The Other Hand

Balanced commentary from an unbalanced mind.

Indy Transit: System Design

Indianapolis seems to have dozens of large and small developments that are changing the development of the city for the better. One that I’ve been watching pretty closely has been the planning around mass transit. We’re getting close to a point where we might actually be able to make something happen, so I wanted to take a closer look at the current proposal.

Indy Connect (and the Indianapolis MPO) have been working on rapid transit plans for some time. But 2013 will be a key year in the process. The legislative goal is to get the state to allow a referendum — to allow local voters the chance to decide whether to invest in rapid transit. As part of that, Indy Connect is publicizing current planning efforts, and developing specific plans for a few proposed routes.

The long range plan has identified five potential rapid transit routes:

  • Red: Carmel – downtown – Greenwood
  • Blue: Airport – downtown – Cumberland
  • Green: Noblesville – Fishers – downtown
  • Purple: Lafayette Sq – State Fair Grounds – Lawrence
  • Orange: Carmel – Keystone at the Crossing – University of Indianapolis

The Red, Blue, and Green routes are part of the Phase I plans, so the effort right now is to make them more specific: vehicles, routes, stops, schedules. That allows for specifics on cost, and gives voters something concrete to evaluate.

Current proposed Indy tranist map.
These lines are all classed as Rapid Transit. This means having permanent stations (not just bus stops), dedicated rights-of-way, frequent service, and specialized vehicles. The two alternatives under discussion are Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and light rail. BRT buses look almost like light rail, but they run on tires and roadways. BRT is cheaper and faster to implement than rail, but it’s more affected by traffic problems. Both alternatives are being considered, but it’s pretty clear that BRT is probably the likely winner for the Red and Blue lines. On the other hand, the proposed Green Line is aligned with the Nickel Plate railway (State Fair Train) and so it’s probably a candidate for rail.
The other interesting work currently underway is to collect design proposals for a downtown Transit Center. This would be the connection point downtown for rapid transit and local bus services, allowing for easier transfers. IndyGo has opened bidding for designs based on a site just to the south of the City-County Building, along Washington Street between Delaware and Alabama streets. The transit center is shown as the downtown box on the map above.
The overall plan has some questions to address.The parallel but unconnected Red, Green, and Orange routes make sense individually, but as mapped currently they’re a bit of a mess. For example, a trip from Fishers to Broad Ripple would involve two transfers. The State Fair Grounds area has four lines mapped through it (Red, Orange, Green, Purple) but has no single connection between even three of those lines. Downtown, the Green and Orange lines don’t show a connection to the Transit Center, which leaves open the question of where they would drop commuters (particularly from Fishers). And some key destinations like IUPUI and the IU Health system seem to be disconnected from the current map. (The IU Health People Mover doesn’t even make an appearance.)

All that said, I think the plans are pretty exciting. Personally, I’d love to have a rapid transit option to get to work; even if I only used it 3 days a week, it’d be a nice alternative — and it’d reduce traffic volume on the street, too. Station selection will make a big difference, as well as route alignments and connections. I’d like to look more closely at the Green Line next, and check into some of its specific questions.

Written by cisko

22 January 2013 at 09:47

Posted in Urbanism

Tagged with , ,

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