where Greenwood Park Mall is located.
The north alternatives generally follow the trail of jobs available along Meridian Street between downtown and 38th street. Along with the jobs are a number of apartment buildings, The Children’s Museum, Ivy Tech and a host of other corporate and non-profit types of organizations. North of 38th street, the next big concentration of jobs is Broad Ripple Village where numerous small businesses operate providing a number of low cost retail and food service jobs. As I stated above, beyond this is US31 in Carmel and Keystone at the Crossing which both offer jobs but are separated by large parking lots which provide a serious barrier to robust transit boardings. The US31 corridor jobs are likely white collar and medical jobs. Most of the locations east of 31 are non-medical so these are the likely targets for providing service.
Conversely, Keystone at the Crossing is a majority service-sector employment cross section. These workers are much more likely to be transit dependent types as lower incomes require a larger percentage of total earnings be devoted to transportation costs.
So we have a large value question to answer here,
“Do we serve US31, where the 2nd largest Central Indiana job center is located but in which choice riders are likely the target market, or do we divert to Keystone at the Crossing, essentially a mall environment with an easier market to sell transit to?”
It is a tough question to answer even with a lot of critical thinking applied.
My initial reaction to the south side alternatives is that Fountain Square is a great potential market. Thinking from an anecdotal perspective, the recent infusion of apartments along Virginia Avenue between downtown and Fountain Square provide an optimum market that would embrace transit. It is close to the core yet far enough that walking in adverse weather would induce one to choose a car. Additionally, the large concentration of jobs in Fountain Square proper are low wage retail and food service jobs. The confluence of Fountain Square and Shelby Street provide a perfect avenue to divert the Red Line from an excellent near-downtown market to the University of Indy where a large student population is likely to take advantage of rapid transit that would funnel them downtown and to the north side.
Further south there are some difficult decisions to make. The solid alternative highlighted on the map would follow Madison Avenue all the way to old downtown Greenwood. Along the way, Greenwood Park Mall would lie directly along the line and also hosts a number of retail jobs. However, the dashed line represents a diversion over to the major medical complexes of the south side. Health care providers have repeatedly expressed a wish for quality transit offerings which would assist with the health of patients, many of which have difficulty affording the trip for check ups and other medical needs.
As with the north side, critical thinking will be required to determine which is more valuable for the Red Line service,
“Do we serve the Greenwood Mall, a potentially large trip generator, or do we divert from the straight line and provide what equates to an arguably more justified destination in the medical centers?”
At this point in time, the alternatives that have been provided are simply ideas and will be refined by year’s end with additional details yet to come on the actual stop locations, guideway treatment and other potential amenities. You can see more about all the alternatives by attending one of the public hearings now being conducted by Indy Connect for the Red, Green & Blue Lines.