It’s no surprise that IndyGo, Indianapolis’ pretend mass-transit system, sucks. Among most lists of transportation systems in large cities, Indy ranks around 99 or 100 on a list of 100. I’m of the belief we either fix it up or shut it down. The turd we have now is just embarrassing.
That’s because the two-year budget bill moving through the General Assembly would cut state support for mass transit by almost 18 percent. IndyGo would have to absorb an $8 million hit, which amounts to about one-sixth of its budget.
Interestingly, the debate over funding for public transit isn’t between free spenders and budget hawks. In his budget proposal this year, Gov. Mitch Daniels, hardly a profligate spender, kept transit spending at its current level, despite the financial pressures facing state government.
Urban Indy has a piece on how INDOT doesn’t even bother holding mass-transit meetings in Indianapolis. Instead, they hold them in obscure places that would never need it anyway:
It’s disheartening to think that this is the best we can do in this state. As long as INDOT is the driver for transportation planning in the state, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that believers in diverse modes of travel and urban living in Indiana will be like Cubs fans: wait until next year.
This isn’t hard. It’s really not. First, does anyone actually realize there’s a lot of Indiana out there outside of Indianapolis? People in the other 84 out of 92 counties don’t give a crap what Indianapolis wants. They got pissed when Gov. Daniels sold “their” toll road and used it to pay for things like I-465 improvements, I-69 upgrades and I-70 on the east side. The rest of the state doesn’t like Indianapolis so it’s no surprise that their legislators don’t give two rips about IndyGo. If Indy wants it, Indy has to pay for it.
Second, INDOT builds roads because that’s what we’ve always liked. We’re “the crossroads of America” for heaven’s sake, not “The crossroads of monorail lines.” People in Indiana, and most of America, like cars. People like being in control of their own car, their own radio station, they can smoke ’em if they’ve got ’em and all they want is a clear slab of pavement in front of them to use it on. Count me in that bunch: I like driving vs. public transit any day. The few times I’ve been on public transit around the world I hated it. It smells crappy, it looks crappy, it’s late and the people are anything but safe to be around at times. If I get in my car, barring a wreck, so long as I’m out the door on-time I’ll get there on-time.
IndyGo needs money to operate and it needs riders. You’d think that getting more riders helps, but it doesn’t. More riders are fine, but riders barely make a dent in their budget. An easy solution here is to paint the buses somethin’ pretty and charge people a fair rate for getting across town. Current fares are at about a $1.50; raise it to $3 or $4 and this problem becomes much more manageable. That’s still cheaper than owning a car.
“But Justin, people can’t afford $3 fares.” Well, I’m sorry. The rest of the state clearly isn’t of a mind to support people getting to work in Indianapolis. It’s either higher fares or no bus at all. A better solution might be to do a sliding scale based on income and where you’re going. Going to work you pay one rate, going to the stadium, it’s another.
What can’t work is charging so little, making so little and doing so little. This isn’t hard to fix, but IndyGo’s hands are tied because it can’t just raise rates when it needs to. Hell, they can’t even hang up a sign without approval.