Currently, only 33 percent of jobs in Indianapolis can be reached via transit in 90 minutes. That’s ridiculous. It’s also ridiculous that the wait time to get on one of these buses for a 90-minute trip can be between 30-60 minutes. And what happens if you have to transfer, and the second bus is behind? Or it has already left? If you currently get around this city in your car, I ask you this: use Google maps and find out what your commute would be to work, or to your favorite spot across town, if you had to use IndyGo mass transit. I did.
It would take me one hour and two buses to get to work, 35 minutes and 2 buses to get from work to my evening classes at IUPUI, and then a 22-minute walk in the dark and a 45-minute bus ride to go home (or to avoid the long walk, a trip of over one hour with two buses). Before I even add in the possible 30-60 minute wait time at the bus stops, my commute is already almost three hours. Add in 30-minute wait times for each bus, and I’ve got a daily commute time of up to 5 hours for an average distance of 20 miles. And forget it if I worked late. If I needed to leave work anytime past 9:30 p.m., I found out I’d be waiting until 5:00 a.m. for a bus to take me home.
Currently, the only soul I am responsible for taking care of is my cat. But imagine if I was commuting every day on this schedule, while also having children to take care of, parent-teacher conferences and school events I was trying to attend, large grocery shopping trips to take, and doctor’s appointments to make. I also do not have a physical disability, but if I did, it would likely add even more time to my pick-ups, drop-offs, and transfers throughout the day.
The fact is, getting around the city of Indianapolis is a privilege, and not a right. Our current system in inequitable. There are too many people in this city held back from employment opportunities, educational opportunities, as well as social services, health clinics, and grocery stores simply because our city has not invested in creating a transportation system that serves all.
One cannot talk about transportation without talking about upward mobility. Commute time has been found to be the single strongest factor in determining a person’s ability to exit the cycle of poverty. It is time to start looking at the most neglected areas of our city – areas that have been historically neglected due to poor urban planning, due to de jure and de facto segregation, and due to the housing collapse. According to Indy Connect, Indianapolis is one of the least upwardly mobile cities in the United States, ranking 46 out of 50. That’s atrocious.
I am tired of hearing the ol’ pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps ideology when it comes to getting jobs in this city. When it comes to opportunity, there is no hiding the fact this system continues to perpetuate the imbalance of power between the wealthy, white, and/or able-bodied population and the poor, of color, and/or disabled communities. For it to take an average of over 90 minutes to get to 67 percent of the jobs in the area is a leading reason why Indianapolis’s upward mobility ranking is so low. I am tired of hearing those who are unemployed be blamed for not trying hard enough, when in actuality, they are running a completely different race than those of us with the privilege and funds that allow us to own a personal vehicle.
The good news is that now something can be done about it. Recently, the Marion County City-County Council certified a referendum on mass transit funding. What does this mean? It means that if you live inside Marion County, you have a chance to vote in support of improving transportation access in this city. On your November ballot, it will ask if you support an income tax increase of 0.25 percent (.25 cents for every $100) to establish funding for improved mass transit routes in Indianapolis. To see details about the plan, and how the roll-out of new bus stops and routes would take place, you can go to IndyConnect.org.
I ask you to vote yes. If you choose not to, then I ask that you step back and think twice the next time you want to judge someone for being unemployed without a car in Indianapolis.