In the first half of the 20th century, the greater Indianapolis area was recognized internationally for its public transportation network.
Now, not so much.
According to a study by the Brookings Institution, Indianapolis ranks 73rd nationally among cities whose neighborhoods have access to mass transit. That puts it behind such locales as Madison, Wis., and Salt Lake City, Utah.
"You used to be able to get just about anywhere in the state using some form of rail or bus, or a combination of the two," Ehren Bingaman said. "It's kind of sad to say that in 1934 we had a more robust public transportation infrastructure serving the region than we do today."
As executive director of the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority (CIRTA), Bingaman is trying to change that.
A South Bend native and a Brownsburg resident since 2007, he studied urban planning and political science at Ball State University. Bingaman originally wanted to be an architect, "But I learned when I was 19 that I could draw better when I was 12."
Instead, he was drawn to the idea of community and economic development. Especially to the policy side of that, which led to the poly-sci degree. Before going to CIRTA, Bingaman ran Fort Harrison's Reuse Authority. He loved it. He had a small board and nice resources at his disposal.
"And I was actually using my degree, so my mother was so happy," said Bingaman over a cup of coffee at Courthouse Grounds, following the Kiwanis meeting.
Then one day he was perusing the Indianapolis Business Journal when he read that CIRTA was seeking a new director. It piqued his interest because in one of his first jobs he was exposed to some of central Indiana's initial transit discussions. But Bingaman didn't consider applying until three unaffiliated people, and his wife, encouraged him to. Turns out CIRTA wasn't seeking a mass transit guru, per se, and Bingaman had a mixed bag of a background that proved to be a nice fit. He threw his hat in the ring and got the job.