Partisan Labor Fight Threatens Indianapolis’s Game-Changing Transit Vision

This map shows the planned scope of IndyConnect, Indianapolis's bold new transit plan. The proposal is now in jeopardy because of a legislative rider regarding labor rules. Larger version here. Image: Urban Indy

Over the last few years, greater Indianapolis has been thinking big about transit. They developed a plan to double bus service and add new rail lines. They even identified funding (a 0.3 percent income tax hike) and built a viable political coalition around the vision — which represented a dramatic shift away from the old car-centric approach that has dominated transportation planning there for decades.

All that work is now hanging in the balance of a partisan standoff unrelated to the actual transit plan. Network blog Urban Indy reported yesterday that an Indiana House committee had voted down the transit legislation 11-10 after a Republican lawmaker inserted language into the bill that would make the transit system “right-to-work.”

The folks at Urban Indy, who have been advocating hard for this bill, are beside themselves. But a shred of hope remains, explains blogger extraordinaire Curt Ailes:

To be clear, the transit portion of the bill never seemed to be at the heart of the debate over HB1073; it was always the labor. The bickering could be see as an extension of the passionate debate of the past few weeks over Right to Work legislation which passed the House yesterday with Democrats coming up on the losing end of that debate.

This officially puts HB1073 in the failed bills category but does not altogether bury it from being passed in some other form this session.

Ron Gifford, executive director of the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, has said that he will do his best to get the transit language reinserted into another bill later in the session; perhaps in a couple weeks. According to his comments in the Indianapolis Star, this is not the best way to get the job done, but is not unheard of and given that the transit portion itself seems to benefit from bipartisan support, may have some hope of passage.

However, the over-arching theme today and indeed this entire session, has been passion from both sides that seem to have been deeply routed in their philosophical political beliefs; only one Democrat (Peggy Welch) voted in favor of the legislation while claiming to not like the labor language. Apparently my offer of dinner was not enough to sway any other legislators to think cooperatively about transit.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy announces that Kansas City is getting bike sharing. A Better Shreveport, mourning the loss of a Baton Rouge cyclist, laments the city’s total lack of bike infrastructure and reminds leaders that “transportation failings [are] a life or death issue.” And Portland Transport explains that TriMet is considering “simplifying” its fare system, but the blogger is not convinced it will not raise equity issues.