Ryan Vaughn, the president of the City-County Council, was one of our guests on Saturday's show. To his credit, he could have lied and no one (except him) would have realized it.
One issue that we discussed was mass transit in Indy. I explained I lived in Chicago for a couple of years where we didn't have to schedule our lives around arrival times of the bus at the corner. Especially during morning and evening rush hours, on most routes, a bus came by every five or ten minutes. He conceded there are problems with IndyGo.
So here was the queston that just came to me: "Have you ever ridden the bus?" He said no, then corrected that to say he had taken the shuttle to the airport. Well, that is not the same as riding the bus as one's chief means of transportation to and from work (especially). He pointed out that a lot of studies have been condcted by Indianapolis over the years and the latest will result in some sort of plan to resolve mass transit problems.
My point is: you can commission all the studies you want, but it would be helpful to take the bus---for just a few days---to and from work. It is not pleasant. And by that I do not refer to the conditions on the bus (generally clean), the other riders (people just like you and me for the most part, except they can't afford the insurance, gas, parking, etc., of a car), or the drivers (most of whom are pleasant and only a few of whom are rude, and that's an improvement of the population in general). To what I refer is the SCHEDULE. Buses run once an hour. If you want to catch your bus, you have to be at the stop a couple of minutes ahead of its scheduled pickup time. Example: Person has to be at work at 8 a.m. Person's choice at 65th and College is a bus at about 6:50 or one at 7:50. It takes the bus about 40 minutes to get downtown, so the latter won't work because the person will be late. And the former? There will be half-an-hour to kill before work. In the abstract one can ask, so what? In reality, the person might be married, have kids, and have other (valuable) things to do with any time available, especially before work. Coming home the same problems arise. Person gets off work ten minutes after the bus for her/his route heads north. That means nearly an hour's wait.
We in Indianapolis seem hung up on establishing to the rest of the worl that we do not live in a hick town. This is a question I will ask again and again, but: what makes a city great? Is it having at least one team in the four major sports? Is it having a world-class museum? Is it its architecture? Does its education system enter into play? I think it has to be there. Another element is an adequate system of mass transportation. People who ride the bus are not only whom we would call the poor, although a lot of the riders are. They are students and people who work in jobs for low wages that others do not want. In Cicago, nearly everyone, not just those of meager or modest means, rode the bus. When I took the 151 Sheridan from Lincoln Park to the Northwestern School of Law, a lot of people boarded from stops on the Gold Coast. In cold weather there were a lot of fur coats.
Sure, a city's people can find unity in a sports franchise. We can all get together this year and cheer the Colts on to another run in the playoffs. But when a city's people travel together each day to and from work, and other places they may have to go, they interact on a more personal level. The line between "Us" and "Them" becomes less stark. The feds have money for mass transit development. Let's get some of that and develop light rail, or buy more buses for more frequent stops.
Ryan Vaughn told the truth. I tip my DePauw University cap to him for that. But riding the shuttle to the airport once or twice is not the same as relying on the bus as one's chief means of transportation. I would encourage him, and any other member or candidate for City-County Council, to ride the bus to and from work for at least a couple of days. They should see how cumbersome it is as a means of transportation. Then maybe we'll see changes made based on all those studies that have been conducted, but not acted upon, over the past few decades.
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