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Indianapolis’s Transit Investment is Starting to Pay Off

A rendering of Indianapolis’ under-construction Red Line Bus Rapid Transit project. Image: Indygo

Run it, and they will come.

The city of Indianapolis is learning that beefed-up transit service quickly translates to more riders — with local transit agency IndyGo reporting this week that ridership was up 3.4 percent this August compared to the previous year.

The mini-surge comes after service was expanded in February and June by about 500 more weekly bus trips — a direct result of a 2016 county income tax hike of 0.25 percent that raised money for the system, Bryan Luellen, a spokesman, told Streetsblog.

Prior to the levy passing, Indianapolis operated a bare-bones system, with just 35,000 trips a day — near the bottom among peer cities. The tax provided funding that will eventually expand service by about 70 percent, including a 35-mile bus rapid transit line, the Red Line, in summer 2019.

At the same time, IndyGo says it will unveil a complete bus system redesign that will create a network of simple bus routes with frequent service in the densest urban corridors. The goal is to connect 65 percent of Marion County residents — and 85 percent of those living in poverty — to more frequent transit.

Eventually, Indianapolis hopes that ridership will increase at least in proportion with service increases — 70 percent. But Luellen says the fact that bus ridership has already ticked up in Indy is good news.

"We’re just now starting to see some behavior change from these frequency improvements," he says.

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