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New Series: Guest Posts in Support of Indy Connect’s Mass Transit Referendum

Urban Indy is partnering with the new Transit Drives Indy website to promote the Indy Connect ballot referendum, which will appear before the full City Council on Monday, May 9th at 7 pm in the City County Building. We intend to run a series of blog posts from citizens in support of the plan. Our first guest post is from Kallan Carr:

As a Midtown resident, I love everything about my neighborhood. My husband and I bought our home at 46th and Carrollton because we wanted to enjoy all aspects of city life in Indianapolis. We love to walk to restaurants, the store, bike to Broad Ripple and enjoy all the amenities our little slice of Indianapolis offers. We also bought our home, one block over from 46th and College because of the possibility of the Red Line project.

The one thing missing from our Indianapolis urban lifestyle is the ability to go down to a one car family. Now sure, there are some weekends we don’t even get in our cars. But during the week with full time jobs, evening commitments and a one-year-old little girl, we usually have about 15 things going on at once. The current public transportation system in Indianapolis just doesn’t allow for us to use it daily. The Red Line could change all of that for us. The speed and efficiency of the Red Line will allow us the flexibility to use mass transit to commute and make the possibility of owning just one car a reality.

On average, it costs over $8,000 a year to commute by car. This includes maintenance, gas, insurance, car payments, etc. Compare $8,000 to the $720/year average cost to commute by IndyGo and that is real money for Indianapolis families. Not to mention the fact that efficient public transportation is a necessity for families that can’t afford the $8,000 a year it costs to own a car. We owe it to Indianapolis families to provide them reliable public transportation options to get to work, school and live their lives.

Selfishly, I want the Red Line because I know it will make my life easier and save me money. But let’s be honest. We need mass transit to keep Indianapolis moving in the right direction. We need mass transit to continue to stay competitive, desirable and attract young professionals and working families. We are in constant competition with other large Midwest cities and our lack of reliable mass transit is hurting us. Young people in Indianapolis want the option of being car free and families want to have the option of being one car (or possibly no car) families. I want my children to grow up here and stay here and I feel that mass transit is crucial for the success and growth of Indianapolis in the future.

Kallan Carr

 

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28 Responses to “ “New Series: Guest Posts in Support of Indy Connect’s Mass Transit Referendum”

  1. Natacha says:

    1. First, there is no such place as Midtown. 46th & Carrollton is in Meridian-Kessler.

    2. The $8,000 is from IndyGo. I’d like to know the basis for this bald claim, which is inflated, along with other IndyGo claims–for example, the whopper that Butler University is 1/2 mile from College Avenue. If you believe that one, you probably would also believe that it costs you $8,000 per year to drive a car.

    3. We already have reliable public transportation. If you don’t use it, that’s your own fault.

    4. Indianapolis will not “move in the right direction” with the endless tax hikes it will take to keep Red Line going. Indianapolis’s taxes will be about double those of Hamilton County, and when you add the poor-performing Indianapolis Public Schools, this will cause middle class families to move to other counties, such as Boone and Hamilton. Red Line will set Indianapolis back and make it less competitive.

    5. If Indianapolis is not competitive with other cities, it’s not because we don’t run mostly-empty buses every 10 minutes down College Avenue. This is yet another myth. Running buses every 10 minutes down College Avenue will not attract anyone to Indianapolis, especially since everyone in the County will be forced to pay for it, even though very few will use it.

    6. Have any “young people” actually said, “I would have moved to Indianapolis if only they had buses running every 10 minutes down College Avenue”? Indianapolis is not, and never will be, New York, San Francisco or any other place that has effective mass transit. Indianapolis lacks the culture and ambience of other places, not to mention our restrictive LGBT laws, and, if Red Line goes through, we’ll also have sky-high taxes, with little benefit.

    • Anne says:

      Natacha –

      As a former daily user of IndyGo, I really wouldn’t call it reliable. There were many times the bus ran upwards of 15 minutes late, which made it difficult to rely on for work, especially when transferring buses.

      As a “young person” I have many times said, “I would have continued living in Indianapolis if only they had more effective public transportation.” I have since moved to another city with effective and truly reliable transit, though it is nowhere near the size of the cities you mention.

      • Mark says:

        I would take the AAA figures with a grain of salt. Their methodology assumes you’re buying a new car every 5 years, which means that the average vehicle age in their calculations is 2.5 years. However, the actual average age of vehicles on the road is over 11 years, which is more that 4 times greater. That means that their depreciation, finance charges, insurance charges, and licensing/registration fees are also higher (although their maintenance charges may be lower) than real life. For instance, they estimated licensing and registration at $665 per year, but those fees on a 10-year old car in Indiana are about $50.

        So it depends on what you’re automobile buying habits are. I’m sure there are a large number of people who fit AAA’s scenario, but there must be a much larger number who hold onto cars longer and/or buy used ones to mark the actual average age over 11 years.

        • Paul says:

          That is true. My car buying habits certainly don’t fit this. I was just showing her where they most likely got these statistics from.

    • Bertie says:

      Yet again, here’s Natascha, Ms. Status Quo, chiming in to triumph mediocrity.

      “We already have reliable public transportation. If you don’t use it, that’s your own fault.”

      What a sweetheart. Fighting to keep Indy’s public transportation ranked in the bottom ten in the nation. And no, it isn’t reliable. That’s why they don’t use it. They can’t.

      And of course, you offer no solution, just obstruction.

      Fortunately, through your relentless posts on this topic at this blog–the only topic you apparently care about (since you obviously hate urbanism)–you rally more people to fight you.

      If young people today are so infatuated with strip malls and big homes on big lots, why is the highest concentration of housing growth in the form of apartments? Developers are just out to make money, so they follow where the demand is. That’s why the AT&T building, if it ever gets redeveloped, will be apartments.

      At least you’ve let know Kallan Carr what she’s up against.

      • Natacha says:

        I am very much in favor of improving public transportation, but the focus should be on those who are transit-dependent, and those people don’t live in Broad Ripple or Meridian-Kessler. Why not start where the need is greatest? Why not a trial run of buses every 10 minutes to see whether the demand is there?

        A member of the CC Council asked an MPO representative why incur the infrastructure expense for putting bus stations in the middle of College Avenue, instead of curbside. His response should eliminate any doubt about the real reason for Red Line: he said that the reason is to protect the investment of future developers. If there was curbside pick up and Red Line didn’t perform like IndyGo says it will (of which there can be no doubt), then buses could be reallocated to other routes where the need is greater. The stations are going to be stuck in the middle of College to stop the City from reallocating buses to areas of greater need. If there isn’t a BRT, developers won’t get TOD and other taxpayer handouts to pay a huge chunk of building the tall apartments they want to replace homes and businesses along College Avenue. If there is a BRT, then developers will qualify for a taxpayer handout. It’s really that simple. So, do away with tree-lined College Avenue because developers have run out of other places to build apartments and they can get taxpayer handouts to boot.

        What’s really also simple is the fact that the City of Indianapolis cares more about politically-connected developers than its own citizens, especially those who are transit- dependent.

        Millennials do grow up and start families. No one of means would choose to raise a family in an apartment. With the increased taxes that Red Line and TIF handouts will cause, along with the poor-performing Indianapolis Public Schools, where do you think they’d prefer to invest their money on purchasing a house–Marion County with about double the tax rate of Hamilton County, which also has good schools or outside Marion County?

        • Small says:

          I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this comment that is so ignorant of any factual information

        • Paul says:

          You lack nuance. MK will not be completely wiped out for apartments. Most likely very few homes will be knocked down. There are plenty of empty and underused spaces. Also, to say that no one of means would raise a family in an apartment is a personal opinion. Go to Park Slope Brooklyn.

          • Natacha says:

            If you want to live in the Metropolitan New York area, you’re stuck with an apartment. Not so in Indianapolis.

          • Jim says:

            @Natacha: I know this will blow your mind, but I sold my house in Broad Ripple about a year ago and moved downtown Indy to a much smaller apartment that I rent. I am MUCH happier in this location and present living arrangement.

    • CA says:

      As you can clearly see, despite your negativity the transit referendum is moving forward.

    • A says:

      1. Yes, it is Meridian-Kessler, but the larger conglomeration of neighborhoods between the White River and Fall Creek is sometimes referred to as “Midtown.” The existence of “Midtown” and “Meridian-Kessler” are not mutually exclusive.

      2. This estimate is actually from the American Automobile Association (link here: http://newsroom.aaa.com/2015/04/annual-cost-operate-vehicle-falls-8698-finds-aaa-archive/).

      3. I doubt those who rely on IndyGo for their daily needs or who would like to utilize IndyGo more often to reduce household transportation costs or for other purposes would call a radial system comprised mostly of local-only routes that run once-per-hour “reliable.” If your driveway had a gate in front of it and you could only enter or exit once per hour and were required to go Downtown before going anywhere else, would you call that reliable?

      4. In order to improve the schools in Marion County-Indianapolis, we must improve the tax base since we cannot raise property taxes to fund schools. This does require higher intensities of land use, which is almost always anchored by some form of rapid transit. Hamilton County may not have high taxes, but they are in serious fiscal trouble. A recent report noted that Hamilton County cannot sell any housing at less than $200,000 at a minimum in order to continue providing public services (link: http://www.ibj.com/articles/55969-hamilton-county-officials-leery-of-new-homes-with-lower-price-points). This pushes out low-income individuals from easily participating in Hamilton County’s economy and is not something that Marion County should attempt to emulate.

      5. The “empty-buses” argument is heard often, but doesn’t have any real data to back it up. The ridership projections for the Red Line are calculated using incredibly complex computer modeling, and the results are typically on the conservative side. Many rapid transit projects in recent years have exceeded their estimated initial ridership by large numbers. Unless there is solid data and models to support the notion that buses will be empty, then it is not a viable argument. That being said, there isn’t a successful, economically strong city anywhere that does not have a halfway-decent public transit system. Charlotte, Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, Norfolk, and other mid-size metros are examples.

      6. Actually, yes. Recent surveys and studies have indicated that younger generations value proximity to quality public transportation is substantial and plays a great role when young professionals choose a city or metropolitan region to live in. Per-capita vehicle miles traveled by age (18-34) has dropped significantly (see link: http://www.uspirg.org/blogs/blog/maf/millennials-want-more-public-transportation). Per-capita vehicle ownership within roughly the same age group has also fallen (see link: http://cityobservatory.org/young-people-are-buying-fewer-cars/)

      My comment may or may not be taken seriously as part of an organized and robust discussion, but I figured it can’t hurt to contribute.

      • dingo says:

        Selective quote on Hamilton county. It’s new homes at or above $200k that the article. There are lots of houses in hamilton county available below that point. Affordability at the high end and new construction is an issue in Hamilton county but not on the entry level/existing housing stock. Also, because of lower taxes, fees, insurance, etc… there is a definitive cost savings to living in Hamilton county as compared to Marion County.

    • Richard Cornforth says:

      Our public transit is not reliable. I live 5 minutes from a stop (with no cover). You can never tell when the bus is coming. Their website and and brochures are no help. It is hardly reliable when trying to go to and from work downtown. So, I have opted for my car.

  2. Jim says:

    To answer #6, you bet young people have. I myself have considered moving to a city where I can truly live a car-free life to save money, the environment and be in much better community because I don’t have to waste my time sitting by myself in a car cursing other poor drivers. I work from home all day every day and can work from anywhere, so I either choose Indy based on its merits alone or I reject it for what it does not have today (or any time soon).

    You also miss the point of transit and what it represents about a city. It represents valuing people first and not cars first. There is a place for cars but in Indianapolis the balance is far too lopsided into making everything be car-centric. When things are car-centric, infrastructure cost more, it requires more maintenance, streets and sidewalks are dirtier, they divide neighborhoods, etc. Effective *public* transit (buses, biking, walking) does the opposite – it brings people together and provides many more opportunities to meet and talk to interesting people that you otherwise would have a 0% chance of running into. Young people know that a city that values transit values a much more balanced mix of modes of transportation that yes, includes cars but not with a primary focus on cars. We don’t want to spend our lives in the car or worry about parking. We want to spend our lives out and about meeting interesting people and doing interesting things.

    • Anne says:

      To add to your point about living car free to save money – in my new city, though cost of living is significantly higher here in many ways, I am spending less than half of what I did in Indianapolis on transportation here, because I can use transit exclusively instead of having to rely on a car.

      • Jim says:

        Absolutely! Great to hear that you’re taking good advantage of the local transit. I hope to move to a city like that in the near future or have Indy create that opportunity for me.

  3. T says:

    I’d still rather have trains/trams though. Like Cincy’s OTR or SF…

    • A says:

      Unfortunately, the Indiana State Legislature prohibited the use of dedicated transit funds from going to any kind of rail-based transit in 2014. I don’t think that there would be a substantial difference of mode choice for any of the rapid transit lines, given the high cost of constructing light rail; but it’s frustrating to have the state act as a micro-manager for the city, regardless.

      • Jim says:

        Yes indeed, I agree with your points. The Red Line and probably any of the other lines, if they are built, should be just as nice and effective as any light rail line. They’ll even end up looking a lot like a light rail train. But this is a perfect compromise for Indy since there’s still a general skepticism to public transit in general since a lot of people don’t believe that it can be effective here. If these BRT lines are effective and the population increases and densifies ever, then light rail might make a lot more sense and be cost effective.

  4. Bob says:

    Despite the prodding of the Chamber of Commerce and other affiliated propaganda machines, I am definitely giving the November referendum a strong NO vote. Having taken an unsolicited phone survey, I found the questions reflected a strong bias towards the adoption of a new hefty tax increase. The exact same questions were asked twice. Once with 1 being strongly agree then with 5 being strongly agree. I am familiar with verification within a study however the intent of this ‘survey’ was obvious. I have followed the dog and pony show as it progressed through Marion County and supporters were the same showmen who graced the City-County Council with their outbursts as comments were offered in support of putting the referendum on the ballot. With $290,00 in IndyGo’s budget and, as Representative Scales mentioned, one million more from the business community to campaign for a YES vote, there will be a concerted effort to procure $56 million more per year into IndyGo’s coffers. And these supporters are the same people who struck down the provision in SB 176 requiring businesses to contribute a 10% share to the plan.
    Ten good reasons to be against the transit referendum:

    1. This is a significant tax increase, in perpetuity, upon each taxpayer in Marion County whether they use bus service or not with many residents living far outside of current and projected service areas.
    2. For the money involved, Rapid Transit is more of a showcase rather than an actual need. Buses that run every 30 minutes will now be scheduled every 15 minutes – no big deal.
    3. Current passenger usage is 5.6 per bus and no new routes will be created by this tax measure. In fact, as current routes are overlaid by the Blue and Purple Lines, some areas now serviced will be bypassed.
    4. No Federal funds have been approved for the Blue and Purple Lines as has been the Red Line. Tax money will be spent on sidewalks, waiting stations, landscaping and other infrastructure along these lines with millions of additional taxpayer dollars needed for the project should an application for Federal funds be rejected.
    5. With double the amount of buses running through already congested areas, and the creation of stations along the way, driving by automobile will become a nightmare. Just can’t imagine what the Red Line through Broad Ripple will look like.
    6. Facing a $50 million structural deficit, that must be addressed in this year’s budget, and with HB 1008 increasing the detainee load on the Marion County jail, another significant county tax hike may be required.
    7. If IndyGo projections are misguided and the Red Line falls short in covering operating expenses, the shortfall must be covered in the City-County budget.
    8. SB 176 was promulgated with the Red Line serving as the backbone of a regional system covering 7 other counties. As a result, planning that included areas within Marion County that needed local bus service was a secondary consideration.
    9. Rapid Transit may have the effect of encouraging more Marion County corporations to jump the line to other communities where tax incentives are the norm and low wage workers are in short supply.
    10. As motorists spend time navigating around buses or hopscotching through circuitous routes and twice the normal amount of buses need charging via power plants, it may not be the ecofriendly outcome we are led to believe.

    In short, outside of extended hours, the projected plan essentially creates nothing new that is not already there. The business community may cry about a patient being late for a doctor’s appointment or the new generation’s distain for the automobile, but with no skin in the game fat cats can reap the rewards of millions in new construction and the proceeds from the issuance of new revenue bonds.

  5. Center Township says:

    BRT = Vanity Project for Indy Cheerleaders

  6. Jeffrey C says:

    Just returned from a visit to Seattle. I was able to take a covered walkway from the airport to the adjacent light rail station and ride the train directly into downtown for $3.00 where I then transferred via a covered transportation center to a bus to my hotel. Electronic monitors showed real-time status of all bus arrivals. Rode the buses multiple times during my stay and always found them seamless, easy, efficient, and well-used.

    As a fairly regular business and leisure traveler, this type of transit experience is becoming more common in major cities. Denver’s light rail from the airport downtown just opened, and its revitalized Union Station is a great terminal also providing amenities for residents and contributing to economic development.

    While specific points about the Red Line BRT may merit debate, the overall move to more reliable and regular transit options in Indy, ones that do not require owning a car, is consistent with what other major cities competing for our conventions, our residents, and our workforce (present and future) have done or are in the process of doing.

    Some people will use it a lot. Some not at all. Some only for certain types of trips. But we all will benefit indirectly if it enables more people to get to more jobs and more places without having to own a car.

    I don’t have kids, but I understand the indirect value that better schools bring to the neighborhoods in which I live. The same can be said for better transit.

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