As has been well-documented for decades (Hoppe, "Lafayette Square's biggest obstacle" Oct. 21-28), bus riders are in about the same boat as pedestrians (excuse that absurd metaphor). If you don't drive in Indianapolis, you are, for all practical purposes, homebound.
I was on the Indianapolis Symphony's Facebook page a while ago, reading all the glowing reviews of last weekend's concert. It was making me really angry, and at first I couldn't figure out why. Then it hit me. I really enjoy the symphony orchestra, and I have all the time and money I need to go to concerts regularly. I wanted to go to that one, but I didn't. I want to go to almost all of them, but I almost never do, because I don't drive and public transportation in this "world class" city pretty much shuts down at dark. It got me thinking about how much more support the arts (and business) community in Indianapolis might have if only people could get to downtown events (and back home).
I attend far more arts events, and spend a lot more money, in Chicago than I do in Indianapolis. There's one simple reason — because I can. Sure, I can take a city bus to an Indianapolis Symphony concert, or a play, or an exhibit, or to any other downtown/Mass. Ave. arts event. Just one problem. I can't go home until sometime the next day. I take the bus to work downtown every day, but I can't do anything downtown after work because I'm stranded if I do.
In Chicago, by contrast, I can take public transportation to any event, anywhere, any time of the day or night, and get back to wherever I'm staying. And I do. I have been to at least 30 plays in Chicago for every one I've been to here in my own home town. And probably 20 Chicago Symphony concerts for every Indianapolis Symphony concert. Believe it or not, I can usually get a ticket on a bus or train to Chicago, and back, for less than the price of a cab ride back home to Broad Ripple after a concert in downtown Indianapolis.
It's not like I live in some small town or far-flung suburb. I live in the city, and still can't go anywhere after dark. Nor can anyone else who, because of a physical disability, or economic reasons, or just a concern for the environment, depends on public transit.
I wonder if the arts or business communities have ever considered this impact on the potential audience for local arts events, and if so whether either does any lobbying of the City for any relief. Having lived here for some decades, it is painfully obvious to me that the City will never respond to the concerns of regular people who need transportation. Might it respond to organizations who could show an adverse economic impact? It's all about money, after all. Isn't it?
I expect Indianapolis is going to become a ghost town the day the gas runs out.