Proponents of mass transit in Indianapolis and Central Indiana will say this morning they have a plan which the voters will approve if the Indiana General Assembly gives them permission to put the $1.3 billion measure on the ballot. The plan would allow voters to decide to increase the county option income tax by .003% or $30 for every $10,000 they make and in exchange bus and rail service would be expanded in Marion and Hamilton Counties. The surrounding counties would given a chance to opt-in at a later date.
The plan would include a northeast corridor rail line from Noblesville into downtown Indianapolis, using existing rail lines. The average travel time would be 31 minutes and there would be 10 stops. Bus line service in Indianapolis would move from a spoke pattern, where riders have to go downtown before connecting to another line, to a grid system. It would double the number of buses, increase frequency and add new routes.
There would also be express bus service as well on College and Keystone avenues which would eventually connect Carmel to the University of Indianapolis and Greenwood to the northside. There would also be a Bus Rapid Transit system as well.
The system would cost approximately $1.3 billion to build and $131 million annually to operate. Since there are multiple counties involved, there would be a governing board representing multiple jurisdictions, similar to the Regional Transit Authority based out of the Chicago metropolitan area. Proponents say the cost of expanding rail is less than the$1.5 billion costs of the Accelerate 465 project near I-70 and I-74, rebuilding US 31 in Hamilton County from Carmel to Westfield and the I-465 and I-69 lane expansion projects. They also say the project would reap more than $2.3 billion in productivity such as travel time and cost savings, economic development, reduction in pollution and enhancement of the ability of low-income residents to get jobs.
Mass transit supporters also say their polling data (taken on 8/8 and 8/9 of this year) shows more than 80% of the public thinks there should be better bus service, 90% think the measure should be put on the ballot and 60% would support a .05% increase in the income tax to pay for it; that number goes higher as the tax increase rate is lower. Despite that the big challenge will likely be the Marion County Republican delegation in the Indiana Senate. By last count State Senators Mike Young, Mike Delph, Scott Schneider, Brent Waltz and Bev Gard were at best cool to the idea of a tax increase to pay for mass transit, even though this measure would be implemented via referendum by the voters.
Both Republican State Senator Luke Kenley of Noblesville and House Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Espich of Uniondale are reportedly coming up with plans that could put the measure on the ballot by November of 2012. The first phase of the plan, which would only impact Marion and Hamilton Counties would take 10 years to complete.
You can view a copy of the map below. (Note: It is saved in Slideshare which may not be compatible with some Apple products.)
Proposed Transit Map View more documents at IndianaBarrister