As part of my volunteer work with the Green Line citizen’s advisory committee, I recently attended a meeting which provided updates regarding the study efforts for not only the Green Line, but also the Red Line and Blue Line. By now, if you are one of the many Central Indiana residents following these studies closely, you have seen the latest updates regarding refined routes, potential station locations and the like. I will provide a brief overview of those details here, but I want to spend more time analyzing the finer details of each rapid transit line.
Regular readers will be familiar with Urban Indy’s position on all of these lines as we have dissected and provided input about what we, as an urban focused group, think about the potential for rapid transit through the Indianapolis region and how striking the proper balance between moving people and revitalizing neighborhoods along the way is critical.
At this point in time, it is valid to offer a fresh analysis of the updated details, the potential station locations and whether or not they serve the areas most in need of the benefits that rapid transit offer.
There are no surprises with the Blue Line. Prior coverage has always leaned towards Washington Street being the optimum corridor and while planners have examined trips using 10th street, and the Michigan & New York Street couplet, Washington ultimately ended up on the top of the pile. To that end, this round of refinements (click to open Indy Connect page with maps) offered many station locations. For the most part, they are all logical and really do not offer much room for argument.
As you can see from the provided graphics, walk-shed (1/4 mile circles around the stations) is indicated and for the most part, cover the areas that most of us would think need to be served. The east side receives the lion share of stations along the entire length which makes sense based on existing trip data from IndyGo’s 8. Inside of 465, where a classic street grid exists, stations are spaced nearly 1/2 mile apart providing a walkable environment for nearly all stations. Outside of 465, stations are spaced further apart and this makes sense. If you have ever traveled this corridor, you know that once outside of 465, Washington Street becomes much wider to accommodate automobiles and the associated commercial land use designs. However, this portion of Washington Street is not without transit trip generators as Washington Square Mall and Meijer both possess significant gravity and are some of the major destinations current transit users travel to. Planners included a rendering of the Irvington Area highlighting what a potential stop could look like. While station design was not a specific focus in planning to this point for the Blue Line. I think most would agree that the rendering paints a pretty picture of the potential station area activity that rapid transit could bring to this already thriving area.
As you can see from the plans, the west side also has a number of stations however, they are spaced further apart. The current land uses, much more industrialized, contribute less to the overall success of the IndyGo 8 and the Blue Line planning reflects that. Although station designs would be similar, planners say an operating plan may provide less frequent service. However, those are merely talking points. The maps provided highlight the original plans taking the Blue Line all the way to the airport providing a high quality transit service for travelers.
One topic we have covered prior was comparative run time improvements versus the current IndyGo 8. Although printed material does not state it as such, the Blue Line could cover the distance from Meijer on the east side, to the downtown transit center, in approximately 30 minutes knocking a substantial amount of time off of what is today, a scheduled 45 minute trip. This is accomplished in most part via the drastically reduced number of stops. However, additional plans call for que jumping at stop lights to give buses some extra time to get in front of automobiles; think Delaware Street downtown at Washington Street.
No significant changes were provided that we do not already know about when it comes to the Green Line. The downtown Indy alignments were reviewed and a better defined range of stations along the line were provided with a notable exception being a slight change to the potential Noblesville station. While final station locations have not been determined, planning continues towards the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), required for a federally funded project of this scope, for the Green Line.
At the meeting, significant debate centered on the stations south of Fall Creek and this is valid since there is likely to be only 1 station, at the most 2, in this area. Most community redevelopment professionals would lobby for 2 stations as the resulting impact on the the neighborhood could be a game changer. Long plagued by brownfields and enjoying a small surge of rebound, this area could turn the corner with a pair of rail stations. However, the future remains cloudy for exactly where they may be and we will continue to keep an eye on this as the study moves forward.
The most exciting news, in my opinion, came out of the Red Line camp. Perhaps some of my excitement is based upon how many possible route options we had leading up to this point in the study. No major changes in the areas were presented. The line is still planned to travel from Carmel to Greenwood via Midtown and Downtown Indy with many stops along the way.
On the north side, there is still some debate on how the line would service the US31 office corridor north of 465. Whether this uses 31 itself, or a combination of College and Pennsylvania to the east remains to be ironed out. However, both would converge on the Carmel City Center. Further south, the line would travel through Broad Ripple with a stop near the new parking garage. Renderings for a potential station were provided and they seem to be contextually sensitive to the area, as you can see by the urban based massing of the station, near where the new parking structure is located. One plan offered for handling the buses on College Avenue included a phased parking plan that would operate something like this. In the mornings, parking would be restricted for south bound curb lanes during rush hour providing buses a dedicated space to speed along the route. In the afternoon, north bound curb side parking lanes would be similarly reduced. Whether the entire College Ave corridor would be setup this way, or just signaled crossing areas is still cloudy, however, I applaud this proposal. While it would create some heart ache among residents, it would go a long way towards providing a service that is attractive based on frequent service, and rapid transit times along the corridor. South of Broad Ripple Village, there would be a few more stops before reaching 38th street, including 54th street, 46th street and one at 38th.
This is where the route gets a bit exciting. The study is still underway, and primary study recommended using the Capitol & Illinois 1 way couplets as travel corridors, but recent news indicates that a dedicated transit-way could be a better choice from 38th to 16th street. Indeed, this is one of Indianapolis’ most transit ready corridors with a vast number of professional employment destinations, Ivy Tech, the Children’s Museum and thousands of apartments and homes just steps away. A preliminary plan for Meridian calls for a dedicated median lane that buses would use to travel north and south. Station orientation is yet to be determined but would most likely be located in the median as well. At 16th street, the transit-way would end, jogging over to Illinois & Capitol where curb-side dedicated lanes would exist. A graphic for this section was provided indicating where jobs were located along this portion of study and the data supports this potential plan.
The idea of a dedicated transit-way is exciting not only for the efficient operations that would result from this design, but also how it reinforces transit as the more efficient means of moving people along this corridor.
South of the downtown transit center, the line would likely utilize Virginia Ave to navigate to Fountain Square. Planners are still working on a route which could bring a station closer to Lilly’s campus but rest assured, it appears that Fountain Square will be the likely path the Red Line travels through. Heading south, the line would use Shelby Ave for points south of here.
One interesting operating scenario in the far south reaches of the Red Line could involve a branching of the line to service medical and job centers. This would cut frequency in half south of where the line branches however, it would still provide a much improved service over what is today, a very lackluster 1 hour frequency service.
Planners provided a station design guide of sorts. You can see from the provided renderings that a Basic station is planned for most areas which would include standard items such as ticket kiosks, covered seated areas and such. However, some areas with expected higher boarding potential would be rewarded with larger stations including wider overhead coverage areas and perhaps other amenities.
Wrap Up & Other Details
One interesting map that was provided at the meeting was a TOD potential map that combined all 3 routes on a map and indicated what station areas provided the best opportunities for TOD or, Transit Oriented Development. The downside of the plans provided to this point is that for the most part, they are transportation plans only. There is no associated land use plan that goes with it. Doing so could be difficult though, and the MPO has hired other consultants to assist with station area planning for at least the Green Line, that I have seen. Whether or not this level of detail exists for the Red or Blue Line yet is unknown. However, the MPO DOES have a TOD guide on their website indicating recommended development patterns. It will be interesting to see going forward how individual municipalities utilize this sort of information. Rezone Indy could be one avenue that Indianapolis uses to push developers into planning transit supportive uses around stations. Indeed, this would be one of the most significant outcomes of these transit lines outside of the actual movement of people.
For the most part, the Red and Blue Lines serve the areas that we here at Urban Indy have been saying need to be served. The job centers on the north side. The College Avenue corridor. Meridian Street, Fountain Square and the east side Washington Street corridor. If the finer minutia can be negotiated properly to allow rapid transit to function as rapid transit should function, then these lines could be head and shoulders above anything else that Indianapolis has ever seen in terms of public transportation.
As always, Urban Indy will keep you apprised as the study moves forward.
Editor’s Note: For full details including high resolution maps, renderings, etc, visit the public meeting material’s page at Indy Connect