front-page news last week was disturbing for all of us who love this city:
IndyGo, our only mass transit system, is losing money at a rapid rate and no
politicians seem to care. Funding sources are drying up. Services are being
cut. And, by all measures, our transit system is one of the worst in the
D. Smith's excellent coverage for The Indianapolis Star highlighted these problems, which
have been well known for years without anyone in authority doing anything about
them. Democratic and Republican administrations have both ignored or
short-shrifted the issue of our bus system for 30 years or more.
problems faced by IndyGo are formidable: an archaic funding system subsidizes
IndyGo only through property taxes, not sales or income taxes. As the money
goes away, so does the level of service. And since nobody's stepping forward
with solutions, the situation is only going to get worse.
most other observers in the media, I actually use IndyGo every day to get to
and from work. I don't have any complaints about the way the bus system is run.
The fares are reasonable, the drivers are all friendly, courteous and highly
skilled and the buses run on time.
nearly three years of using the bus every workday, there have only been two or
three occasions where something went awry. An idiot motorist clipped off the
side mirror of a bus I was on. Twice the bus broke down and I was stranded for
20 minutes until a replacement could be sent. Nothing big.
since my employer subsidizes my bus passes, I pay only a fraction of the money
my co-workers spend on gas and parking downtown.
problem isn't the competence of the people who run IndyGo, nor is it the
employees. Where IndyGo runs, it works just as well as any other transit system
in the nation.
problem is that it doesn't serve enough people. I don't have any problems since
I live less than five miles from downtown, on an important north-south street,
and I work right on Monument Circle. Also, since I rarely work past 9 p.m., I'm
assured of a return ride home.
is excellent at getting you downtown in an efficient fashion. But if you don't
live on a busy street, or you live in the suburbs, you're pretty much screwed.
You might be able to drive to a Park and Ride location and catch the bus from
there, but if you're going anywhere but the heart of downtown, you're looking
at changing buses two or three times and turning a 45-minute car drive into a
two-hour bus ride.
I wanted to visit my grandmother in Perry Township, I'd have to board one bus,
switch to another downtown, and then walk four miles to her house since the
closest stops are either east or north of her home.
excellent reporting disclosed that the $53 million allocated to IndyGo annually
is literally a fraction of what other cities of our size spend on transit.
IndyGo has 29 routes and roughly 150 buses, while Charlotte, N.C. has 74 routes
and 325 buses.
more than enough blame to go around on who's responsible for this situation.
But if Mayor Greg Ballard is serious in his ambition to be regarded alongside
the great mayors of our city, the Hudnuts and Lugars, he should make IndyGo a
top priority. Find a different funding mechanism other than property taxes. If
we're able to spend hundreds of millions building and maintaining sports
arenas, surely there has to be a way to help our citizens get to and from work.
has a historic opportunity to be known as the mayor who fixed our
transportation system once and for all. Generations of politicians before him
have failed. He would assure himself re-election for as many terms as he wanted
if he could pull this off.
far, he hasn't shown much inclination to do anything about it. But, for reasons
not entirely clear to me, I believe he has the desire, the political clout and
the will to get this done. I hope I'm not wrong about him.
Mr. Mayor, do something to help fix our broken bus system.