"Red-Line" Electric Bus Rapid Transit - College Avenue
Does Indianapolis Need Dedicated Bus Lanes?
Read the report prepared by Randal O'Toole, Fellow with the CATO Institute with over 30 citations!
Click on the link above to access the report!
  • Shocking Surprise...There is already a bus serving College Avenue north of 38th Street! Although many of the proponents of this project speak as though they are unaware of the fact that a bus line is already in place on College Avenue. Those of us living in neighborhoods boardering College Avenue  are used to bus transit. The Indygo #17 runs along College Avenue as it has for decades. It is generally lightly used, and will take passengers to essentially the same destinations (downtown) as the proposed Red-Line, although admittedly, not as frequently. Adding buses to the line for improved frequency or extending the line into Hamilton County is a simple and cost effective solution rather that the substantial infrastructure investment being currently advocated by Indygo and the majority of the die-hard EBRT advocates.
  • The issue is about more than "just" a bus. We support mass transit. However, concurrent changes in land use planning, public subsidy and political motive (tax base) have been wrapped around this busline. These changes, if unmitigated, will forever alter the neighborhood traffic patterns and commercial development and usher in an era of high-rise development. Care must be taken to balance the preservation of the current resident quality of life with the City tax-base needs.
  • Arguably, small business "nodes" in the city are fragile. Small changes in traffic, economy, demographics and taxes can have long-lasting and deep impacts. The complete disruption of the commercial nodes at: Kessler and College, College and 54th Street, and College and 52nd street are highly reliant upon already-scarce parking. To lose our already walkable, fun, urban markets only to be replaced by "developer-contrived" neighborhood centers would be a great loss indeed.

  • We are skeptical that more buses traveling more frequently will cure the bus ridership problem, as, generally tend to be a culture valuing flexibility and direct point-to-point travel focused on the automobile, and suspect that, when the grant runs out, taxes will need to take the place of the federal grant to keep the line running. 
  • Not coincidentally, the current land use and TIF incentive is driven toward "Transportation Oriented Development". The TIF subsidizes the developers to up-size their developments to create tax revenue for the city, and ridership for the Red-Line...at the risk of the individual home owner and taxpayer who, quite possibly, had no desire to transform his/her neighborhood in the first place.
  • This project comes with Federal, State, Regional (donut counties), EDA district (Midtown) and MKNA support and approvals. WHERE IS THE VOICE OF THE INDIVIDUAL VOTERS? We believe that, to suggest that the very small number of neighborhood and planner insiders participated in "approving" the plans is suffienct voice is disingenuous at best and misleading at worst.
(administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation) as they request fund for the Red-Line. 
The Red-Line Electronic Bus Rapid Transit (AKA Red-line EBRT or simply, "Red-Line" ) refers to the plan for a "new" bus line whose first phase will originate in Broad Ripple, progress to the downtown terminal, and then continue along Virginia Avenue and Shelby Street to its terminus near the University of Indianapolis.
The local "matching funds" for the Red-Line have been pledged by the downtown  Tax-Increment Financing  (TIF) District. The City of Indianapolis, is seeking a grant from the State of Indiana for additional financing, and a grant application is being proposed to the Federal Government for a TIGER grant to finance the construction of the Red-Line. 
Along with the Red-line comes a "Transportation Oriented Development Plan" that is working its way into all land use and zoning proposals .
Regional entities including public and non-profit entities in surrounding counties have formed a coalition to promote and advocate for the Red-Line and the development that they hope to attract to locate on it. This has been driven in part by an ever increasing need for more tax revenue, and building high-density, mixed-use developments along the transit line is seen as the vehicle to improve tax concerns.
See the full regional strategy and proposal to the State of Indiana by clicking here . This proposal was submitted this past fall to the State of Indiana for consideration by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation in a multi-regional competition for project funding. Three regions were selected which did not include the Central Indiana submission including the requested Red-Line Funding.
Summary: Proponents, in our opinion have "over-sold" the notion of rising property values for all along College Avenue as there will need to be many changes to current traffic patterns, which, when combined with the impacts of the land use changes and the TIF district public financing, will likely see "winners and losers" at the specific parcel level in property valuation, while the overall average tax value of the area may increase. See the example below.
For example, perhaps a developer builds a housing development on an old parking lot with a construction price tag of $12 million and paid $3 million for the land. The assessed value will go up by $12 million. However, due to extra traffic, disruption of current traffic flows, the visual impact of living next to a 55 ft. development, the 50 neighboring single-family houses lose $50,000 each in market value.
In the manner in which the TIF is currently set up, it bears all of the gain for the commercial development and takes non of the down-side of $2,500,000 of residential housing market decline. Proponents generally assert that these developments will benefit all property values. And while, it may not impact homes on the broad scale as described in the example, some parcels will likely be impacted. We hope to see the land use plan incorporate certain protections against over-development that can minimize or eliminate the down-side effects of development activity.