RTA, Cleveland’s transit agency, estimates that a mix of public, private and nonprofit entities have invested more than $4 billion along the nine-mile stretch of Euclid Avenue, where the HealthLine runs.
“People ask me all the time was the HealthLine worth it,” said Jim Haviland, executive director of MidTown Cleveland community development corporation. “And I always say, ‘Absolutely.’ ”
In Indianapolis, it’s easy to forget that one of the biggest arguments for why we need more transit is to spur residential and commercial development in the urban core. As in Cleveland, developers long ago lost interest in inner-city neighborhoods and have been building in the suburbs. The city’s tax base has suffered as a result — and with that, schools and city services.
For years, that trend has seemed unstoppable. But with a younger generation of workers inclined to live in well-connected urban neighborhoods, there’s an opportunity for Indianapolis to reclaim residents and, with them, businesses and tax dollars . . .
But still, it’s up to cities to give residents and developers a reason to come back. And often that reason revolves around transit.
Take Cleveland, for example.
The planning for Euclid Avenue started years ago with the goal of connecting Downtown with Cleveland State University, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals a few miles away. City officials wanted to create an economic development corridor. Or as Haviland puts it, “a linear research park in the middle of the city.”
Transit came up immediately as a method for doing this. First rail, but then the cheaper bus rapid transit. There also are dedicated bike lanes.
The key to making it work, though, was changing the zoning code to support the new infrastructure. So now, any new buildings must be constructed set back only a few feet from Euclid Avenue with small parking lots in the rear. The city also banned standalone restaurants with drive-throughs to encourage developers to go for larger commercial projects instead.
“The idea was to bring back density,” Haviland said.
It seems to be working.Uh, no, it's not working, Erika. Forbes magazine's latest rankings of the top 20 most miserable cities ranks Cleveland 17th, citing the fact that it has a higher exit rate than any other major city besides Detroit, which it ranks as the most miserable city in which to live. Detroit, by the way, has invested far more in mass transit than Indianapolis. Worked out real well, eh? Chicago, which has invested perhaps more than any other city in the country on mass transit ranks fourth on the Forbes list. "Chicago has passionate supporters, but residents must endure the misery of long commutes, plummeting home prices, brutal winters and high foreclosure rates," Forbes reports. "The migration rate out of Chicago is the sixth worst among the 200 largest metros."
Indianapolis is doing much better than Cleveland by any standard of measure even with its measly $65 million annually operating budget for IndyGo of which you're apparently so ashamed. Mass transit has absolutely nothing to do with spurring people to move back into the city. The largest expenditure proposed by IndyConnect is to build an extremely costly 23-mile, light rail line from downtown Indianapolis to Noblesville. That doesn't look like a plan to get people to move back into the city; it looks more like an expensive joy ride for upscale suburbanites to travel downtown to attend a Colts or Pacers game.
I had the opportunity today to join Paul Ogden, Mark Small and Matt Stone on Civil Discourse Now where we had one of the few, objective and intelligent discussions on the proposed mass transit plan that have taken place to date.
UPDATE: Fellow blogger Fred McCarthy has a good take on a story in the latest edition of the IBJ in which they're already discussing the hiring of an internationally-renowned architect to build a $17 million mass transit hub downtown, even before the legislation has been passed by the legislature and approved by voters, which cannot happen until the 2014 general election. How could you pick an architect and know how much the hub is going to cost to build this far in advance? Apparently there must be a bipartisan agreement to install an algorithm on the electronic voting machines that will assure approval of the referendum to be so confident as to discuss such plans in detail this far in advance.