A Good Transit Plan Meets a Shaky Financial Commitment in Indianapolis

Indianapolis transit advocates were thrilled last February when a long-range transit plan for the city was unveiled, including a network of light rail lines, writes Curt Ailes at Network blog Urban Indy.

Having a good plan is one thing, but having the will to carry it out is another. As soon as policymakers got down to the question of how to finance the plan, known as Indyconnect, the light rail vision started slipping further and further into the future. In the new version of Indyconnect, light rail has fallen off the 25-year time horizon altogether.

Without some financial commitment, this will become a very distant dream in Indianapolis. Photo: ##http://www.urbanindy.com/2011/06/06/the-future-of-transit-in-central-indiana/## Urban Indy##

Now, the region seems to be downsizing its ambitions, without even testing voters’ appetite for the necessary tax increases. Ailes asks:

How was this allowed to happen? How could months of input and a loud voice (at least from urbanists’ perspectives) about adding MORE light rail for Indianapolis turn into no light rail at all? The answer lies within the numbers that the “business community”(or private sector) used to determine what the fiscal realities for this plan could be. Initially, a sales tax had been discussed. The prior plan would have taken somewhere between $10-$15 a month per household for those counties who opted into the plan based on voter referendum. State legislators have been cool on this plan altogether, unfortunately, but have also bristled at the idea of a sales tax to cover expenses for the plan. Planners have given more attention to income tax as a primary alternative.

Ron Gifford, the new leader of the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, stated that [the original] 25-year plan could require a 0.7% annual income tax (or $350 in taxes on $50,000 salary). The current Indyconnect long range plan, if given the chance to be adopted, could be funded using a 0.3% income tax increase; and thus the reason why light rail was cut from the initial plan.

We as citizens need to urge our lawmakers at the state level to get on board with allowing a tax referendum to occur for this plan. I ask you, our readers, is an income tax who’s monthly amount is equal to what a half a tank of gasoline costs worth the potential transportation impact? For my part, I am all in.

Elsewhere on the Network today: As Columbus, Ohio tries to imagine what the city will look like in 40 years, Xing Columbus asks: Will development blanket the countryside in every direction, aided by additional freeways, or will light rail and infill development put it on a path to sustainability? Meanwhile, Chicargobike lobbies for family friendly routes for Chicago’s first protected bike lanes. And Cap’n Transit muses on the obstructionist role of vested interests in transportation reform efforts.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Why Are State Senators Holding Up Indianapolis’s Transit Plans?

|
In Indianapolis, like many American regions, some important changes to transportation policy are off-limits without approval from the state government. In the case of a proposed transit funding package that would raise revenue through a 0.3 percent income tax levy, that means a bill needs to get through the statehouse before the people of Indianapolis […]

A Hard-Fought Legislative Victory for Indianapolis Transit

|
Indianapolis might not be known as a transit city — yet — but a legislative breakthrough at the statehouse this week opens the door for dramatic improvements to its transit system. After three years of advocacy, state officials approved a bill that will allow the six-county Indianapolis region to vote on whether to tax themselves […]

Funding Uncertainty Plagues Highways, But They Still Get Built

|
It’s funny how there always seems to be enough money for highways, but never enough for transit. Around the country, from Houston to Portland to New York, there are head-spinningly enormous highway construction projects about to get built, even though no one really knows how to pay for them. These projects don’t move forward because they’re […]

After Punting on Transit, Indiana Senate Mulls New Highway to Nowhere

|
Does metro Indianapolis need a $1.5 billion second outerbelt? Not if you think highways-to-nowhere are a bad way to spend money. But that didn’t stop a group of state lawmakers from trotting out the idea recently. The long-dormant “Indiana Commerce Connector” is a proposed $1.5 billion semi-circle around undeveloped farmland that was rejected by state […]

New Jersey Residents: “More Smart Growth, Please”

|
Highlights from around the Streetsblog Network today: New Jersey Residents Support Smart Growth and Transit: To hear some people tell it, most of us in the United States don’t appreciate transit, which benefits only “others.” And smart growth — policies that help us live closer to where we work and play — that’s antithetical to […]