Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and other local leaders announced their support for a dramatic expansion of the mass transit in Central Indiana. The expansion will cost $1.3 billion and it will require some funding at the local level.
“You have to look at the city overall. How are we going to position ourselves in the future if we don’t attract the workforce?,” asked Mayor Ballard. “The businesses won’t be coming, and we’ll all fail.”
Ballard said the numbers do not add up. While Indianapolis is the 12th largest city in the U.S., the current bus system ranks 89th in the country.
For years, there has been talk about investment in this type of expansion, but Ballard and other leaders are convinced this plan is a winner, and they say the time is now if Indy wants to stay competitive.
“Every day, every day we compete against those cities for jobs and talent,” said Ballard of cities like Charlotte, North Carolina, whose new rail line is being used as a model.
The expansion would double the size of IndyGo and add light rail service from Noblesville through Fishers to Union Station, but Marion and Hamilton counties voters will have to pick up part of the tab. Federal dollars only cover half of it.
“Say, a family of four that makes about $50,000 a year, this would be $10 to $12 a month in terms of their share in the system,” said Ron Gifford, a top officials with Indy Connect Now, the group behind the plan.
Ballard and other leaders, some who are in the business sector, are now asking voters in these two counties to call their legislators and ask for a referendum on the November 2013 ballot that would give them a choice to raise income taxes by three tenths of a percent.
“People who use mass transit in other communities save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on transportation. They’re not having to buy gas or pay for the cost of a second car,” said Gifford.
Ballard also told Fox59 the new Indy Connect plan has much more support thanks in part to trips taken by state and local leaders to Charlotte. Within five years of building a 10-mile light rail line, there was a $1.5 billion investment in terms of new development.
“This is an investment. If we don’t make it, 20, 30 years down the road, everybody is going to say ‘what happened?'” said Ballard.
If voters gives the plan a thumbs up, the expansion could begin in 2014, and its expected to take eight years to complete. Other counties can opt in at a later date.
For more information, the public is encouraged to sign a petition and voice support for the plan at Indy Connect Now.