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Hamilton County townships to vote on possible transit referendum

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HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. -- Around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28, Clay Township officials are voting whether to join Washington Township by putting a transit referendum on the ballot this November.

If they do, Carmel and Westfield voters will both decide if they want to pay more taxes for better public transportation in their parts of Hamilton County.

As Hamilton County’s population has exploded, the number of people on the road has too.

According to the only bus service in the county, Hamilton County Express, public transportation there hasn’t quite kept up.

“We have to deny trip requests every day due to the level of funding that we have,” said HCE Director of Transportation Christy Campoll.

Hamilton County Express is a federally-funded transit service.

Campoll wishes HCE could serve the growing number of people in Hamilton County who call to reserve a ride.

“It’s difficult because most of the people who ride with us are riding to get to work and sometimes they’re going to medical appointments or other necessary activities,” said Campoll. “And so when we have to decline their requests for transportation, you know we know that usually puts them in a bind.”

Transit advocates like Campoll want to see Clay and Washington Township both vote to have a public transportation referendum on their November ballots.

“It’s not a vote for a tax increase,” CIRTA executive director Lori Kaplan said of the township decisions on Tuesday. “It’s a vote for citizens to weigh in on how they feel about it.”

But a tax hike will eventually come, if Clay Township follows Washington Township, allowing its citizens to vote on transit and if a majority say yes on November 8.

Like the referendum in Marion County, taxes would increase by 25 cents for every $100 someone makes.

For example, a person making $50,000 a year would pay $125 more in taxes.

“It would allow for the completion of the Red Line through Hamilton, which would allow people to access jobs, both from Marion into Hamilton and Hamilton into Marion,” said Kaplan. “It’s good for the local economy. It’s good for the regional economy.”

A “yes” vote would also give those two townships their own fixed routes.

That would make it easier for people to move across the county.

“Everybody who needs the service would be able to get to work reliably every day,” said Campoll. “They would be able to get to their medical appointments, go shopping, do the things that people need to do.”

Regardless of what Clay Township decides to do, Indy Connect will be hosting information sessions for Carmel and Westfield.

The first is this Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. with a presentation at 7 at the Bridgewater Club in Carmel.

The decision made this year will not impact Noblesville and Fishers residents. Neither will have a public transit referendum on the ballot this fall.