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This is part of a series of stories by Kimmel, who's given up her car and is relying primarily on public transit.
I had the privilege to be on a bus tour of Indianapolis neighborhoods last year, given by a man from a local community center here in Indianapolis. At the time, the things he said hadn't meant much to me because I was fairly new to the city and hadn't become obsessed with its improvement and development yet.
Along the tour, he pointed out things like historical buildings that you would drive by without even noticing, the first Simon mall that ever existed, various pocket parks and urban gardens and places where new development is transforming neighborhoods. The thing that impacted me most was the clear distinction of the different neighborhoods, based on things like the history of each neighborhood, the current demographics, the pride and ownership of each community and its proximity to assets ... like public transportation.
We saw that the Monon Trail has had clear impact on neighborhoods, spurring development along the old railroad line, which is now a thriving recreational greenway. We saw apartment complexes full of people in an otherwise desolate area, due to easy access to a bus line. And we saw old, abandoned buildings, in varying levels of dismay, along the now non-existent rail and trolley car lines.
A simple Internet search will bring up thousands of pictures and stories of the booming metropolis that was once downtown Indianapolis, once at the top of the list of public transit in the United States. Some of my favorite images are those of Fountain Square, with its streetcars and children on bikes everywhere, riding amongst hundreds of people out and about, doing their shopping, walking to their jobs, playing in the streets and otherwise enjoying the fact that they lived in a true neighborhood that was designed to be just that: a neighborhood.
Our tour guide was so full of information and ideas that I had a hard time writing quickly enough and keeping track of all the things that I was learning on the two-hour trip. Fortunately, yesterday I was reminded of this tour when I came across a quote that my friend, also on the tour, had been able to jot down. I remember him saying it, but not knowing the extent of what he meant by it at the time. Looking back a year later, this quote has a whole new meaning in my life and has been something that I will now keep in mind as I continue my work in community development, so I thought I'd share.
He said: "If you have to get in your car and drive anywhere, you don't live in a neighborhood. You just live in a place where there are a lot of houses. Neighborhoods are about common space - they are places where people can bump into each other."
The improvement of public transit is about neighborhood development, which leads to citywide improvements, and in-turn Indianapolis returning to the thriving city that it should be and once was. Transit brings new business, housing and investment. It brings beautification. It attracts large companies, which provides jobs for residents. Property values go up. People get out and about. It brings back that sense of place and that community within a neighborhood.
Search for the history of Indianapolis public transit and maybe you'll begin to understand what I mean.