IndyGo bus routes receive mixed reviews

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By: Michael Wang <mwang@hilite.org>

Senior Elizabeth Carter said she plans to hang out with friends and shop at Circle Center Mall this spring and summer. However, her plans may be thwarted because gas prices are speculated to rise to more than $4 this summer.

IndyGo is offering a possible solution for those students here like Carter who enjoy going downtown but are hesitant now because of the escalating gas prices.

IndyGo began operating express bus routes from Carmel to six Downtown Indianapolis locations on March 17. The fare is $2 one way or $4 roundtrip.

Carter said, “I think (the system) is smart, because it is helping the environment, because it will help conserve gas. With gas prices rising in the summer, this would make it easier for students to travel downtown without worrying about the extra expense of gas.”

Michael Terry, vice president of IndyGo, said, “I was involved first of all in the planning in terms of looking at regional transportation. Then from IndyGo’s perspective, I went and sought out the federal funding for this project, which is Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ).”

According to the article “Express bus an option to ease pinch at pump” on IndyStar.com, the bus service is made possible through a $1.8 million CMAQ federal grant and should last for a duration of three years.

According to Terry, the reason the funding is available is because the region, which consists of Indianapolis and the adjacent counties to Indianapolis, doesn’t meet the air quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

He said, “What that means is mobile omissions that are coming out of cars and trucks are contributing the most to poor air quality, (so) the more you can move cars and trucks off the (highway), the greater the opportunity you have to reduce the air quality problem.”

As to how the bus service began, he said, “We had to have contracts to deliver the service and a contract with Meijer to use their parking lot and also a contract with the city of Carmel to fund these services.”

Terry said this will affect students by saving money and time.

He said, “(The service) should reduce the cost of the family budget. If you look at the cost of the fuel, it will cost someone considerably more to drive. Plus when (students) ride the bus, they (can) do whatever they want, (such as) read, work on their laptop (and) take a nap. (They can) let someone else worry about the hassle of driving.”

However, economics teacher Dan Bates said, “Unless (high school students) are going to use (the bus) to get a summer job or unless (IndyGo institutes) some wide-ranging voucher system of transportation, which is unlikely to happen, it will have minimal effect.”

The purpose of this service is indeed to help alleviate gas prices for people. Terry said, “If (students) wanted to go downtown, they can use this service instead of driving and they will save the cost of gas.”

However, Bates said the argument concerning the cost of gas is misleading, “It is probably a 13-mile trip downtown, so roundtrip you are looking at 26 (miles) and cars are in that range,” he said.

“So driving your car (roundtrip) is going to cost you $4 or riding the bus (roundtrip) is going to cost you $4. You also have to pay the parking so you have those incidental costs that go with it but generally the cost isn’t that much different.

“Also, if you are in the car with three of your friends, you know then that is $16 worth of bus fees whereas it is $4 worth of gas (if you drive). That is one of their selling points but it isn’t even that strong of a selling point.”

According to Terry, this service, besides its purpose to alleviate gas prices, also provides other benefits as well.

He said, “It is less expensive, better for the environment and healthier because you have to walk a little bit (to the bus stop). All of our IndyGo buses have bike racks.

“People who are older who don’t drive or shouldn’t drive don’t want (to) be dependent; they want to be dependent and that is why it is good to have mass transit.”

Though this service offers many visible benefits, there have also been some complaints.

Bates said, “You forego the convenience of being able to leave downtown whenever you want. Some of the current complaints are about pretty much being trapped down there.

“And if there are no stops along the route, some say there should be at least a stop at Keystone at the Crossing. My understanding is it is an express, (so the buses) go straight through.”

Terry said that the IndyGo buses are indeed express buses.

Also, some parents might worry about their children going downtown because with the bus service the children can go downtown with or without their parents’ permission.

As for IndyGo’s viewpoint on this issue, Terry said, “The service isn’t a babysitting service so we (won’t) worry about that from our standpoint.”

Carter said, “I think that the new busing system will help students because it is cheaper to go downtown and they aren’t spending money on gas. In downtown for big events, parking is hard to find and expensive.

“With this system, you wouldn’t need to worry about parking. It provides them an opportunity for people who don’t have cars or licenses to go downtown to hang out with friends.”

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