Since the federal government is in stimulating mode and some of that stimulus money is trickling down to local government, I’d like to put in a suggestion for what Indianapolis should do with its share of the funds.
It’s time to invest in mass transit.
Compared to other cities of similar size and population, Indianapolis woefully underfunds its transit services, leaving bus rounds few and far between and requiring riders to take nonsensical routes to get from Point A to Point B.
Let’s take my second job as an example. By car this trip takes 20 minutes from my home on the highway. But by bus this same trip would require a 2-mile walk (easily 30 to 45 minutes) to the nearest bus stop, a 25-minute ride downtown and then a 1-hour bus ride back out to the mall area. I am not a weird outlier either – it’s so cumbersome to use public transportation in Indianapolis that the only people who use it are the ones who can’t afford a car at all. There is an entire township within the city limits of Indianapolis that does not have a single bus stop.
The smaller problem is financial (the city budget is always tight), but the bigger problem is philosophical. When Indianapolis residents stop seeing public transportation as welfare and start seeing it as efficient infrastructure — much cleaner and more efficient than our ever-expanding highway system — then this investment will yield a very high return.
In fact, the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce (hardly an organization known for its liberal social agenda) has been a vocal proponent of making dramatic improvements to our public transportation system because our business leaders realize how important transit can be for the local economy.
The best way to bail out Main Street is to make sure people can get over there efficiently and affordably.