The federal government can't be expected to continue to pay for commuters to hop a bus from Hamilton County to Downtown. The responsibility is, or at least should be, a local and regional concern.What a difference four years makes. Greg Ballard ran against then-Mayor Bart Peterson's 65% increase in the income tax increase to fund public safety in 2007. In 2011, he plans to run on a new regional tax to fund public transportation. Sounds like an effective re-election strategy. Hah.
But there's another layer of government -- the state -- that stands in the way of Central Indiana's ability to build its own regional transit system. That needs to change next year.
State legislators likely will be asked during next year's session to authorize regional leaders to stage a referendum on transit funding in November 2011. To be clear, lawmakers won't be asked to approve a tax increase to pay for rail and bus lines. Rather, their role is only to allow Central Indiana residents to decide for themselves whether to spend money on buses and trains.
The need for a better transit system -- and for a proper mechanism to fund it -- is evident. At year's end, when federal grants expire, popular bus routes that carry commuters from Fishers and other points in Hamilton County to Downtown are scheduled to be dropped. Residents who now ride the bus to work will have little choice but to pile into their cars, adding to the congestion on city streets and highways.
It's important to remember, however, that the proposed regional transit system isn't just about helping Hamilton County commuters. Bus lines would be extended to various points in the region. Rail lines would be extended to Fishers but also to Greenwood, and eventually other regional destinations.
Even more important, Indianapolis' woeful bus system finally would have the means to create a functional network for moving urban workers to suburban job sites. That's a critical step for the financial health of individual families and the economic strength of the region . . .
Monday, October 25, 2010
Star Backs Ballard's Regional Tax To Fund Public Transportation
Mayor Greg Ballard intends to put his hired gun lawyers at Barnes & Thornburg to work at the legislature next year pushing a new regional tax to fund public transportation. To date, Ballard has supported higher taxes to fund the Capital Improvement Board and property tax diversions that have allowed the CIB to give $33.5 million to billionaire Herb Simon to subsidize the Indiana Pacers. The first and only regional tax approved to date is the food and beverage tax that is helping pay for the Lucas Oil Stadium for billionaire Jim Irsay's Colts. Under this latest scheme, state lawmakers will be asked to place a referendum on next November's municipal election ballot, most likely to authorize a new regional income tax, to fund public transportation. The Star offers an editorial today in support of the plan: