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Saturday, April 10, 2021

How to fix Indy’s transit system? Blow up IndyGo, start from scratch

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Everyone agrees that Indianapolis doesn’t just have a horrid public transportation system; we have no public transit system to speak of.

IndyGo is dysfunctional, transporting thousands daily to work and necessities, in a system designed for 1910; not 2010.

Indy’s business community wants to garner public support for a referendum, held during next November’s mayoral election that would create a new public transportation system, paid for with increased sales or income taxes.

Yet, the all-white braintrust at Indy Connect, the entity talking up transit solutions, continues to ignore the basic question surrounding any new public transportation system for Indianapolis.

What to do with IndyGo?!

In my 35 years here, I’ve seen firsthand the incompetence and ineffectiveness of IndyGo. IndyGo doesn’t work, meet current or future needs.

One flaw of the public transit discussion is the assumption that most jobs in the metro area are located either downtown or in the IUPUI/Clarian medical corridor. That’s ridiculous!

Of the 860,500 jobs in the Indianapolis metro area, a minority are located downtown. Maybe a couple hundred thousand, but it’s nowhere near a majority. Yet, Indy Connect drives the myth that jobs downtown is why we need light rail going from the suburbs to downtown.

Indianapolis is the only major city whose public transit system has nearly every city bus going through downtown. That was fine during the streetcar days in 1910. It makes no sense in 2010. Indy Connect talks a good game of reform but in their “draft” transit plan for Indy, they continue to have most buses start and end downtown.

Also, IndyGo has no credibility with riders or taxpayers. That credibility eroded further with last week’s so-called deal to save IndyGo from draconian budget cuts and fare increases.

IndyGo cried they were millions short in revenue, but then the mayor’s office stepped in and “found” a $5 million line of credit and other magical budget tricks and gimmicks to “save” IndyGo.

Poppycock! If those solutions were so apparent to the city, they should have been apparent to IndyGo.

I suspect the folks in the business community pushing public transit reform pressured the city for action so they wouldn’t have to deal with anger over bus cuts, along with library cuts, swimming pool cuts and the other service cuts that could imperil their precious transit plans.

If, (and this is a big if), Indy’s power brokers are really serious about reforming public transportation, don’t come to the African-American community begging for a train from Fishers, a train to the airport and a train down the lightly populated East Washington Street corridor.

First, show our community a plan that completely blows up the current IndyGo system and replaces it with buses that go to where the jobs and services really are in Indianapolis.

Show our community a 21st century operating structure and attitude for the bus system, modeled on the progressive relationships in the auto industry, where labor and management are partners in mutual respect. Not the current system, where IndyGo management treats workers as high-paid serfs.

Show our community a transit system where buses take people to the front doors of shopping malls and major employers; instead of forcing them to walk blocks unsheltered to shop and work.

Show our community real two-way express buses that link into “feeder routes” that take people to suburban or city jobs.

Only then if you show our African-American community a radically restructured working surface (bus) system, then I might (and it’s a big might) support light rail. If you don’t, rest assured that light rail is dead in our Black community. And with it your precious 2011 referendum!

What I’m Hearing

in the Streets

When Indy Parks’ insensitive leadership kicked the Black east side of Indy to the curb by closing Wes Montgomery Park’s pool, they loudly declared that the pool-less neighborhood would be able to use the Douglas Park pool.

So what did the louts in parks leadership do last week? Make sure that the Douglas Park pool wasn’t open on the standard Memorial Day weekend opening for pools.

In the name of “budget cuts,” Indy Parks only opened five of its pools during the holiday weekend. Douglas and 12 other pools open Saturday (June 5th).

Of the five pools that opened last weekend, four were in virtually all white-neighborhoods: Sahm on the far northeast side; Perry in Perry Township; Krannert on the far west side and Garfield Park on the near southeast side. Only Northwestway pool in Pike Township is located in a neighborhood with a sizeable African-American population. Four – Northwestway, Krannert, Sahm and Perry – are in middle- and upper- middle-class affluent areas.

Keeping pools in Black and poor neighborhoods closed during the holiday, coupled with the heinous decision not to repair the Wes Montgomery Pool in a virtually all-Black neighborhood continue to showcase the racial insensitivity of Indy Parks’ poobahs.

And, according to Indy Parks Web site, the rebuilt Bethel Park pool won’t open until early August, just when pools close for the summer.

In just one short year, Indy Parks has gone from a city agency with sensitivity towards the nearly 30 percent of Indy that’s African-American, to perhaps the city’s most racially insensitive agency. The lack of African Americans in senior management positions at Parks is reprehensible as is Park leadership’s disgraceful treatment of their Black (and other) union employees.

In the controversy over the alleged IMPD beating of that 15-year-old and the revelation that one of the officers involved had been recommended to be fired three years ago, but the Police Merit Board balked; the head of the Baptist Ministers Alliance surprised me.

Rev. Stephen Clay, speaking last Thursday on “Afternoons with Amos” asked that Indianapolis Urban League President/Chief Executive Officer Joe Slash, who also chairs the Merit Board, choose one or the other.

Clay praised Slash’s service to the community, but felt that his position on the Merit Board conflicted with his role with the Urban League. Clay cited the late, venerated Sam Jones who, when offered both positions, turned the Merit Board down.

We’ll see where this goes.

See ‘ya next week!

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