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Which of these describes you?

The Great Green Hope – It’s Time to Get Connected

Posted by: Ryan Puckett
Posted: March 1, 2010
Categories: Uncategorized

Once upon a time, there was a new city emerging in America’s Heartland. The city grew quickly and became the state capital—the only state capital located directly in the center of its state. A Scottish architect designed the city, originally a one-square-mile plan. His plan included a large circular commons in the middle of the city with two major streets running north/south and east/west and the city’s first transportation plan was conceived.

Of course, the city is Indianapolis and those streets are Meridian and Market. Transportation has always been integral to the success of the Circle City and our state didn’t get the nickname “Crossroads of America” for nothing.

A very brief history of transportation in Indianapolis… In 1829, the National Road reached Indianapolis, connecting it with major cities due east to Maryland. Indianapolis also sat along the original east/west National Railroad and Union Station was the first rail passenger station in the United States. The city was a hub of activity, connecting other major cities in every direction.

Within the city, streetcars and trolleybuses helped move people around town during the first half of the 20th century. In fact, Indianapolis used to boast an extensive public transit system, but the wheels began “falling off.” The last streetcar ran in 1953 and the trolleybus ceased operation in 1957. The only remaining public transit option was the bus system, now known as IndyGo. Soon however, the automobile took over as the primary source of transportation. Subsequently, bus ridership has decreased steadily since the mid-1970s.

Once the automobile became the focal point of transportation, the routes originally built to connect Indianapolis to neighboring cities served as an infrastructure for rapid suburbanization. Urban decay and “white flight” took its toll on Indianapolis during the 1970s and 80s. During the 1990s, suburbia grew even larger and the crazy low interest rates of the early 2000s inspired more and more people to flee for inexpensive, new homes in the collar counties.

Now here we are in 2010 and Indianapolis is the largest city in the country without a major public transportation system. Roads are congested all over town, bike lanes and paths are few, and you can’t even hail a taxi go from Mass Ave to Lucas Oil Stadium.

Safe walking paths are absent in many parts of the city and in the suburbs, entire communities are built without sidewalks. Even in my neighborhood of Broad Ripple, one of the most walkable parts of Indianapolis, several streets don’t have sidewalks.

For years, groups such as IndyGo, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Central Indiana Regional Transit Authority have been studying how to improve the entire transportation system in and around Indianapolis. They have conducted feasibility studies and estimated costs for operation. We are closer to a comprehensive transit system than ever before and now it’s time for the public to show its support to gain funding. Without public support, there will not be a new system.

However, the needs are not just for a light rail route to connect places like Fishers or Greenwood to downtown Indy. We need a balanced transportation system that meets the needs of all users – pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists –to fully realize the benefits of improving our region’s transportation system.

Why is this important? The reasons are many and relate to health, safety, the environment, economic development and even social justice.

Indy Connect, an initiative comprised of transportation and planning organizations, is seeking your ideas, comments and direction on how improved transportation options could change the way you live and get around the region.

Over the past few weeks and continuing throughout March, there are public meetings for you to provide input (and a web page open 24/7). I went to a meeting the other day and at age 37, I had to be the youngest person in the room.

“Where are the young professionals?” I asked myself.

Where are the 20- and 30-somethings who want to make Indianapolis an even greater place to live, who want to get involved, who want to energize the city?

Like I said, this issue has implications related to health, safety, the environment, economic development and social justice. One of these areas has to be near and dear to your heart. Let Indy Connect know if you think its plan will help form a more livable, vibrant and sustainable place to live.

This is your transportation system, your voice is important. It’s time to get connected.

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