Study will help hold IndyGo accountable for Red Line promises

Data pix.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- In the run up to the fall 2016 referendum when Marion County residents were asked to tax themselves $54 million a year to improve Indianapolis’ bus system and build the Red Line, IndyGo and its supporters made a lot of predictions of what riders and voters could expect for their money.

Now the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization (IMPO) has written a baseline report that may someday hold IndyGo and its backers to those promises.

The Red Line Transit Impact Study conducted surveys of residents, employees and company officials all along the 13.1-mile route of the groundbreaking electric bus route from Broad Ripple on the north, through downtown and on to the University of Indianapolis on the south.

“This study is a snapshot in time,” reads a statement issued by IMPO. “It shows the Red Line corridor’s existing physical, economic, socioeconomic, and demographic attributes before Red Line construction began. In coming years, the study will be repeated to measure changes against this baseline. The findings will be useful in guiding future infrastructure projects in Central Indiana.”

IndyGo has promised enhanced service improvements, ridership totals and fare box revenues, and it expects the Red Line to lead the way.

The first riders board the Red Line on Sept. 1.

IndyGo has estimated service will increase system wide 70 percent during the next few years with ridership growing and fare box revenues jumping 50 percent to $16 million annually.

An IMPO survey of residents along the Red Line corridor found that just four percent of them living within a half-mile of one of the new 28 stations currently ride the bus while 75 percent said their personal vehicles afford them more transportation convenience.

IndyGo expects 11,000 riders weekly on the Red Line and an additional 4,828 every week all across the city, a 15 percent increase over 2015 numbers.

Longtime Broad Ripple real estate broker Bill McLane said every day he sees only a handful of bus riders outside his office two blocks past the Red Line’s northernmost stop.

“It is a nice opportunity for people to take public transportation,” he said. “Now whether the people in the neighborhood will clamor to it and utilize the new municipal investment, it's something we’ll have to wait and see.”

IndyGo supporters who lobbied in favor of the 2016 tax vote predicted that real estate development and investment would be enhanced along the Red Line.

The IMPO study found that some 2,800 parcels on the route have the potential for value enhancement.

“At this particular time the overall observation would be that it's too early to tell, but I think that some people who have vacant properties or properties that have served their highest and best use and have become older and may be boarded-- those might be opportunities for recycled use in the future,” said McLane,

McLane referred to several vacant or non-productive properties in the 4900-5200 blocks of North College Avenue.

“The bus service may enhance bus use for residents that live in that area spurring new development,” he said. “One of the things that’s been offset by the enhanced Red Line is more restrictive parking on the streets.”

The study found that the Red Line will result in a, “22 percent decrease from parking supply in 2015.”

Parking along College Avenue and North Meridian and Maryland Streets will be most heavily impacted.

The IMPO study surveyed approximately 3,000 Red Line corridor residents, employees and business officials last year.

Sixty-four percent of the residents held a generally positive view of the Red Line and thought it would improve access to downtown. Thirty percent had a negative view.

Fifteen percent of workers who are employed in the Red Line corridor said they would consider taking the electric bus to their jobs while 50 percent of businesses reported prospective employees are not concerned about bus transportation.

The Red Line project was valued at nearly $100 million and included improvements to other parts of IndyGo’s system.

IndyGo’s Blue and Purple Lines to improve service along Washington Street and from Lawrence to downtown are yet to be fully realized.

“There’s a lot of speculation on the future benefit of the bus line and whether it's going to enhance new development and change peoples’ lifestyle up and down the corridor that it serves,” said McLane.

IMPO recommends a follow up study within five years to review the first two years of Red Line service to determine if the IndyGo predictions came true.

The MIBOR Realtor Association issued the following statement:

The recent release of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transit Impact Study gives our community a baseline from which to build a multi-year analysis of changes along the Red Line corridor. As it pertains to our association, we have and will continue to collect housing data from before and after the Red Line opens and transit services is expanded. This information, over time, will help provide a thorough examination of the Red Line’s impact on property values, consumer demand and economic development on our neighborhoods.

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