Elevate Your Expectations for Downtown Development, Part IV

In my Indianapolis Business Journal column listing 10 things Indianapolis could do to make our already thriving downtown an even better place to live, the fourth item was:

Face up to the fact that urban dwellers may not have cars, which means we’ll need more forms of public transportation.

Yes, the Indiana Pacers Bikeshare is great. And huge public transportation projects between the suburbs, downtown and the airport are on the drawing boards. Urban dwellers need additional simple solutions.

Before choosing a place to live downtown, a professional has already figured out how long it will take to walk, bike, or bus to work. They (and retirees who opt for walkable downtown living) have already scoped out restaurants, bars, a gym, and a grocery.

One day they will need to make a major shopping trip, see their doctor, take their dog to the vet, attend an event that’s too far to walk, or visit grandma for Thanksgiving dinner. Or maybe they walk to work, but their spouse can’t. What then?

Good news

  • Options have improved in recent years. We already have taxis, Uber and rental cars that deliver. Lyft ride share can get you to Castleton for $27 or the airport for $26. Rent-by-the hour Zipcars can be found here for about $7 an hour plus a membership fee, but we need more of them to make them a true convenience. (If the costs seem high, remember how much YOU’RE paying for car payments, insurance, fuel, repairs, and parking.) BlueIndy electric car rentals will be here later this summer.
  • Megabus can take you from city to city, and are within walking distance for most downtown residents.
  • IndyGo’s new Downtown Transit Center, scheduled to open late this year, should make transportation around the city easier and more pleasant.

 

Here’s more we could add to elevate expectations:

  • A simple system of shuttles to take people from one part of downtown to another. It’s a relatively low-cost solution that Indianapolis has implemented off and on. Let’s make it reliable and easy for everyone.
  • Trolleys. We’ve tried them before, but we may have the population density now to support them. Besides, it’s just fun to ride a trolley.
  • Do something bold and make it permissible for people to hail a cab. A no-cost solution.
  • Create more covered and pleasant bus shelters. We have some; we need more.
  • More Segways. Segways are available downtown – but for organized tours that originate in White River State Park. That works for tourists, but what if Segways were available for spur-of-the moment rentals in convenient places for downtown residents? We could make pick-up and drop-off sites adjacent to the Pacers Bikeshare locations and repurpose old phone booths as Segway vending machines!
  • Make transit planning an essential element of big events. Remember the radio ads for bus service to the Indy 500? Public transportation is a welcome solution when it’s well planned and communicated effectively. (Of course the Indy 500 service usually required you to drive somewhere to catch the bus, so we have to get past that.) What if we had “Blue” shuttles to take Colts fans from restaurants and bars to the game, easing the congestion around the stadium as St. Louis does in its entertainment district? And what if that ride was fun?
  • If we had unlimited money… What about more trains? More elevated monorails? An airport tram? A combination of busses and underground trains like Seattle? An “L” system like Chicago?
  • Driverless cars. OK, I know that sounds futuristic. But they’re coming sooner than we think — and it’s going to change everything. When they arrive, you’ll know I’m a genius for being among the first to tell you!

 

To read my IBJ column, click here.