Opinion: Mayors should listen to constituents on transit, not businesses

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The column on mass transit by the three mayors in the Feb. 25 edition of Current in Carmel was long on platitudes and kumbaya, but short on the specific issues that would affect the citizenry.

Contrary to their unsubstantiated contention that mass transit is a requirement of 21st century communities, it would be an expensive burden on the citizens of Hamilton County, and Carmel in particular.

Let me enumerate some of the problems: It would require permanently higher taxes that would be a thinly-veiled redistribution of income from the 95 percent of the taxpayers who will never use it to the 5 percent of the population who will use it – sometimes – and to the companies that would like to shift some more of their economic burden to taxpayers.

We do not need to subsidize the companies that are promoting public mass transit. If they need to provide transportation to their workers, they should provide it themselves.

What sense does it make for the taxpayers to incur huge capital investments and perpetually high operating expenses for a unionized government monopoly to transport relatively small numbers of low value labor over long distances to low paying jobs?

In addition, there is no question that it will inevitably bring more crime to the northern suburbs (ask the Carmel Police Department). We will have more home invasions, more robberies, more burglaries, more thefts, more narcotics, more assaults, more shoplifting, more loitering and more panhandling because it will provide easy and anonymous access and escape for those who would perpetrate such crimes and nuisances.

Along with the crime will come the need for more police and even more taxes to pay for them.

It will create more traffic congestion of which, people could suggest, we already have enough, particularly with the large number of two lane roads in Carmel and Hamilton County.

Further, practically speaking, mass transit is a decision that cannot or will not ever be reversed if it does not work; experience indicates that once it is there, it can never be eliminated and it only grows in scope and cost. After it is in place and the ridership turns out to be very low – as has been the case in many other communities – the advocates of mass transit will proclaim the problem to be inadequate funding and will demand even higher subsidies and accommodations to attract mass transit riders.

We should only consider mass transit when there is no other alternative, if that day ever comes.

Finally, the seven county central Indiana area is not Manhattan, Los Angeles or Chicago – cities for which there is no choice but to have mass transit. The density of central Indiana does not even come close to justifying widespread mass transit, nor will it for the next 30 years, if ever. Contrast the packed buses, subways, and light rail of these cities to the IndyGo buses that today routinely carry only two to six riders, if that, in Indianapolis.

It is difficult to justify IndyGo today in Indianapolis; it is absurd to try to justify it in Carmel and Hamilton County.

Mass transit is the $100 solution chasing the $.10 problem. The real solution to the need for transportation for those who do not have access to their own transportation is to eliminate all prohibitions, regulations, and restraints, except licensing and safety, on non-governmental transit providers and allow individual companies and individual operators to meet the need. They will do it more economically at higher levels of quality – and offer it where, when and in the volume that is needed. Instead of everywhere, at all times and with great-unused excess capacity as city and county governments routinely do.

I believe the mayors’ support mass transit because they believe it is necessary to attract and retain business. This is a one dimensional view, tunnel vision at its worst. The fact is that businesses consider a wide range of community attributes when making their decisions; the availability of mass transit is a small one among them in central Indiana.

I would suggest that the mayors should go back to putting the interests of their constituents, the ones who vote, at the top of their priorities and discontinue the practice of slavishly putting the interests and preferences of business above all else.

Robert Sheipe is a resident of Carmel. Please send responses to news@youarecurrent.com.


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