By Krista Chittum
The House Ways and Means Committee heard testimony Thursday on a bill that would bring rapid transit to Central Indiana.
House Bill 1073 would double the number of buses and routes and add public railroad transportation by the year 2021 in Indianapolis and surrounding counties. The bill follows the lines set forth in a proposal from the Central Indiana Transit Task Force.
The plan could raise county economic development income taxes – CEDIT – by 0.2 percent in Central Indiana counties that choose to adopt the new mass transit system.
"The bill creates funds and puts forth a new government system for a newly created mass transit system," said Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale.
Espich is chair of the Ways and Means Committee and author of the bill.
The bill would authorize the establishment of a regional transit authority and a metropolitan transit district that would replace and take on the powers of existing entities, including the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority and the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation, commonly known as IndyGo.
"IndyGo would become part of the new MTD and all assets employees transfer, including debt and funding obligations," said Mark Miles, co-founder and chairman of the task force.
Miles said the 10-year plan would bring new express bus rapid transit routes.He said he also envisions a train service from Noblesville to downtown Indianapolis.
"It's another option for people to get around the city without a car," Miles said.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said a mass transit system is necessary.
"A robust mass transit is an amenity," Ballard said. "I believe our regional mass transit system is the next step."
Some expressed concern about the presence of right-to-work measures in the bill, but Espich says that was not the intent.
"It never crossed my mind that this could be a right-to-work bill, not once," Espich said. "It was not my intent to do anything to concern anyone. We will take another look at it."
Rep. William Crawford, D-Indianapolis, said he strongly supports mass transit.
"All in all, I support mass transportation and, as a citizen of Marion County I would have the ability to cast my vote in referendum," Crawford said.
Rep. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, expressed concern about increases in bus fare.
Senior Project Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council Tim Maloney said mass transit technology is more efficient and gave his support for the bill.
"It benefits to energy consumption," Maloney said. "Transit will help take motor vehicles off the road and will improve air quality and traffic congestion."
This was not a formal hearing on the bill and no action was taken.
The Statehouse File is an online publication produced by Franklin College journalism students.
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