IndyGo plans to redesign its network of local bus routes over the next 5 years, revisiting a plan that the pandemic has interrupted.
It’s the same conversation that began with the passage of the Marion County Transit Plan in 2016, but updated with the new reality of transit ridership, which continues to rise to levels of before the pandemic.
The 2016 project outlined a 5-year vision that included three bus rapid transit routes, slightly fewer local bus routes that run more often over longer hours, and a map that looks more like a grid system at location of the existing star system which routes the most buses crossing the city centre.
IndyGo has made progress on this: it launched the Red Line, extended bus hours so that each route now operates seven days a week, launched a mobile fare collection system, and started increasing frequencies on some routes. Its new grid-based roadmap was to come into effect from June 2020, but in April of that year the board adopted a contingency plan in response to COVID-19 that delayed those changes. indefinitely.
Now, IndyGo is returning to that conversation with an updated map that largely focuses on the same goals: more efficient and faster service, at the expense of a few low-traffic routes. This week, the transit agency is presenting its draft plan to the public in a series of meetings.
What’s in the future service plan?
The end result of the proposed changes looks like a thinner roadmap, but these routes are more frequent.
Currently, IndyGo’s bus routes are roughly split into thirds in terms of frequency of 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and 60 minutes. The proposed new map would feature almost entirely 15- and 30-minute routes, except for three 60-minute routes in southeast Indianapolis and 10-minute service on the Red, Purple and Blue lines.
The existing network, given its hub-and-spoke design, has multiple routes running downtown parallel to each other within a few blocks of each other. The new network would have fewer routes running more frequently on two-way roads, although this will mean some riders will have longer walks to bus stops.
What would happen to my bus route?
Some routes would be eliminated, with IndyGo arguing that riders along those routes may still be served by other nearby routes, including upcoming bus rapid transit lines. Others would be realigned, extended or shortened, or would remain virtually unchanged.
- Nine routes would be deleted: 4, 8, 12, 14, 15, 18, 38, 39, 55
- Fourteen routes would be modified: 2, 3, 6, 10, 11, 13, 16, 19, 25, 26, 28, 30, 86, 901 (Red Line north extension)
- Two routes would no longer pass through the Downtown Transit Hub: 5 and 21
- Two new routes would be introduced: 9 and 56
- Six routes would be mostly intact: 24, 31, 34, 37, 87, 902 (southern extension of the red line)
To see more detailed descriptions of how each route would change, go to indygo.net/local-route-improvements/.
When would all of this happen?
This plan would take place in phases over a 5-year period between 2023 and 2027. Changes would occur in February, June or October of each year. At the earliest, they would start, pending board approval, in early 2023.
IndyGo offers a draft of these phases, oriented around the provisional schedules for the construction of the new rapid bus lines.
The first phase would focus on restructuring the 86th Street corridor and restoring the frequency of Red Line service to 10 to 15 minute intervals. Over the past year, except in the dead of winter, the red line has been on time less than 70% of the time, according to September Board of Directors file. This percentage fell below 50% in August.
The second phase would focus on roads south of Indianapolis and introduce a new north-south cross-road along Rural Street and Keystone Avenue.
In phase three, the purple line is expected to come into service, so the focus will be on routes that intersect with this bus rapid transit line between downtown and Lawrence.
Phases four through six would deal with roads near the future blue line and introduce a new cross road on Lynhurst Drive.
What stands in the way?
For the plan to work, IndyGo needs to do two essential things: solve its shortage of bus drivers and build the three bus rapid transit routes.
Refusing to specify the number of drivers missing, last fall the the agency said it needed to hire 10-15 drivers per month for the foreseeable future until the staff is replenished. This fall, a spokesperson said IndyGo has graduated an average of 12 drivers each month this year, but that’s still short. As a result, overtime spending has increased by 70% since the start of the year in September.
The Purple Line, which will follow the Red Line to 38th Street and then head east toward Lawrence, is under construction and is expected to open to the public in 2024. The Blue Line along Washington Street was scheduled to be operational in 2026, but the most recent cost estimate more than doubled the 2019 estimate, forcing IndyGo back to the drawing board. The problem is the need to build a separate new sewage system to accommodate the project, as well as record inflation.
IndyGo is still in discussions with the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and the Citizens Energy Group about possible waivers and other ways to reduce drainage costs.
How can I give my opinion?
IndyGo is holding four open house-style town hall meetings this week and next week to explain the proposal and gather feedback.
- 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11 at the Community Justice Center: 675 Justice Way
- 2-5 p.m. Wednesday Oct 12 at the Julia M. Carson Transit Center: 201 E. Washington St.
- 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13 at P30, a coworking space: 3039 N. Post Rd.
- 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. October 18 on Zoom: register here