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February 15, 2013

Mass transit referendum moves closer to reality

INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of Hoosiers turned out from all over the state, some driving multiple hours to get here, to support increased mass transit options at the Transit Day Rally, held at the Indiana Statehouse earlier this week.

As a result, cheers were loud when it was announced that the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee voted 20-2 in favor of House Bill 1011, which seeks public referendum for voters to decide on the future funding options of mass transit in central Indiana.

The bill was filed by Republican Rep. Jerry Torr, who said it’s crucial to the growth of central Indiana and beyond to increase mass transit options and let residents decide what the financial worth is to them to do so.

“I think it’s important for future growth in the greater Indianapolis area,” Torr said. “We look at our competitors and other cities of similar size and this is just one of the things that it is going to take for us to attract employers to our city.”

The counties where a voter referendum is needed are Marion and Hamilton. The Indy Connect plan is expected to be completed by 2025. Among the issues residents have are access to jobs in donut counties and the time between bus stops because the budget doesn’t allow for such.

“I ride IndyGo, and it’s great. I am just starting my career around here,” said Amber Collins, who testified at the rally. “I am taking on debt on student loans, so I take the buses because I need transportation. But there’s a half-hour between buses so that means if I miss it, my day is pushed back a half hour.”

Mayor Greg Ballard, a heavy advocate for increased mass transit funding, said attracting college talent is in part tied to mass transit.

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