Backers of a proposed $2.5 billion mass transit plan are

looking for help from on high — or at least local churches — as

they mobilize ahead of the 2012 General Assembly.

State lawmakers are likely to consider allowing a mass

transit referendum that would go before the voters as early as November 2012;

citizens would decide if a tax increase would be implemented to pay for the

25-year project, which would utilize light rail and buses.Newly reelected Mayor

Greg Ballard

has already identified mass transit as his No. 1 priority

heading into his second term.



of Indiana

Citizens' Alliance for Transit

and Ehren Bingaman, executive director of Central

Indiana Regional Transportation Authority

,laid out their goals for the upcoming

legislative session during ameeting Nov. 15 with a small group of Indianapolis

Green Congregations

members. Bingaman asked the congregations to pass

resolutions supporting the referendum, as well as take a more active role.

"We're trying to build an action network,"

Bingaman said. "As it makes its way through the legislative process, we

need people manning the phone and sending letters to committee members."

Both proponents framed mass transit mainly as a social

justice issue, touching briefly on environmental and quality of life arguments.

"There's a real sense of urgency here," Bingaman

said. "People need to get to work, seniors need to get to their doctor.

More transportation options are a lifeline for the people you're trying to

reach and support."

Out of the 50 groups that have already pledged support for

the referendum, only one, Hoosier

Interfaith Power and Light

, is a faith-based group. Although most of the

church representatives attending the Nov. 15 meeting said they supported the

plan, few, if any, pledged their entire congregation's support.

Joe Bowling of Englewood

Christian Church

knows of the need for greater transportation options

firsthand; his church participated in efforts to enable the Near Eastside Orbiter bus service, which supported efforts to connect neighborhood residents to employment opportunities in other regions of the city. Due to lack of ridership the program ended in December 2010, according to Lovi King, who coordinated the orbiter for the John H. Boner Community Center.


up to 20 percent of neighborhood residents lacking reliable transportation, he

didn't believe Englewood would pass a support resolution, calling it a job left

to other neighborhood groups.

Although they left the meeting with no firm commitments from

any of the church representatives, Irwin wasn't discouraged.

"A lot of groups are hesitant to take that advocacy

step," Irwin said, adding they would take their case to the individual

churches' "decision makers."

Church support is one part of transit advocates' plan to

build a diverse coalition of backers. Bingaman also plans to ask the Indiana Sheriffs' Association and

other law enforcement groups to back a potential referendum, claiming mass

transit will allow residents to work rather than turn to crime.

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