On that story about opposing Indy’s Red Line

The Indy Star has a story up right now about opposition to the proposed Red Line. Proposed is a key word because nothing but planning and some grant proposals have been done yet. No one’s torn up a single inch of dirt on this thing.

For those of you not following along, the Red Line is a change from the current IUPUI/Downtown Red Line circulator that will be ending this year. The new Red Line is a proposed electric Bus Rapid Transit line that would, eventually, span almost all of Indianapolis’s north-to-south corridor from Carmel to Greenwood.

The initial chunk is a line stretching from about halfway up Marion County in Broad Ripple south to the University of Indianapolis. So about half way up and down from Downtown.

It would also be America’s first and largest all-electric BRT line (that’s actually World Class!). BRT differs from traditional buses in that they’re designed to move faster. There are fewer stops, people pay in advance, they look more like trains than busses, and they have dedicated lanes.

And therein lies the rub.

Northside residents who live near College Avenue have attended meetings and circulated an online petition to voice concern about the Red Line electric buses that would run as often as every 10 minutes from 66th Street in Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis on the Southside.

They are worried the route will devour parking spaces, consume turn lanes and entice drivers to speed through side streets to avoid  caravans of lane-hogging buses.

All for an eco-friendly, mass transit service they fear may attract few riders.

To be fair, Indianapolis is not a transit-centric city. But this reminds me of a conversation I had years ago with a counselor at IU when I said, “How come there aren’t more classes at night so working adults can complete degrees after work?” The response: “We have a more traditional student population that goes to class in the day.” Gee, you think if you at least offered something else that maybe people would do it? Turns out, they offer a metric ton more evening classes now. Same here: we’re not a transit city because IndyGo’s current operations to most people are unpalatable, with 60 minute wait times on most routes most of the day and few cross-town options.

But we know what ridership does on lines that aren’t 60+ minutes. They go up. Because on high-frequency lines that IndyGo now operates, like 8, 10, and 39, ridership is way up thanks to 20 minute frequency.

I don’t need to talk much about the planning aspects of this. Kevin Kastner has you covered there.

But there are a few lines I want to point out. First:

But some skeptics say the project would unnecessarily make over the streetscape of a booming residential and business corridor on College north of 38th Street, and they fear the Red Line could be a boondoggle that car-happy Indianapolis residents will rarely use.

Someone in a comment said they wanted to know what “booming corridor” that is. This is where semantics matter. If I said, “College north of 38th”, you think: “Poor black people.” If I said, “College, along SoBro (South Broad Ripple)”, you think, “Oh, the trendy place all the restaurants are going to.” It’s the same corridor. One just makes you a little more racist than the other.

Also: no one is “car-happy” in a Volvo. Go knock on the window of anyone sitting at a light anywhere in this city and ask, “Are you happy in your car?”

You’re “destination happy”, because you like having control of your time. No working Hoosier relishes their car payment. No one.


But the detractors find those estimates overly optimistic, given the city’s historic love affair with car travel and relatively congestion-free streets. They note that the College Avenue bus lines and other lines that run through the Northside, such as the No. 18 Nora and No. 19 Castleton, are often empty or half-full.

“Other than rush hour, that College bus runs empty all day long,” McGuire said, adding that expectations of new dwellings to “create ridership” are far-fetched. “Are they going to pull 11,000 riders out of midair?”

Is the bus half empty or half full?

Also, I hereby declare not one of these people can EVER AGAIN complain about 465. Ever. Not 69, not 70, not 65, or even 74 or 31 or 36 or any of the other dozen highways coming through here. Not ever. Because you are “car-lovers on congestion-free streets.”

And back to those “half empty busses”. You know what I see on my way to work in the morning, and on my way to lunch, and on my way home? Most of Downtown Indy’s 35,000+ parking spaces are empty.

This isn’t about which is better: cars or buses or bikes or walking or monorails or hover boards. This is about what kind of city Indy can be. It’s either a city that invests in efficient mechanisms to move people and save them money, or not. Because even if the estimates of $13/house/month to cover ALL of the other proposed IndyConnect expansions is off by 100%, it’s still $5,600 cheaper, on average, than owning a car per year. Mitch Daniels’ (you remember him, right? The adult we had before the doofus we have now?) biggest goal in his governorship was “raising the average earning of Hoosiers”. Would you like an extra $5,600 in your pocket ever year?

Otherwise you’re saying it’s fine to pay a bunch of money so you can afford to get to work. You’re saying there are enough people living here already, no one else needs to move in. You’re saying it’s fine that you have to drive your butt half a mile down the road for bread. You’re saying it’s fine that you never speak to your neighbors or walk across the street or let your kids play outside because the cars are there. You’re saying you’d rather College Ave. been a 45 MPH speed scape that lets people get out of town than a 30 MPH zone that supports businesses that in turn support your property value.

This is about recognizing there are better ways to build a city that save people money, their health, and their property values (is there a city that introduced a transit line that lowered property values?). It’s about recognizing that building all of the car infrastructure is just as dumb as a lot of other things cities build. Parking lots that sit empty, garages that look awful and create heat islands with no value beynd car storage, and roads that have fallen into disrepair because we built too damn many are dumb. It’s dumb that every person needs 2 tons of steel, aluminum, and plastic to move them 20 minutes down the road every day. Do you realize that every one of Indy’s Culural Districts, the places people really like, are really shitty towards cars? Parking in Fountain Square is awful. Mass Ave.’s parking is crap. Broad Ripple’s isn’t great along the strip. Could it be that when you take away all the car storage, it makes it a better place to actually walk around and be in?

It’s also dumb to say you don’t want or need this because you don’t want or need it. It’s like saying I’ve never been to Columbia City, Indiana, so let’s not pay for the roads to get there.

I’ve not once ever been inside Lucas Oil Stadium, but I pay for that, and I didn’t sign a damn petition about it.

I’ve never watched a race at IMS, but I didn’t complain about noise when I lived on that side of town.

Because that’s what nice people do.

I seem to remember people saying the same things about the Pacers Bike Share, and that’s done well. BlueIndy is still a thorn in people’s sides and it’s reported they’re having better success at this stage than they did in Paris.

No one’s coming for your damn parking spot, and even if they did, there’s literally about 50,000 more leftover.

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Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

2 thoughts on “On that story about opposing Indy’s Red Line”

  1. Moved from Speedway and the paltry 10th St bus to Cincinnati and the Rte 17 that comes every 15 minutes and I haven’t looked back. And the streetcar will be open to the public in September. Vote with your feet.

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