Mass transit hits House Ways and Means

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, held a hearing on a bill he introduced that will enable Central Indiana voters to host a referendum vote on modernizing mass transit.

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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