They Got More Money, But Public Transit Supporters Say Growing Ridership Demands Even More
(image courtesy of Indy Connect)
Public transportation supporters are taking a day to, among other things, lobby state lawmakers for more money.
The Indiana Citizens' Alliance for Transit is holding what it is calling "Transit Day" at the Statehouse, featuring meetings with lawmakers in an effort to insert additional funding for public transportation into the state budget. "We have been asking the General Assembly to increase the Public Mass Transportation fund to $60 million," said Kim Irwin, executive director of Help By Design, which coordinates the Alliance. The fund has remained level at $42.5 million for the last seven years. "That fund is shared by 65 transit agencies throughout the state, IndyGo, Fort Wayne Citilink - the large urban systems, but also smaller county, rural and on-demand providers who specifically serve older adults and people with disabilities."
The budget passed by the House last month increases the fund to $46 million in the first year of the budget and $49 million in the second year. "It's preferable to the governor's proposed budget, which contained a decrease for the fund," Irwin said. "But that small amount...would be like if we needed to buy an entire bus but only had enough money to buy one of the tires." Talks with lawmakers today and during the rest of the session are designed to try to boost the funding level before the final budget is passed, likely as the last item of the legislative session.
While the Citizens' Alliance has primarily concentrated on local transit options, Irwin says they are monitoring what happens with the Hoosier State Line, the Amtrak line that - as of now - is scheduled to end April 1 as the state could not come to an agreement to fund the train service between Indianapolis and Chicago. Amtrak did make an offer four days ago to continue operating the line on a month-to-month basis, but Indiana balked at a Federal Railroad Administration requirement that the state take on all liability as a railroad service, with INDOT says other states in similar situations have not had to do so. "We align closely with the Passenger Rail Association," Irwin said. "There was funding for the Hoosier State Line also included in the House budget, so we will just have to see what happens with that."