Business community unites in support of expanded transit – connecting people to jobs, education, healthcare, neighborhoods.
On Monday evening, the Indianapolis City-County Council brought one of the Indy Chamber’s top policy priorities another step closer to reality: With a bipartisan vote of 18-6, the Council authorized a public referendum for the November 8 ballot creating a dedicated local revenue source to expand mass transit in Marion County.
The referendum follows more than a decade of advocacy and outreach by the Indy Chamber – and creates a six month sprint to earn the support of Indianapolis voters before Election Day.
“The Indianapolis City-County Council has given voters a voice on mass transit, an opportunity to make a more convenient, connected city,” said Indy Chamber President and CEO Michael Huber after the Council vote. “We appreciate their confidence in the people and their thoughtful hearings on the Marion County Transit Plan.”
Lack of transit options has left a growing number of households without convenient access to jobs, food, healthcare and other essentials; local companies are also struggling to reach employees and customers. The Brookings Institution ranks Indianapolis 64th out of the 100 largest metros in transit coverage for workers and employment, and 79th in jobs within a 20-minute commute of the typical working-age adult.
These dismal rankings have become a competitive disadvantage in Indy’s effort to recruit business and appeal to talent – there’s a clear trend of young, educated workers and growing employers alike preferring to settle in walkable areas served by transit.
“We’ve heard loud and clear from our members that transit is a top priority, and we know it also increases earning power by connecting people with employment and education,” added Huber, noting that a recent Harvard University study equates commute times with upward mobility, and ranks Indianapolis among the most difficult cities to escape poverty.
To tackle these issues, the Marion County Transit Plan expands all-day bus service across Indianapolis, tripling the number of local residents and doubling the number of jobs within a five-minute walk of high-frequency routes – finally making transit a widely practical choice for getting to work and other daily trips.
The plan also includes three rapid transit routes that serve densely populated areas, major employment centers and cultural districts – with the potential to spur residential and commercial growth in surrounding neighborhoods. The first leg of the first route, the Red Line, is funded by a $75 million federal grant and will begin construction next year regardless of the referendum.
“The rapid transit routes in the plan will jump-start redevelopment and rebuild the tax base in many urban neighborhoods,” Huber noted. “But the Red, Blue and Purple lines will be most successful as part of an overall plan to serve more people and put more jobs, options foreducation, food and healthcare within reach. We need to win the referendum – this is our mass transit moment of truth.”
With a referendum set for the November 8 general election and a detailed plan on the table, the Indy Chamber and its partners are focused on the campaign ahead, and making sure voters understand the benefits of improved transit for the .25 percent local income tax increase sought to fund the sweeping improvements.
“This is an investment in economic development, quality of life and day-to-day convenience that can really help Indianapolis reach the next level,” said Mark Fisher, Vice-President of Public Policy and Government Relations for the Indy Chamber.
And if Indianapolis isn’t moving forward on transit, we’re falling behind other regions. At the Pancakes and Politics breakfast this morning, Indy Chamber members heard from Transportation for America CEO James Corless on the national trends in transit planning and funding.
“Indianapolis is definitely behind its peer cities,” noted Corless. “The next six months will be critical.”
To help drive transit towards the Election Day finish line, contact your Indy Chamber Business Advocacy team, visit www.TransitDrivesIndy.com for more on the plan and other ways to get involved, and follow @Transit4Indy and @IndyChamber for the latest updates on social media.