Earlier this month, Indy Connect hosted a set of open houses focusing on the next rapid transit corridor up for study; the Purple line. Currently, studies regarding the Purple line are at the Alternative Analysis stage. In this stage planners are evaluating route and vehicle alternatives along with station locations and operating features. The line will run east to west, presumably from Lawrence to Eagle Creek. With those two key destinations in mind, planners are deciding between running the line via 38th street or 30th street. The 38th street corridor seems like the more obvious choice of the two because it is currently one of the most highly traveled corridors in the city. Also, one might note that it has more key destinations and more transit-oriented development potential than 30th street. Much of East 30th street is composed of large industrial complexes. While West 30th street may have the Children’s Museum and a few other commercial nodes, the amount of TOD potential along West 38th street with Lafayette Square Mall and the fact that 38th street extends beyond Moller Road to Eagle Creek, while 30th street becomes more residential at that point and splits up, makes 38th street the better option of the two. Transit on East 38th street particularly is already at capacity with Indy Go route 39 being one of three “high-frequency” routes running at 20 minute intervals on weekdays. It is also one of two routes using 60 ft articulated buses, which were re-added to Indy Go’s fleet last year.
If the line is placed predominately on 38th street, the next step in the analysis is to determine if the route should take the same alignment as Indy Go route 4 and veer from East 38th to 42nd and 46th streets to Lawrence. This does not seem like the best route because while that route would hit the Meadows, Devington Plaza, and 46th/Shadeland, the next commercial area to reach would be the terminus at Fort Harrison. Areas experiencing high pedestrian traffic like 38th and Emerson/Arlington/Post Road would be left out. Also, following Indy Go route 4 would take the route onto the interstate via the Shadeland expressway. The route could take Franklin Road instead of the Shadeland expressway, however, there is currently no public transportation on Franklin Road north of 42nd street. Therefore, there is less predictive value of how well ridership will do in that area.
Vehicle choice is just as important as route choice when developing a rapid transit line. To comply with federal standards, Indy Connect is evaluating light rail transit and streetcar for the route in addition to bus rapid transit. An alternative must be evaluated even though the Indiana state legislature has prohibited these options as stated in this year’s passage of SEA 176, which prohibits an eligible county from using funds to create a “light rail project” (pg. 36). The bill specifies taxpayer funds cannot be used to create a light rail project. However, there is nothing stopping a group of corporations from pulling their resources together to fund a project. Though, this has not happened as of yet.
The Purple line is the first line for which streetcar is being considered. Even though streetcars tend to be more flexible than light rail vehicles, for either of those methods, having a straight route via 38th street seems like the better choice. Also, from Fall Creek to Eagle Creek Parkway, 38th street becomes three lanes in both directions. It appears that accommodating a center, transit only lane would be easier on this portion of the route. This gets a little tricky between Cold Springs Road and Industrial Blvd where 38th street becomes part of the I-65 interchange. However, the route could turn left down Cold Springs Road jog across 30th street and turn right onto Lafayette Road back to West 38th street. This would provide direct access around Marian University; though, the remainder of 30th street is highly residential. Regardless, this option appears better than crossing over the interstate. Use of a streetcar or bus rapid transit seems like a better fit instead of light rail because of the ability to go from a dedicated right of way to intermingling with on street traffic. Obviously a dedicated right of way is not an option when it conflicts with people getting in and out of their driveway.
Transit planners have a large task ahead of them when finalizing the best options for the Purple line. Using 38th street will provide access to key thoroughfares such as Lafayette road, Georgetown, Meridian Street, Emerson Avenue, Franklin road and Post road, while hitting key destinations like Eagle Creek, the IMA, the fairgrounds, Meadows, and Lawrence. Vehicle use must match the area while being beneficial for residents and businesses as well. It will be interesting to see the direction Indy Connect leaders decide to take with the Purple line.
Conference Committee Report Digest for ESB 176 http://iga.in.gov/static-documents/4/0/c/d/40cda402/SB0176.07.COMH.CCH001.pdf
Articlulated bus – www.indygo.net
Aerial view of Marian University – www.google.com
Lawrence village intersection – www.lawrencevillageatthefort.org
Streetcar – www.voicesonthesquare.com
Aerial view of Eagle Creek – www.indyrowing.org
Featured image – www.fineartamerica.com