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 can even vote on whether they want to expand the bus and rail network.

An IndyGo bus in front of the Indianapolis Statehouse. Photo: ##http://www.urbanindy.com/2013/04/04/hb1011-passes-senate-tax-committee-12-0/##Urban Indy##

People in Indianapolis have spent years developing a plan to dial up the region’s transit service and help the relatively sprawling metro sustain investment and quality of life in its core. But this week, the plan hit a snag in the State Senate, where a committee basically voted to sit on the measure all summer. (The story even features an appearance by notorious anti-transit charlatan Randal O’Toole.) While the vote was disappointing, the fight isn’t lost, reports Curt Ailes at Urban Indy:

Before any lobbying could begin, the chairman offered an amendment which was seconded and taken up. The amendment effectively turned the bill, which would authorize a referendum in 2014 for a 0.3% income tax levy dedicated to transit, into a summer study committee.

After the amendment was taken into the bill, and testimony given for and against including nationally renowned transit opponent Randall O’Toole and his infamous wolf on the train tracks presentation, the bill passed 12-0. Effectively, the legislation is still alive. If it passes the full senate vote, which could come as soon as next week, it will be sent to a conference committee where members of the House (which passed a much more robust version of the bill) and members of the Senate will meet and hammer out the bill to send to the Governor. There is the possibility that in the next few weeks, as this happens, that the bill could become live again.

At this point in the process, it is easy to feel deflated. The senate effectively yanked the e-brake on a bill that has been moving fairly swiftly and with much bi-partisan support.

Ailes says he thinks Indianapolis residents can still prevail if they work hard enough to educate their senators. Hopefully, these electeds will prioritize the views of their own constituents over some flown-in, out-of-state “expert” with a PowerPoint presentation — and let the people of Indianapolis decide for themselves.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The New Urbanism blog explores how the concept of shared streets could be applied in small towns. Seattle Transit Blog checks in on efforts to make downtown a family-friendly place. And Greater Greater Washington says some local streetcar opponents who have styled themselves as Bus Rapid Transit supporters maybe just don’t like the idea of investing in transit at all.

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