Recently, I covered the study of the Red Line Rapid Transit Corridor. A short way of describing the Red Line is to say that is scoped as a north/south corridor that would travel from Carmel, through Broad Ripple and Downtown, to Greenwood. A number of alternatives have been proposed along the way.
The technology of choice will almost certainly be Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as any sort of rail based technology will likely be too expensive on account of constructing in-street rails. That being the case, I thought I would go down this rabbit hole for an examination of how the chosen route might wring value out of not only the Red Line service itself, but other local bus service.
To begin with, an examination of current service will show us how closely it would align with proposed Red Line service. A number of highly patronaged routes currently exist in the near north Meridian Street corridor. The 38 & 39 which are some of the highest rated routes by boarding in the system run north from downtown, and along Meridian. Also, the 18 runs Meridian for a portion of it’s route. Close by, along Illinois & Capitol, the 4, 25 & 28 operate. Along Pennsylvania and Delaware, the 19 operates. As you can see, 7 routes run along a corridor of 5 adjacent streets. When Red Line service is finally implemented, it will likely be on one of these streets bringing the total to 8.
How might we bring some efficiency to this corridor by combining these bus lines into 1 or 2 corridors? In other cities where rapid transit systems operate, trunk lines are established where many bus or train lines converge on similar corridors. Rapid transit often operates on these, but local services duck in and out where their routes may be able to use the trunk line to decrease the running time along the route. Usually, trunks exist due to geographic constraints whether that be a river, a mountain, so on and so forth. In Indianapolis, a different condition exists. Geography plays a part, but not natural. Human geography drives this condition. Meridian Street offers a glut of trip generators from businesses, non-profit organizations, charter schools, apartment buildings, a community college, the Children’s Museum, etc.
“Could Meridian Street itself, through robust and dedicated guideway infrastructure, establish itself as a trunk corridor for rapid and local bus service? If so, what would that look like?”
Certainly there are some hiccups to consider. Bunching of buses could be problematic as local buses tend to create delays with riders paying as they get on board and would compete with Red Line buses which would most likely benefit from off-board fare collection services. So there are some things to consider with this. Would local buses service sidewalk customers while Red Line buses served median stations? And how would automobiles deal with this? Certainly, one can make the case that between Capitol, Illinois, Delaware and Pennsylvania that cars have orders of magnitude more lane miles to get in and out of the core. Indeed, most parking garages are situated along those blocks anyway. Still, the argument will be made.
I don’t have the answers, but a case exists to be made that a major trunk line on Meridian Street, from 38th street to downtown, could serve to move buses, local and Red Line rapid service, quickly along the corridor delivering a valuable service in a corridor that generates the lion share of trips in the region.
What do you think?