Friday, August 16, 2019

Indianapolis Traffic Becomes Dreadful as Bus Red Line Swallows Up Critical Travel Lanes

I drive on Indianapolis downtown city streets often.  I also go to Broad Ripple, about once a week, to catch up with a friend.

Those experiences have changed dramatically this summer.  The last several weeks, I've found myself snarled in long traffic jams on downtown streets, waiting through multiple several cycles of the traffic line before I can move through an intersection.    As far as getting to Broad Ripple, especially from downtown... well forget about that.  Heading north on College Avenue toward Broad Ripple at the end of the day, traffic is backed up literally for as much as a mile.  
Welcome to the Red Line, Indianapolis new rapid transit system, which employs an all electric bus system. 

In implementing  the Red Line, several travel lanes are now dedicated to those buses and verboten for drivers to drive in.  The city has already lost a lot of travel lanes due to the addition of bike lanes before the city's leaders decided to take away more travel lanes.

College Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares by which people head to and from the Broad Ripple area, is one of the streets greatly impacted by the Red Line.  With the new bus system removing two of the lanes, there are only two lanes remaining for the north/south traffic on the road.  Needless to say, College Avenue backs up with an endless parade of cars during rush hour.   The obvious location for the Red Line heading to/from the Broad Ripple area was Keystone Avenue instead of the much more narrow, and residential, College Avenue.  But more money was to be made for developers on College Avenue so that is of course where the bus lanes were located. In Indianapolis, the interest of the city's taxpayers always take a back seat to developers whose ambitions are often funded by those same taxpayers.  And, of course, those developers are all too willing to kick back taxpayer money to the politicians in the form of campaign donations that keep the cycle going.

Part of the allure of the Red Line is that the all electric buses will have zero emissions and, thus, be better for the environment.  (Let's ignore for now the obvious counterpoint that emissions are involved in creating the electricity to run the buses.)  How exactly is the environment made better by greatly increasing the amount of time Indianapolis commuters are stuck in idling cars that are pumping out carbon monoxide as they wait through endless cycles of traffic lights?

The developers of the Red Line argue that, if our bus system is much better, Indianapolis commuters will park their cars and ride the bus instead.  That strategy is called "build it and they will come" approach and it never works.  Mass transit has to be designed to meet demand, not to create it.

Problems with Indianapolis traffic, post Red Line, could have been a major issue for Indianapolis voters when they go to the polls in November.  Yet, Republican mayoral candidate State Senator Jim Merritt, desperate for traction in the increasingly Democratic city, can't bring himself to raise the issue.  Merritt has spent more time talking about food deserts than the city's worsening traffic.  The result is Mayor Joe Hogsett does not have to defend the bus line to Indianapolis voters frustrated that their commutes are now considerably longer.

When it comes to whether taxpayers should subsidize economic development and, in doing so, making the corporate interests wealthier, the leadership of both political parties always line up to stick it to the taxpayers.  Make no mistake about it, the Red Line is all about corporate welfare.  The losers are Indianapolis taxpayers and commuters who drive in the city.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stop driving a car then, problem solved.

Chris said...

Stop driving a car then, problem solved. For some reason everyone in the Midwest (besides Chicago) hates public transit and it's really annoying.

Anonymous said...

Let's be Patient and see how this works. Sometimes when you build it they do come. Auto drivers will not like this... my suggestion is ride the bus read a book and avoid traffic citations and parking. It means better air quality for all of us if the cars can't drive on the road then perhaps someday they won't

Paul K. Ogden said...

Not sure why you think people in the Midwest hate public transit. I think public transit is great when it fits a need, when there is a demand for it. I don't like it when it's not about filling a need but rather making politically connected developers money using my tax dollars. Enough with this corporate welfare nonsense.

You do bring up Chicago. Indianapolis is not Chicago. Indianapolis is 1/3 bigger than Chicago from a geographic standpoint. Chicago is 234 sq miles, Indy is 368 sq miles. Chicago is much, much more dense from a population standpoint than Indianapolis. As of 2017, Chicago had 11,960 people per square mile, Indianapolis density that year was just 2,361. So Chicago's density is about 5 times what Indy's is. That's why mass transit is more popular in Chicago than Indy. There is a high demand for mass transit in Chicago because it is difficult to travel by car because of the density. Because Indy is one of the least dense big cities in the United States, it is easy to travel places by car and mass transit hasn't taken off. Artificially creating demand isn't a long term plan for successful mass transit.

Paul K. Ogden said...

As far as "being patient" to see if it works, does that mean if it's not working, the city will rip up the designated bus lanes, sell the electric buses and refund to the people their tax dollars spent on this boondoggle? Yeah, I bet that doesn't happen. Once the missile is launched, you can't recall it.

ldmode said...

Once again the people who use & need PT don't get a voice. The RL is no improvement OR upgrade & will greatly reduce my quality of life as well as how I get around.

IFDFIRE said...

Well said. The whole thing is garbage !!!!

Anonymous said...

Paul,this is one of those rare times when we're in total agreement. This is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. And we'll be forced to live with it long-term, whether it succeeds or not.

Anonymous said...

Curious to know if you currently ride the bus.

Anonymous said...

Why does the critique of the College Ave choice have to be that it's residential???

What kind of mass transit doesn't go to residential areas?

Anonymous said...

Has IndyGo or any other agency offered city residents/taxpayers ridership & income projections for the Red Line project? projections that can be made with “shown math” and not just low-balled estimates designed to trumpet “Success!”?

I’m happy that some on the “Urban Indy” blog report that they live near a Red Line Station and plan to use the service. But these posters seem to ignore the obvious fact that they are the exceptions, not the rule. I calculate that my closest station is a minimum of 8 blocks, a distance I won’t be willing to to walk at night or in most weather, just to wait another 15 minutes to head downtown in a drive I can complete in 7 minutes.

I had the unfortunate experience of trying to navigate Shelby Street last week behind a bus making Red Line training runs. The bottle necks caused by stations placed so close to intersections and the buses that take a long time to get up to speed were infuriating and I’m already interested in locating other businesses to replace those that are simply going to become too much of a hassle to visit.

Most frustrating of all is the citiy’s inability to hire someone to create consistently synchronized stoplights on major one way thoroughfares through downtown.

Unknown said...

That statement explains why you're shown as "Anonymous".

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 2:22,

I'd love to ride the city bus, but it doesn't come anywhere near my house. I ride the Megabus. I rode the Megabus to Atlanta last month.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 4:00, the big problem with College Avenue is that it is a narrow road. Keystone is a much bigger road with plenty of room for the bus line and traffic lanes. Putting the Red Line on College was pure idiocy. It's turned that street into a parking lot.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention now the cars cutting through residential neighborhoods to avoid College and frankly traveling at high speeds, rolling through stops, ignoring the residential nature of the area (families, those on bikes, children, walkers/runners) etc. No enforcement of the speed limit and not enough infrastucture or measures (additional 4 way stops, speed bumps, etc. to SLOW them down)

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon 12:50,

I think we all saw that coming. I remember when they eliminated a couple travel lanes on the eastern part of Broad Ripple Avenue to create bike lanes. Made traffic going from College to Keystone much worse. So people started using the residential streets south of BRA. Now that they have taken out travel lanes on College, people are even more inclined to take those residential streets to get out of the College Avenue parking lot.

Unknown said...

"Mass transit has to be designed to meet demand, not create it." Glad to see you're admitting Supply Side Economics is false. It has never worked and never will.

Unknown said...

Riding the bus can be a pain in the ass. You walk/stand in the rain longer than it would take for getting into your car. Then, walk in the rain to your home. But, what about when you need to stop at the grocery to pick up a gallon of milk for supper. Is the bus driver going to turn off the route to stop at the grocery? Hell no that won't happen. Instead of the electric bus nonsense, why not just buy everyone a Nissan Leaf so no exhaust emissions and it would give the drivers the ability to stop at the grocery. Call they city every minute and demand Nissan Leafs or Chevy Volt as the better alternative.

Anonymous said...

This is similar to why "high-speed rail" will not work in the USA. EVERY City, Village and Town will insist on having a "high-speed rail STATION and that will prevent any and all "high-speed" anything ever happening as promised. A minor detail which will not be know until billions of tax dollars have been spent.