For anyone interested in seeing the next vision for transportation in Indianapolis, please visit the website at Indy Connect.
This study recommends proven technologies, and proven infrastructure investments. It starts small, with an affordable and effective system that can quickly integrate into the streetscapes of Indianapolis. I approve of this plan, it is a great start to a city-wide transit system.
There are two problems with this proposal that we should seek solutions to in the public input phase:
- Limited Coverage Area for Rail
- Ability of Special Interests to Influence Outcome
Limited Coverage Area for Rail
The first issue will be present no matter how the system is arranged. No system can provide the convenience of a transit stop 1 block away from each front door.
The main problem here is that there is always a conflict between the need for especially dense clusters, or Transit-Oriented-Development, and the need for tax investments to be spread around equally. In the case of transportation planning, simple is best. The proposed plan lays out a very simple system. This would be most efficient and probably most successful. Any deviations from the simple plan will result in a confusing legacy that will inhibit future use.
Whatever layout is chosen, the proponents of transit must ensure that a comprehensive plan will be developed that will involve the entire city. A certain amount of this has been done in the plan, whereby express bus routes, expanded bus service, and road expansions have been proposed. Unfortunately, this is not yet comprehensive. A truly comprehensive plan must show how every person in the city will benefit from this proposal.
The study authors readily admit that all transportation planning is connected. Let’s do more than acknowledge this fact, lets use it to our advantage. The plan can show that with complete streets policies, integrated and interconnected multi-modal transportation systems, walk-to-school subsidies, and similar programs, the transportation system in Indianapolis and the surrounding counties can be improved for at least 95% of the residents over the next 20 years.
Ability of Special Interests to Influence Outcome
This is part I am most concerned about. Many interest groups will be attempting to influence the study results so that their constituents will be served. The system was most likely optimized during the study process, so any changes to the proposed system can have negative consequences for the city as a whole.
My worst fear is that a repeat of the Miami transit system will occur, where special interests blocked a transit line to the airport to maintain the monopoly of taxi service. Since then, Miami has been struggling to maintain service between the most important source of tourists and their destinations with express bus service. Short-sighted compromises to the business community can have horrible consequences.
Indianapolis needs every advantage it can get when competing for big events like the Superbowl, World-cup hosting, and many other smaller events and conventions. The City can not afford to put in a transit system that satisfies the special interest groups while hurting the city’s prospects in attracting tourism and conventions.
In the end, I see any investment in the city’s alternative (non-highway) transportation system as a great step forward. I imagine that it will facilitate a lot of independent investments, so that when it is fully built the city will see property values directly increased by a large factor compared to its cost. This is equivalent to building equity in the city. We can leave a more valuable city to the future citizens.
And the final reason I approve of this plan is because it is not about spending more, it is about shifting our priorities. We can take a small amount of funding from our single mode of transport (highways) and shift it to 4 or 5 different modes of transport. This would directly reflect the wishes of the population to start investing in multiple modes of transportation, without abandoning our legacy infrastructure in automobiles.
I trust that the study’s authors have taken a neutral position and truly evaluated the costs and benefits of the many options. With faith in their efforts (to be verified by a thorough evaluation of their report later), I hope that we put this plan into action as soon as the next stage begins!