IndyCAN! kicks off massive transit vote effort

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- An Indianapolis faith group is working to convince Marion County voters to say “yes” to paying for expanded mass transit.

“Anytime you say we’re going to increase something, people balk at that,” said IndyCAN! volunteer Valerie DeWeese. “But I think if they take any time to have the numbers explained to them, they’ll see that it really weighs out in our favor.”

IndyCAN! first has to explain that a “yes” vote means paying an additional 25 cents in taxes for every $100 earned. That means a person making $50,000 a year would pay $125 more in taxes.

Then, their goal is to show that the plan is worth the money.

After decades of frustration with public transportation in Indianapolis, several people shared their stories at the IndyCAN! voter kickoff.

Alpha Whitaker says she hopes improvements in Marion County will spearhead similar efforts in the connecting counties. Years ago, she was offered a job in Carmel.

“I would’ve been able to put myself and my children in a safe area,” Whitaker said. “And I ended up not being able to take it because the bus only went to 96th Street.”

The job Alpha Whitaker was offered was at 126th and Meridian. Without a car, she would have had to walk almost an hour and a half from the bus stop after already spending more than an hour riding the bus.

“I couldn’t do it,” Whitaker said. “I even contemplated trying because I was just that desperate. But unfortunately I had to call him and tell him to give it to someone else. And my dream was crushed.”

This fall, she’ll share her story with thousands of potential voters.

IndyCAN! organizers are now forming teams to reach 80 thousand people in Marion County by election day. They’re particularly focused on marginalized voters, the people least likely to vote in elections. They’re also the people most impacted if transit isn’t expanded.

“Right now if you work really hard and you’re at a place that closes at 10 and you’re part of the close down crew, they can’t get home because the lines stop at 10, so they’re very limited in what they can do for work,” said DeWeese.

If the referendum passes, buses won’t stop running until 1 a.m. and will start right back up at 5 a.m.

Buses will arrive more frequently, as quick as every seven minutes for some stops.

More routes will be available and the Blue, Purple and Phase 2 and 3 Red rapid transit lines created.

There will also be more transfer flexibility. Right now, people can only transfer downtown. If the referendum is approved, riders will be able to change buses at several locations, which will likely be closer to where they’re headed.

Whitaker says the plan will keep people like her from struggling to find and take opportunities.

“I don’t want anyone to have to go through some of the things I had to go through,” said Whitaker. “Not if I can do something about it.”