In Mayor Ballard’s 2009 State of the City address, he called for transportation planners and the business community to do something new in Indianapolis—study regional transit together, and produce a comprehensive plan for the public to review. It was high time for our city and all of Central Indiana to have a robust discussion about transit needs for the coming decades.
Remaking our public transportation system can provide an opportunity to significantly boost economic development efforts. A modern transit system can both attract new jobs and investment as well as shuttle residents to and from work and leisure activities.
The response to Mayor Ballard’s call was Indy Connect—a regional outreach initiative launched on February 10, 2010, with the goal of presenting a draft regional transportation plan and gaining public feedback. Transportation experts and a private sector task force developed the draft plan based on decades of research, and throughout 2010, residents of Central Indiana were asked to review and comment on the plan that included bus, rail and roadways, connecting people to people and people to places.
Since launching IndyConnect, more than 150 meetings and presentations have been conducted in Central Indiana, including attendance at street fairs and festivals across the region. Over 10,000 comments have been received via the web, meetings, mail and phone. More than 3,000 fans on Facebook and more than 400 followers on Twitter have connected to the initiative. And after a team comprised of regional transportation experts reviewed and analyzed the comments, they developed a revised plan that accounted for public input and included in-depth planning and financial analysis.
A regional, multi-modal mass transit system that is ambitious yet realistic, affordable to taxpayers and that delivers a strong return on investment will be discussed with the Indiana General Assembly in 2012. The goal for 2012 is to pass legislation that puts the decision to invest in a regional transit system in the hands of citizens in the form of a referendum. The specifics of a regional transit authority empowered to build and manage the system also will be refined.
In addition to providing all citizens more transportation options, connecting our workforce with job opportunities, enhancing our economic competitiveness and encouraging investment in our neighborhoods, the final system must revitalize and expand our bus system while adding bus rapid transit routes and passenger rail lines.