State lawmakers representing Tippecanoe and surrounding counties along with mayors of cities along Amtrak's Hoosier State line - including Crawfordsville, Lafayette and Rensselaer - are all unified in their efforts to rally local support for the train ahead of an Oct. 1 federal deadline threatening to cut service. [See the Sept. 4 cover story.]
The response from leaders in Marion County is a little more varied.
Beech Grove Mayor Dennis Buckley opposed a legislative effort earlier this year to enable voters to decide if the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority should expand local mass transit options - in part, he said, because Amtrak was not a part of the planning partnership. He is, however, 100 percent sure that Indiana should do everything it can to protect the line. "I'll give you 61 million reasons why," he said. "That's what Amtrak contributes to the local economy."
Mayor Greg Ballard, who is a die-hard supporter of the mass transit bill, is not embracing advocacy of Amtrak in the same way; his spokesperson directed questions about the issue to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization. The MPO's executive director, Anna Tyszkiewicz, said she is waiting for INDOT to complete its study of the issue to see how it shakes out among stakeholders. "I want to make sure this doesn't impact our regional (transportation) funding," she noted.
The Indianapolis-Marion County City-County Council members are not saying much either. In response to an emailed request for comment, only one councilor responded. "Yes on trains... . too many cars now," wrote Councillor José Evans, a Republican from District 1 in the city's northeast corner. "Gas is high and even my family has re-adjusted our budget. Only problem is that trains need to run faster."