Friday, June 21, 2013

State Senator Waltz Proposes Mass Transit Plan Based on Real Indianapolis-Area Commuting Habits

Over at the Urban Indy blog, Curt Ailes proceeds to take aim at State Senator Brent Waltz's attempt to come up with a mass transit plan in opposition to the extremely expensive Indy Connect plan offered during the last legislative session.  Ailes' criticism comes a few months after the screeching objection of
Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood)
Indianapolis Star columnist Erika Smith who seems to have taken personal offense that someone is trying to come up with a different approach than the corporate insiders who sought to sell the public on the Indy Connect plan.  To Smith, Waltz's proposal amounts to the legislature "micromanaging" mass transit.  For Smith, it apparently would be much better for an appointed, unaccountable commission to decide how to spend the taxpayers money than elected representatives.  After all, it has worked so well with the Capital Improvement Board. (Sarcasm.)

But I digress.

Ailes focuses on the weakness of the Waltz plan, such as the lack of funding for a suggested road expansion.  But Ailes overlooks the strength of Senator Waltz's proposal.  Waltz recognizes that the Noblesville to Indianapolis light rail proposal in the Indy Connect plan, which is over 1/2 the cost of the plan, is of limited utility.  He correctly notes that Bus Rapid Transit is much cheaper and more flexible and would service many more people.

But Ailes misses a bigger point about the Waltz plan.  Sen. Waltz actually begins his plan by looking at the travel habits of people in central Indiana and tries to design a plan to accommodate those habits.  He does not assume, as the Indy Connect plan does, that an overhaul of mass transit would result in a dramatic change in travel habits of Indianapolis-area commuters.

The Indy Connect plan is a "build it and they will come" plan.  But as the studies show, only a tiny percentage of residents will change their commuting habits when presented with better mass transit options.  Indianapolis is one of the least dense large cities in the country.  Travel by automobile is easy.  People aren't going to suddenly give that up.  Any mass transit plan has to recognize that reality.  That's why Sen. Waltz's plan should be the starting point for mass transit discussions in the next session..


AmericanDirt said...

As I said over on Urban Indy, I agree with you that, 9 times out of 10, the "build it and they will come" mentality is best left to the domain of hokey 1980s movies. The 1-out-of-10 exception might be something like the Cultural Trail, where most evidence will show people really DID come...but that could have to do with the fact that it provided infrastructure which previously didn't exist more or less anywhere in this country. But we already have a transit system in Indy, albeit a terrible one, that has prevented me from taking a bus from downtown to the southside (near Homecroft) after 6:15pm. Unreal.

That said, Waltz's approach is very much in keeping with the tradition of Ed Bacon or Robert Moses--planners who have left a very mixed legacy on the navigability of their respective cities (Philly and NYC). We have been widening roads for decades. What on earth has this done to make Marion County more a attractive place to live, particularly for those who seek to restore houses in old neighborhoods long thought obsolete? Furthermore, what has it done to mitigate traffic, since all widening does it typically induce more people to drive (creating the need for further widening) and weaken the need for mass transit, even the Bus Rapid Transit that Waltz still addresses? Lastly, isn't this tradition of subsidizing suburbanites at the expense of private land in Marion County a significant explanation for why we have these density patterns to begin with?

I am not of the belief that mere road-widening purely created the suburbs. The human will to suburbanize would have been there regardless of city/state/federal policy. I was also never as sold on the proposals as most of the Urban Indy community. But Waltz's proposal is an anti-solution when it comes to salvaging Indianapolis city limits--more benefiting the suburban base while using eminent domain to shred the desirability of homes that face the major arterials in the city limits. Waltz's proposal cultivates the frame of mind that the suburbs (i.e., Waltz's constituents) are the true life blood of the region. I disagree. The region is the region--central city AND suburbs. Indy is never going to have a Chicago or NYC system. It would be ridiculous for it to have a Portland system. A compromise proposal could at the least put Indy away from its nearly bottom-in-the-nation ranking to something more on par with Kansas City, a city which is, in fact, more sprawling and lower density that Indy.

Cato said...

Bus rapid transit is a nightmare. It's slow; people hate buses; the buses use rights of way that should be for cars, busways destroy roads, and by the time you're through building dedicated busways, you could have had a decent rail system.

The revolting Left is at war with cars, so everything they say should be disregarded.

Bus rapid transit is an oxymoron and should be forgotten. Light rail like Charlotte has is actually not a bad idea.

Cato said...


Road widening is lovely and a great idea. Old houses in old neighborhoods are a waste of time and should be bulldozed and replaced with modern areas that are built around the automobile and make the cities feel more comfortable and suburb-like.

Public transportation should be viewed as transportation of last resort, not first. No Real American ever wants to take public transportation and sit around other people. Real Americans like cars, car stereos, personal space, isolation from others, comfortable seats and wide, fast roads. Real Americans only take public transportation when the existing road system is too narrow, too crowded, and there's not enough parking when you get there.

A properly constructed America looks like Easton in Columbus.

Pete Boggs said...

Here's some Crass Transit trivia to be explained by those doing "the meth."

Using that there differential calculus (not deferential), 11-12 stops between Noblesville & Indy would require travel at speeds exceeding 200mph & riders would need to wear G suits to handle the intense acceleration & deceleration. OPM addicts (other peoples money) can't help but make outlandish claims.

Does the party of small government exist?