As the Indianapolis City-County Council weighs whether or not to put a mass transit plan on the November ballot, the president of the Indy Chamber says the economic stakes for the region’s future are extremely high. In an interview on Inside INdiana Business Television, Michael Huber said, without robust mass transit options, Indianapolis is at a competitive disadvantage. "We have a very urgent workforce mobility problem in Indianapolis compared to cities that we compete with every day," said Huber. “We just do a poor job of getting people to work."
The Indy Chamber is among a coalition of business and community organizations advocating for the Marion County Transit Plan to be placed on the November ballot. The plan calls for a major expansion of bus and bus rapid transit lines and would be funded by a 0.25 percent income tax increase in Marion County.
Proposition 145 would allow for the build out of what could be an $800 million transit system and four high speed bus lines.
Construction of the first phase of the Red Line is expected to begin next year, pending a $75 million "small starts" grant included in President Barack Obama’s proposed 2017 budget.
The initial stretch of the Red Line would run approximately 14 miles between the Broad Ripple area and University of Indianapolis campus. "What’s exciting about Proposition 145, from a Marion County perspective, is it allows us to build out that full system," said Huber. "It’s going to triple the number of residents within a five minute walk of frequent mass transit service, it’s really exciting."
Transportation, business and community leaders have been eyeing a comprehensive mass transit plan in the Indianapolis region for more than a decade. If the issue makes it on ballot, Huber and other mass transit supporters say will need to make the case for why it’s important. "Cities that we compete with every day, Nashville, Charlotte, Denver, have invested more, especially recently, in mass transit," said Huber. "Competitive cities in the future have to provide more options to their workers and residents than just the car."
While a mass transit referendum has bipartisan support on the council, it faces opposition from some businesses and residents along proposed routes and from those who oppose increasing taxes.
The council could vote on putting the issue on the ballot in early May.