Mass transit is necessary

Commentary by Rep. Jerry Torr

Some have questioned why I am authoring legislation in the Indiana General Assembly that would give local voters in Hamilton and Marion counties the ability to improve and fund our transit system. I began as a skeptic myself but have become convinced during the last couple of years that this is necessary for the continued development and growth of central Indiana.

House Bill 1011 allows local officials in Marion and surrounding counties to hold a referendum to determine whether each county will participate in the transit district. Although a number of counties are eligible to participate, it is anticipated that only Marion and Hamilton counties would actually hold referenda in 2014. In each county in which the referendum passes, local officials would then be authorized to enact an additional local income tax of up to 0.3 percent to fund the transit district. Proponents believe federal grants would likely be available to fund a large portion of the start-up costs. And while the federal government certainly needs to reduce spending, this is money that the federal government will spend anyway – if it does not come to Indiana, it will go to someone else at our expense. 

Most opponents of HB 1011 have focused on the potential for light rail, but whether or not any rail component would be included is not dictated by the legislation and has not been decided. The first phase of the proposal being put forth by the proponents is an expanded bus service for Marion and Hamilton counties, including rapid transit bus lines. These would be nicer, cleaner quieter busses than those being used currently by IndyGo and would have amenities such as Wi-Fi for commuters.

HB 1011 has the support of nearly every mayor in Central Indiana, as well as many other local elected officials. Furthermore, more than 150 different organizations have expressed their support for the plan. These organizations range from business groups to chambers of commerce to nonprofit organizations, and they support the plan for countless reasons, including increasing mobility and expanding access to jobs; easing traffic congestion and retaining and attracting top employers and skilled talent. 

We need to be preparing for our future as the population of Hamilton County is expected to double over the next 40 years, and I believe developing a mass transit system is a necessary step toward keeping up with the growth and expansion of central Indiana.

Rep. Torr (R-Carmel) represents a large portion of Clay Township including the city of Carmel. He serves as Chairman of the Rules & Legislative Procedures Committee, Vice Chairman of the Committee on Joint Rules and sits on the Commerce, Small Business & Economic Development; Employment, Labor & Pensions; Judiciary; and Insurance Committees.