Transit day at the Statehouse

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A rally took place Wednesday at the Indiana Statehouse in support of mass transit for Central Indiana.

"Transit Day" brought scores of people to the Statehouse who are lobbying lawmakers to allow a referendum on funding. A $1.3 billion plan to expand transit in the metro area is at stake.

The House Ways and Means Committee is reviewing the bill, which has already passed out of one committee.

The plan would be paid for in part by a local income tax hike, but voters would need to approve that in a referendum. There's considerable opposition to the plan by those who don't want to see any tax hike, and from lawmakers who are not keen on being associated with an increase.

Supporters like Robin and Joe Antico see it as a "win-win situation for everybody."

"Mass transportation helps everyone," Robin said.

"We'd love to see the city support more transportation initiatives and offer better options for people; help get cars off the road," Joe said.

Nancy Griffin says public transportation would help her.

"For me and many other people with mobility impairments, having access to public transportation is really huge and it's not just folks like me who grew up with disabilities. I'm acquiring more with age as many of us do and as our population ages, we need to have access to affordable and acccessible public transportation," she said.

Supporters will rally all day with the goal of increasing options for transportation in Indianapolis.

While IndyGo wants to convince riders they are a convenient and easy option to get around, they are also hoping to convince lawmakers today to expand the public transportation system throughout the state.

"Gas prices are rising. We know the environmental impact of automobile transportation," said transit advocate Kim Irwin. "People want choices and right now. Unfortunately, right now, we are limited to the car as the primary choice."

In the meantime, IndyGo is trying to make the riding experience easier. They have now put three of their lines on a 15- or 20-minute schedule.  Riders will not have to worry about specific stop times. They can just show up at the stop and know that every 15 to 20 minutes, there will be a bus.

Even IndyGo wants more riding options. They see the bus system as just one factor of the mass transit equation. Midwesterners may be very attached to their cars, but transit advocates say there needs to be a slight change in mindset.

The advocates acknowledge some people are going to always choose to drive, and there are going to be times when driving makes sense. But other times, it doesn't. 

One third of Indiana's population does not drive, and advocates say they need options for them to be able to get to work, to travel to the places they need to be, and to interact in the community.

Those who oppose mass transit say the main problem is money. As it is, IndyGo buses are already subsidized, so they don't believe this will help stimulate any economic growth.