Wednesday, April 28, 2010

cause & effect redux

i always knew indygo—indianapolis's public transit system—was bad. there are too few buses, the route map is a mess, buses come infrequently, and fares are relatively expensive. but i didn't know until a couple weeks ago that indygo is one of the worst in the country. (a recent analysis found our bus fleet tied for last place with eugene, oregon... a town 1/5 our size!)

so how do you become worse than the worst? it sounds like a zen koan, but we're going to find out the answer!

IndyGo is counting itself as the next victim of the state's property tax caps and dwindling funding.

On Tuesday, Indianapolis' municipal bus agency said it is considering cutting service and jobs to make up for a $3 million shortfall this year.

Those cuts could include eliminating some bus routes and curtailing door-to-door paratransit service for people with disabilities.

yes, the system that has too few routes already may be forced to cut more routes! this is thanks in large part to property tax caps, which were instituted a couple years back after proto-teabagger stormed the streets demanding them, despite the objections of those of us who knew the cuts would wreck local government budgets throughout the state.

but the caps aren't the only cause of indygo's woes. fundamentally, the city has never truly embraced indygo or given it the funding it needs. comparable cities tend to devote much more to transit, often with dedicated taxes. (st louis's transit budget is almost six times ours.) the system has been neglected for years; its failure goes back several administrations.

mayor ballard hopes to improve the city's transit system. i sincerely hope he can. (he surely can't make it much worse.) but i don't have much hope, considering the kinds of solutions he's come up with so far. after all, ballard was a leading proponent of the property tax caps that have gutted his budget. and his proposal to fix the city's water and sewers has extra crap tagged on that means rates won't be as low as they could be; in exchange he gets a one-time cash infusion that he can pretend he didn't raise taxes for. (never mind that it would have the city sell off the city's water system outright; even the governor's controversial "major moves" deal would give the state our toll road back after 75 years.)

the last time i rode an indianapolis bus was when i was too young to drive. this is because the system is such a pain to use—there are few places i could even reach by bus without going downtown first, and most buses only come once an hour at best. but i've ridden public transit in other cities, so i know it doesn't have to be like this.

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