As we revel in the news that Indy is one of 20 finalists for Amazon’s HQ2, let’s take a moment to consider one thought: Had the request for bids come out a few years ago, we probably wouldn’t have made the cut.
One of the requirements Amazon stipulated is direct access to mass transit, such as rail, subway or bus lines. The system we’ve had for decades – and still have today – wouldn’t qualify, but, fortunately, progress is under way thanks to Marion County voters, who approved a tax increase in 2016 that’s allowing the Marion County Transit Plan to be implemented. Nearly 50 miles of bus rapid transit on three lines and 70 percent more local bus service will dramatically improve Marion County’s public transit system. Route improvements, including greater frequencies, start next month.
Making Amazon’s Top 20 shows that this progress is already having an impact, but we cannot let up. We still have a long way to go to have a truly regional transit system. As it stands now, only Marion County has embraced the transit plan. To continue to compete for projects like Amazon’s, we need a regional system – we need to make sure that discussions about expanding transit in surrounding counties bear fruit.
The good news is that the bid for Amazon has caused many people in this area to recognize how critical mass transit is to our region’s economic future. Now that we’ve got people’s attention, let’s show them how committed we are to competing for the biggest economic opportunities by building out the vision of a truly regional, 21st-century transit system.
Lori Kaplan, executive director, Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority