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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Finally a public transportation decison?

Though ultimately it is simply a decision on merely having a route that goes from downtown Indy into Hamilton County, it is a good sign that at least some public officials appear to have the balls to finally MAKE a decision on some possible paths.

"The question was, was it more important to hit the airport or to go more into Hamilton County for a starter system?" said Philip Roth, senior planner for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization. "That's what will be decided Wednesday."
While both an airport route or a deeper penetration into Hamilton County have merits, I would initially choose the airport route.  Whatever route selected will get into Fishers at least allowing a good base of customers to select public transit for their daily commute.  The airport route is pure advertising and bragging rights to outsiders.  Normally not the strongest argument, but this is a special case.  Indy is a HUGE convention city.  The ability to have some type of transit from the airport to the downtown would be a big advertisement of a 'world-class' Indianapolis to convention planners and attendees.  Sometimes you need a perception of world-class in order to build the reality of world-class.  Building an airport leg would aid to that perception.  Who knows, with an increase of convention spending the city could collect enough taxes to extend the other leg further into Fishers/Noblesville territory or *gasp* build another leg to another section of the metro area.  How about south towards Greenwood?

"Because standard federal support is limited to $425 million, planners explained, the pathways are somewhat limited. With an equal sum from local revenues, the transit system could extend 17 to 28 miles from the inner city, depending on the transit method chosen.
For example, the projected $850 million investment would carry an elevated people mover system 17 miles from Downtown Indianapolis, light rail 21 miles and a rapid transit bus system 28 miles, reaching into Noblesville."

I realize the elevated people mover has a higher upfront infrastructure cost, but it's per-mile passenger cost is around a dime per mile.  That means it can pay for itself.  Light rail needs around $1.30 to $1.50 per passenger per mile, and a rapid bus is over $2.  The later will need public subsidies to operate.  The first will not.  How about using the 'profit' (I know a weird term to use with public transportation) to maintain and enhance the system?

Choosing a route and choosing a form of transit are decisions that will require vision and leadership.  Sadly those are two traits that are lacking in many 'leaders' today.  Just build the damn thing!

EDIT 7-21-2004:

The Northeast Corridor route from downtown to Fishers/Noblesville was selected.
No decision on what type of technology to use, nor any specific route itself.  At least it is a start, but the earliest we'll have rapid transit in the Indy metro area would still be 2010.  Sigh.

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