Last week, our Central Indiana Transit Task Force publicly released its final report, presenting its recommendations to policymakers and the citizens of the region. This report lays out a regional multi-modal transportation system with financing and governance recommendations, backed up with a rigorous cost-benefit analysis. Now that the Task Force findings are in the public domain, we’re kicking off a year-long input campaign – Indy Connect – that will invite a dialogue about Central Indiana’s transportation future, using our plan as a starting point.
I’d like to again thank co-chairs Al Hubbard, Bob Palmer and John Neighbours for their leadership, and all of the Task Force members – including CICP co-chair Jo Ann Gora – for their energy and insight in crafting this impressive study.
Their work will serve the region well. We’ve lacked an integrated, forward-looking plan for regional transportation, and have paid the cost in terms of economic competitiveness, workforce connectivity, the vitality of our urban core and the potential for new investment and neighborhood redevelopment. Our blueprint addresses all of these issues; now it’s up to elected officials and the public across the region to make the plan their own and decide if they’re willing to invest in it. Please offer your two cents at indyconnect.org.
As the public thinks about transit, it’s important to understand the tremendous economic development impact that transit can have – I hope you’ll take a moment to read this excellent editorial from this weekend’s Star from Chuck Cagann of Mansur Real Estate, a Transit Task Force member, that addresses this issue:
Transit investments mean economic payoffs
When we think about economic development, we're likely to focus on tax breaks and other incentives for growing companies, competing against other regions for business opportunities.
That's true, but it's only one part of a bigger picture. I'd argue that economic development has to be tied to what kind of community we want to build for ourselves and our families: Do our citizens have access to diverse job opportunities? Is our region growing? Do we have great housing options, with thriving retail establishments and other amenities to serve our neighborhoods?
If we embrace this broader definition of economic development, then it's clear to me that a strong regional mass transit system is an important catalyst.
I was proud to serve on the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, a private sector-led group that last week unveiled a comprehensive transportation plan that includes strategic highway investments and an expanded regional bus system connected with light rail to serve the metropolitan area.
As business leaders, we understand a good investment when we see it – regional mass transit is an investment that will pay off in a healthier economy for employers, for taxpayers, for all of us.
Mass transit has been shown to create significant economic investment, as dense commercial and residential development grows along the transit lines. For example, the Portland streetcar system has generated $1.4 billion along its 4.7 mile loop since 2001, a handsome return on its $300 million cost. In Cleveland, more than $4 billion in private development is planned or in progress along the Euclid Avenue light rail corridor. In Dallas, another $4.2 billion in business and new housing sprang up along the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) system between 1999 and 2007.
This transit-oriented development boom can lead to higher property values and a broader tax base, easing the burden for other homeowners and businesses. In Dallas, for example, high-value development along the DART lines is generating an estimated $127 million in additional tax revenues every year. In Arlington, Virginia, half of all county property tax revenues are generated from its METRO transit corridors – allowing the county to maintain the lowest property tax rates in the region.
The right system will help our region attract and retain talented people, the skilled workforce that is a magnet for new business opportunities in our knowledge-based economy. The regions of choice for educated workers provide diversity, arts and culture, an array of recreational amenities. These regions also offer transit options – the ability to walk or bike to a rail or rapid bus station, to work on your laptop or chat with friends on the way to work.
By allowing employees to get to work more efficiently and affordably, a truly comprehensive regional system also allows local businesses to access a broader workforce, while giving commuters more disposable income to reinvest in the local economy rather than at the gas pump.
The Task Force strategy for mass transit is based on thoughtful planning and a rigorous cost-benefit analysis – but it’s only the beginning. Now that this plan has been turned over to the public sector for action, every citizen will have an opportunity to weigh in during a series of public meetings and online at www.indyconnect.org.
The dividends from investing in transit are many and far-reaching: Cutting commutes and putting more job opportunities within reach. Connecting local businesses with more customers. Spurring development that creates new jobs and tax revenues while rebuilding our neighborhoods. The proposed transportation system may evolve over the next year, but it’s certain to be a winning economic development proposition for all of us – please take part in the conversation and encourage your local elected officials to help turn this vision into reality.
Chuck Cagann is President of Mansur Real Estate Services; he serves on the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, which recently unveiled a strategy for a comprehensive regional transportation system.