A Hard-Fought Legislative Victory for Indianapolis Transit

Indianapolis might not be known as a transit city — yet — but a legislative breakthrough at the statehouse this week opens the door for dramatic improvements to its transit system.

After three years of advocacy, state officials approved a bill that will allow the six-county Indianapolis region to vote on whether to tax themselves to pay for a plan called “Indy Connect,” which would establish a network of high-quality bus routes.

Shayla Williamson at Urban Indy says the legislation isn’t perfect — one drawback is that it specifically forbids spending the money on light rail — but it removes a major obstacle to significantly improving the region’s transit:

[T]he Indiana General Assembly closed the 2014 session by passing SB176, otherwise known as the central Indiana mass transit bill. After being scaled back, stripped, and amended here and there, an effort three years in the making now heads to Governor Pence for final approval before being placed on the ballot this fall for local voter approval. Voters will finally have the option of approving an income tax increase, of anywhere between 0.1 and 0.25 percent, to help cover the operating costs of expanded transit in their counties.

Pence has now signed the bill, which Transportation for America calls a great example of pragmatic political compromise:

This was certainly a big victory for the business community, and an issue on which Indy Mayor Greg Ballard had lobbied hard, telling the Indy Star that he’d ”been to the Statehouse more on this than any other issue.”

“This marks a significant step forward for the growth of Indy and the rest of Central Indiana,” said Mayor Ballard in his statement yesterday afternoon. In many ways, though, the hard work is really just beginning. While the state has indeed empowered the five metro Indianapolis counties to take the question to the ballot, that might not happen before 2015, and will require a huge effort to coordinate between the different counties and make the case to voters.

“Today is a day for Indy to celebrate but not the day to declare victory. There is still much work to be done,” Mayor Ballard said.

In light of the victory, Williamson is showing Indy residents examples of bus rapid transit projects that would fulfill the city’s vision for a better-connected future.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Green Lane Project quotes Indianapolis’ GOP Mayor Greg Ballard on the “great revival” of American cities. Bike Portland draws lessons for Portland bike-share from New York’s experience with Citi Bike. And BikeWalkLee reports on a recent operation by Florida state police to reduce traffic violence.