Op-Ed: The Eternal ‘Red Line’ — Funded or Not

February 15, 2017

by Fred McCartney

The people in this city who decided on the Palladium-to-Stadium bus route (otherwise known as the Red Line) are determined to go ahead with that plan, even though it obviously means further delay in the needed expansion of city-wide bus service to those who would use it and truly need it.

While print media publishes articles and letters about how dire the city’s needs are for general public transportation — many with which we would agree — there is no logical justification for beginning to move that direction by spending the first hundreds of millions of dollars on a single bus route straight through the center of the city.

A recent article gives us the fantasy of “frequency of service” on the Red Line, with or without federal generosity (our own money). That might be great for patrons headed to Lucas Oil Stadium or Bankers Life Fieldhouse but how many students will it get to school or employees to their jobs?

A chart accompanying the article includes two lines of note:

Red Line Phase 1 completed — 2018
More buses, more frequent service — 2019

Those are projections for completion with federal aid. Without federal money, you can add a year to each date. And the reference to numbers of buses and frequency of service come after Red Line completion and with no specific reference as to where these other alleged improvements will take place.

We’re now hearing insistence that the same disastrous plan will continue even if the major part of the necessary funding is, at best, problematic. In other words, we’re going to get a tax increase, whether or not. But we think the members of the City-County Council should keep a couple of things in mind:

First, the most recent articles include reference to “infrastructure improvements.” We would venture to say that a good many taxpayers who support expenditures on infrastructure improvements do not have in mind traffic-strangling, mid-street mini bus stations.

Second, the tax referendum was adopted after a veritable blizzard of media support by a margin of six to four, now being labeled as “overwhelming.” Under the circumstances, we would consider the result more of a close call than a mandate.

Indianapolis has real financial problems, among which is finding a way to assist public transportation so as to benefit a significant number of citizens. Moving ahead with a questionable plan with questionable funding that would mandate additional municipal debt is not a solution. The best action the Council could take would be no action at all.

Fred McCarthy, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, represented various taxpayer and business organizations before the Indiana General Assembly for 40 years, being awarded a Sagamore of the Wabash by two governors along the way. He is editor of the blog IndyTaxDollars.


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