Have you ever heard of “bad development”? Have you ever heard a developer or commercial center utter the words, “We do not want more of this economic development”? Now you have, because this is exactly what the Broad Ripple Village Association (BRVA) along with a host of partner organizations and citizens are saying; and with good reason.
The case of Kilroy’s trying to open a new bar in the Broad Ripple Village has popped up on the local radar from time to time over the past couple of months. They hope to take the place of the Cardinal Fitness located just to the west of the intersection of Broad Ripple Ave and Guilford in the heart of the Broad Ripple Village. As proposed, the fitness center would be transformed into a bar/night club complete with an outdoor patio area. They have also requested a variance to greatly reduce the amount of required parking spaces that local building codes call for.
Now you may be asking, why is it such a big deal to locate a bar when there are already a host of other bars in the village? And what is the big deal about a bar asking for less parking? It seems logical that bars, purveyors of alcoholic beverages, would advocate less parking with the end result being potentially less drunk drivers leaving their establishment. Additionally, the addition of the coming parking garage, which has received many rounds of heated debate here at Urban Indy, could lessen the impact of such a large bar.
In a remonstration offered by the BRVA (click to open .pdf), a case has been made against allowing Kilroys to setup shop. At it’s heart, the remonstrators site a number of sticking points that range from negative reinforcement of “place”, detriment to adjacent residents & their property values, ignoring previous Broad Ripple Master Planning documents (which recommends a neighborhood shopping center at this location), limiting the amount of liquor licenses in the village as well as the aforementioned parking concerns.
Indeed, the property which is zoned C-4 has a wide range of permissible uses ranging as follows: bars, auto repair, hotel, bowling alley, hair salon, print shop, post office, lawn mower repair, gardening retail, gym, etc. The uses go on and on according to Indianapolis Commercial Zoning Ordinance. If you frequent Broad Ripple, it is obvious that a large number of businesses along the main stretch of Broad Ripple Ave have sought the bar use; and that is at the heart of why the BRVA is fighting this. They would like to see more retail usage and a stop put to the apparent binge of weekend partiers that foul up the neighborhood and generally contribute to the party reputation that Broad Ripple seems to attract. They cite that there are a number of other cultural institutions to visit in the village and that these uses should continue to be the focus of new development. The remonstration also cites the granting of parking variances over the years and how it has demonstrated negative impacts to the neighborhood in the form of traffic promotive commercial uses such as restaurants and nightclubs; uses which draw in tourists from outside of the neighborhood. Will the parking garage address these concerns? That remains to be seen, but current patterns have created an environment where large amounts of traffic are present along Broad Ripple Ave and the adjoining streets most evenings and weekends.
Lastly, the report tackles the affects of the amount of liquor establishments on the public health at large citing reports from Drug Free Marion County. The report links alcohol sales and assault with many cases as well as specific new reports of criminal activity linked to the Bloomington location of Kilroy’s.
How will this turn out? Who knows. Kilroy’s rescinded their original parking variance request and offered up a variance issued in 1987 (click to open DMD staff report .pdf) by a previous development and are attempting to push their bar through on that basis. The BRVA has collected many letters of support from adjacent neighborhood organizations Meridian-Kesller, Warfleigh & Forest Hills as well as residents. DMD seems to disagree with the BRVA and specifically addresses the concerns noted in the remonstration.
What do you, our readers, think about another bar locating in Broad Ripple?
Last week, a presentation was held at the Indianapolis Art Center in Broad Ripple. At the meeting, the winning team displayed their first pass of the design of the garage. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of the .pdf (click here to open). I have included a couple of screen shots here to show the visually appealing aspects of the garage. Reading through the summary, I get the impression that these folks WANT to design a structure that fits into the context of the village. They do this by summarizing the different built forms currently present in the village, and how the new mixed use structure will compliment these themes.
I have been critical of the garage but for different reasons than some of the local political folk who view this as another opportunity to take a stab at Mayor Ballard. I will ask that any comments offered to this thread be directed at the design itself and not the issues that contributed to the selection of the site. We are now past that hurdle in the project and won’t be going back. Until we get the financials on the project, no need to waste keystrokes on spilled milk.
So, what do you think? I like how the College Ave face will address the street. And at two stories, appears that it will not be a hulking, out of scale structure like say, one of the many 5-10 story structures downtown. I also appreciate that they have made an attempt to include some sort of arts theme with the structure. Hopefully that are successful in what they set out to do, and it wont look like a big concrete block with spray paint added to it. One thing I am pleased to see is the amount of bike parking. Will this be provided free of charge? I would hope so devoid of a structured cycling fare collection system in the city; something also nice. Our Mayor has gone to great lengths to ensure that cycling is a priority in the city and in that regard I would hate to see that this structure charged to park bikes. Additionally, I see nothing about an improved bus stop on the sidewalk along College Ave where the route 17 normally travels. Wouldn’t it be nice if the garage incorporated a nice covered stop with it’s improvements to the area? Lastly, I see nothing about improving the crosswalk into the village, a question I raised the last time I blogged about this structure. One final note is that this design is still fluid. This was the first round of presentations to the public and the final product could look different.
The project team for the newly announced Broad Ripple mixed use parking structure is seeking input from the public regarding how the structure should appear and how artwork and aesthetics should be incorporated into the final design. Per their request,
“On June 13, Mayor Greg Ballard announced plans for a mixed-use parking development in Broad Ripple Village. The parking development – located on the lot at the southwest corner of the intersection of Broad Ripple Avenue, College Avenue and Westfield Boulevard – will include approximately 350 parking spaces, spaces for free bicycle parking, retail space and an IMPD substation.
The project team – which includes Keystone Construction, Newpoint Parking, Ratio Architects and Walker Parking Consultants – is seeking public feedback about art and aesthetics. The team also is working with the Indianapolis Art Center on ways to incorporate public art into the design.
If you are interested in providing input for the parking development, please email your comments to BRfeedback@keystone-corp.com or mail them to Keystone Corporation, Attention Broad Ripple Parking Development, at 47 S. Pennsylvania Street, Suite 1000, Indianapolis, IN 46204, by July 12.
Residents who want to learn more about the development may attend the Broad Ripple Village Association quarterly public meeting on Tuesday, July 19, at 7 p.m. at the Indianapolis Art Center.”
If you had a say, what would you suggest? I have included a couple of pictures of my own travels and what other city’s parking structures look like that have been enhanced by artwork or creative building practices to enhance the overall appearance.
Is there a creative way of introducing a transit stop for this garage? A meaningful addition that you think would enhance the outward reflection of the structure or a piece of artwork that could improve the quality of life for the neighborhood? The consulting team is listening, so let them know what you think would look good or be useful!
Last week, the Mayor’s Office announced that they had selected a winning proposal for a parking garage to be located in the Broad Ripple Village. The garage was hinted at when the parking meter lease was closed although details were very fuzzy at that point in time. Before I dive into an analysis, here are some basics according to the press release from the city:
Mayor Greg Ballard today announced the City’s selection of a developer and operator of a new mixed-use Broad Ripple parking development located on the lot at the southwest corner of the intersection of Broad Ripple Avenue and College Avenue. The parking garage will contain about 350 parking spaces. The first floor will feature retail space as well as a police substation provided free of charge to the City.
“Broad Ripple Village has long needed a garage of this magnitude to alleviate parking issues and allow for implementation of a residential parking permit system on neighborhood streets,” said Mayor Ballard. “Visitors to the Broad Ripple area will have a safe, secure, well-lit area to park their cars, while residents and their guests will more easily be able to find on-street parking near their homes.”
The total cost of the project is about $15 million, $6.35 million of which will be provided by the City of Indianapolis from the upfront payment in the parking meter proceeds, which must be used to fund infrastructure projects in the Downtown, Mass Ave and Broad Ripple areas. The project will not receive a tax abatement and is expected to generate about $350,000 in property taxes per year. The developer and operator, selected through an RFP process, is a partnership between Newpoint Parking, Keystone Construction, Ratio Architects and Walker Parking Consultants.
Contained in those two paragraphs are everything that defines the project as it stands. A new structure is going up, it will contain retail and a police station and a neighborhood permit program will be put into service. Urban Indy has spent plenty of keystrokes fighting the lease of the parking meters as well as the concept of a parking structure in the village. Kevin had a really great post earlier this year examining the need for more density in the village. Within that post, was a map highlighting the large number of surface parking located within the village that could possibly someday be used for useful purposes besides automobile parking given that a parking structure such as the one announced were to come to fruition.
So what happens next? This structure will begin to take shape this summer with completion coming sometime next year. While final design plans are not available, I would assume that some sort of streetscaping features as well as an improved crosswalk and perhaps a transit stop will be included with the final built form.
Looking further into the future, it would be nice to see some of the parking space that Kevin pointed out, be converted to some sort of other useful purpose such as infill development. A big factor in how the future of the village will develop is still being worked out with input sought from the Envision Broad Ripple meetings of the past couple years. The finished product from that process will be a new Neighborhood Village classification using form based codes as the guiding principal. According to volunteer director of the BRVA, and frequent Urban Indy reader Tom Healy,
“We’re working closely w/ DMD staff on a new zoning category called Neighborhood Village that will enshrine form-based code as a guiding principle. The new code is still in development but the community has been able to introduce components of it in several initiatives like the Broad Ripple Avenue repaving project, the recently proposed Midtown Redevelopment Area, and of special note given today’s announcement, the crafting of the Request for Qualifications for the mixed use parking structure.”
If all goes as planned, it would be nice to see these new codes put into service soon. I know that some recently proposed projects that were subjected to regulatory review were held to some of the standards being developed. Additionally, a circulator to reduce visitor’s need for a car would be a step in the right direction in helping to reduce parking requirements. Long term, and if you are a frequent reader and know my thoughts, a modern light rail system traversing the village would go even further towards reducing visitor’s need for automobiles altogether. However, a vision for that could be much further off.
In conclusion, I think I speak for many when I say it is sad to see land being used for parking garages. At least retail space has been preserved and a brownfield is being re-mediated where the new garage will be located. According to a developing Village Master Plan, increasing the density of residents in the village is a key long term goal towards building a stronger case for Broad Ripple rail transit. In that regard, it would be inspiring to see mixed-use apartments or condos going up on this site instead of more space for cars. Moreover, it would be nice to see increased transit options put in place via Indyconnect’s proposal that would decrease visitor’s need for automobiles, and thus the need for unsightly parking garages. I know that Tom shares my desires and he says as much,
“Don’t for a minute think this one structure will solve all of Broad Ripple’s parking dilemmas. But it’s an important step in the right direction. We still encourage our patrons, employees, clients and neighbors to bike, walk, ride IndyGo, carpool or take a cab when they visit the Village. If we have our way one day we’ll see the trolley return to College Ave.!”
I hope that for the sake of the future of Broad Ripple that this garage stimulates the trend of taking existing village surface parking and developing it into better uses, and that longer term, the garage can be looked back upon as a key moment in building a case for rail transit.
When Indyconnect unveiled its first proposal for a long range transit plan for the Indianapolis region (February 2010), many people were happy about what had been included in the plan.Transit backers were thrilled that light rail transit was planned along Washington Street from the airport to the east side. Finally, vocal advocates (myself included) had something to look forward in terms of getting real urban rail here in Indianapolis. This plan was rolled out to the public and while many in Indy wanted to see more light rail in the form of Broad Ripple to Downtown, or some sort of route that mixed with Mass Ave and Fountain Square, it represented a step in the right direction; a significant step towards lowering overheads on current buses, increasing bus coverage and speeding it up along key corridors. The addition of 2 commuter rail lines was also included. It also unhappily painted a lot of new expanded roads on the map. This plan was shopped to the public for 9 months after which significant citizen input was collected.
Then, the second round of Indyconnect was planned and public meetings held. These started in November 2010. By then, a better fiscal picture had come into focus. The Indyconnect planners studied the potential revenue inputs, weighed them against a number of possible tax increase scenarios and finally, offered a recommendation based upon those fiscal constraints combined with public input and advanced planner knowledge of potential transit services. The map that was released was vastly changed from the prior version. Portions of bus routes classified as “Express” in the February report had been converted to a form of “Bus Rapid Transit” along portions of their corridor; while still retaining some express routes on other corridors. BRT’s inclusion was a large change and provided some initial excitement that was later tempered by the news that this would not be dedicated guide-way BRT. Furthermore, and by far the biggest omission which stood out like a sore thumb to residents of Indianapolis was the elimination of light rail along Washington Street from the airport to the east side in the first 25 years of the plan. The plan introduces BRT along Washington Street in an early phase and then converts to LRT beyond the 25 year time horizon of the plan. Indeed, light rail had been removed from the 25 year plan altogether in what organizers chalked up as simply not enough money. To add insult to injury, the 2 proposed commuter lines had been significantly lengthened from the plan’s first version.
How was this allowed to happen? How could months of input and a loud voice (at least from urbanist’s perspectives) about adding MORE light rail for Indianapolis turn into no light rail at all? The answer lies within the numbers that the “business community (or private sector)” used to determine what the fiscal realities for this plan could be. Initially, a sales tax had been discussed (click link to open task force report). The prior plan would have taken somewhere between $10-$15 a month per household for those counties who opted into the plan based on voter referendum. State legislators have been cool on this plan altogether unfortunately, but have also bristled at the idea of a sales tax to cover expenses for the plan. Planners have given more attention to income tax as a primary alternative, without eliminating tax increment finance (TIF) districts and public private partnerships (PPP) as contributing sources of revenue and expedited implementation.
Furthermore, a recent event held by IndyHUB called, “Indy Talks, Leaders Listen” exposed a rough ballpark figure. Ron Gifford, the new leader of the Central Indiana Transit Task Force, asked attendees of the Mass Transit breakout what they would like to see. Light rail from downtown to Carmel? Light rail from the airport to the east side? Bus rapid transit? Commuter rail? Obviously, most in the room raised their hand as willing to pay for this. The other shoe dropped when Mr. Gifford stated that all of that included into a 25 year plan, could require a 0.7% annual income tax. (or $350 annual in taxes on $50,000 salary).
The current Indyconnect long range plan, if given the chance to be adopted, could be funded using a 0.3% income tax increase; and thus the reason why light rail was cut from the initial plan.
MPO Transit Vision Document
Another small tidbit of knowledge that is worth knowing is that while the final adopted map (2nd map in post) is included in the MPO’s Long Range Transit Vision Document, it was not always so. Being the sleuth that I am, I had checked in on this document early on and a different version of the “transit vision” map was in it. Included on the map (3rd map in post) in that version was more BRT for downtown, more potential light rail (Broad Ripple to University of Indy via DT) as well as a longer envisioned Washington Street route and additional future bus routes. I was told that the reason this was removed from the current vision document was its non-approval by policy makers. However, it DOES demonstrate that the heads of Indyconnect heard what we were saying and at least drew the lines on the map. Indeed, if you read the entire document, it spells out what the future could look in Indianapolis. The proposed BRT lines being switched to light rail or streetcar and additional commuter rail lines being built.
So where do we go from here? Many people are obviously unhappy that the plan was stripped down notwithstanding the fact that we have not been given an opportunity to vote on it. First off, we as citizens need to urge our lawmakers at the state level to get on board with allowing a tax referendum to occur for this plan. There are currently grassroots efforts underway among local transit advocates to adopt a resolution of support to present to lawmakers in the 2011 legislative session. Urban Indy was the first organization to adopt the resolution (click to open .pdf) and the effort is currently building steam with many noteable organizations signing on to support a referendum to voters in 2012. Getting a referendum is the largest hurdle of them all at this point in time. Second, how do we lobby for more funding to make the longer view parts of the MPO vision document happen sooner? How do we get the Indyconnect planners to bump that 0.3% figure up to 0.5% or more so that practical light rail or streetcars for Indy are a potential reality in our lifetime?
I ask you, our readers, is an income tax who’s monthly amount is equal to what a half a tank of gasoline costs, worth the potential transportation impact?
For my part, I am all in.
The gourmet sandwich joint which has been located in the heart of the Broad Ripple village for 4 years is moving. Normally, I would not take the time to report on such an event. Retail businesses in general are a volatile endeavour and subject to abrupt change based on business patterns. However, in the case of Boogie Burger’s impending move, this strikes at the heart of why Urban Indy writes about the things that we do. Boogie Burger will be moving from it’s current location at 927 E Westfield Blvd to 1904 Broad Ripple Ave. They will be moving into the location formerly occupied by the Red Eye Cafe and prior to that regional pizza joint Pizza King. The current location is within a dense, vibrant, neighborhood literally footsteps from the Monon Trail while the new location lies upon a busy 4 lane throughfare. Why would a business choose to make such a move?
According to owner Mark Radford, “We needed more space.” I spoke to Mark recently regarding their move. After hearing the justifications that he offered, the move began to make more sense. Indeed, this is a move born of logistics. The current location is so small that they cannot store the amount of supplies that they need to serve the amount of people that come through the door. There is no walk in cooler and often times, trips out to purchase more supplies are needed during business hours. People through the door is another factor.The current location can only seat 14 people. The new location will be able to accommodate over 40 people. Moreover, parking is a concern. As I suspected, people have made mention of how difficult it can be to park in the village and walk to Boogie Burger’s current location.
Radford talked about how they will miss the current location. He also commented that the move will be inconvenient to residents who currently live within walking distance of the current location. However, they hope to be able to draw upon the large, walkable, residential neighborhood just across Broad Ripple Ave from the new location. They also hope to retain as many current customers since the new location is not located across town. Additionally, they plan on building a patio (there is currently a zoning variance motion in the works) as well as offer a bike rack. Radford who own’s Boogie Burger with his wife recognize the perception of the new place versus the current location. Regarding the new location he said, “We hope that we can generate more pedestrian activity in that strip.” He also commented about the business nature of the village, “Business can be solid on the weekends and then the village turns into a ghost town for the first three days of the week.” They hope by having a dense neighborhood located across the street that this can spur some lunchtime foot traffic.
I did an analysis of the two locations by comparing their walkscore. Walkscore is a website that scores how walkable a neighborhood is based upon factors like sidewalks, street grid, access to services, etc. Surprisingly, the current location (83) scored only one point higher than the new location (82). I was surprised about this. Additionally, both locations are served by the same bus routes, the 17.
Will Boogie Burger survive as a perveyor of delicious burgers and french fries after moving? Will their clientele still seek them out via automobile vs foot? Can Boogie Burger improve upon the efforts of the past two tenants of the new location? According to Radford, “It really comes down to how you work it.” He feels confident that the new business will pay dividends and that the great tasting food that brings people to the current location will bring them to the new location.
As a citizen of Indianapolis and a major supporter of mass transit, it should come as no surprise that I am always thinking about how we can pull off a successful light rail system. When I think about the key components that would create the best first step, there are many things to consider. First off, we must define the key characteristics of a transit line that will make it succeed:
- Connects activity centers
- Frequent service
- Be on the Way
I have given a lot of lip service to the benefits of a Broad Ripple to downtown light rail service. Many people when asked where a light rail route would make the most sense in Indy also come up with the same answer. Geographically at it’s core, a Broad Ripple to downtown service would connect activity centers and connect dense neighborhoods that are on the way to employment centers. It is the other three criteria which, if mishandled, would make a route of such proportions a pointless endevour. So it is these three points I intend to examine and bolster in this post.
As I pointed out in my initial summary, a route that connected these two activity centers would provide access for thousands of people to thousands of jobs. If a primary goal of light rail is economic development and environmental justice, a route like this would take thousands of vehicle miles off the road daily while successfully transporting people to their jobs. Thousands of jobs lie within walking distance of a potential route that connects these two activity centers.
Rapid service must be offered so that a reasonable commuting time can be acheived. Why spend the money if the resulting service offers a travel time that is woeful in comparison to taking a car? Knowing that this is a priority can also assist in picking an appropriate travel route. Limiting mixed traffic operations and road crossings where possible will insure that the most rapid service can be offered while still providing as many stops as possible to promote development near stations and reach as many dense population centers as possible. Finding that mix can be the most difficult part of designing a route.
If people are expected to abandon their cars and use transit, then a worthwhile level of service must be offered. Why won’t people wait for 30 to 45 minutes on a bus or train? Getting across Indianapolis in a car can be done in a half hour at a majority of times of the day. Thus, offering a service that arrives every 15 minutes or sooner must be designed. Anything more, will be the inflection point at which people opt to grab the keys when they leave for a trip.
The Proposed Route
Shown at the top of this post is a map that I created for my post, “Why Route Matters” from this past February. In that post, I laid out the basics of why a north/south route through midtown would provide a better return on investment compared to the NE Corridor currently under study by the MPO. Given the constraints that I have laid out above, lets look at the available geography afforded to the north and near north side of Indianapolis. Possible candidates for right of way include existing streets, private property and elevated tracks over existing roadways (ie: Clarian People Mover). In selecting the best route versus cost required to purchase right of way, existing streets offer a fantastic right of way. First, there is minimal need to purchase land from private property owners. Second, if the goal is to supplant cars from these areas, what better a way to do it then putting a train in place? Replacing cars with trains offers what may be the most politically difficult “sell” when it comes to planning a light rail system. However, that debate could be an entire post of it’s own. Furthermore, elevated tracks have become a thing of the past in most modern designs. Elevated tracks create barriers much like freeways do and are also unsightly and expensive.
I will divide my proposed route into multiple portions examining key focus areas. The lower portion will examine the Capitol & Illinois corridors. They provide excellent paths to the downtown job & activity centers. The upper portion will include a short jaunt on 38th street that would lead to College Ave. and ultimately Broad Ripple Ave/62nd Street.
Capitol & Illinois are currently one way streets with 3 or more lanes for autos. Does asking for one lane for LRT upon each of these corridors seems like a good compromise between providing reasonable automobile access as it currently exists and creating an option for rail transit? I believe that they do. Furthermore, a route that utilizes these streets provides virtually front door access to the thousands of medical jobs from 16th street on south; an area poised to grow as an employment center thanks to the construction of the Neuroscience Center at 16th street and future investment via the Biocrossroads innitative.
38th Street Portion
The 38th Street portion would utilize a short jaunt across 38th street between Capitol & College Ave. The least invasive way of doing this is by way of a median running transit route.
One station along this corridor would privide access to a number of apartment complexes as well as shopping centers and other locations in the neighborhood. Again, this is an area with a number of lanes in each direction in an existing wide right of way. Is asking for 1 dedicated lane each direction for this short portion asking a lot?
Perhaps the crown jewel of transit for Indianapolis could be summed up as the College Avenue corridor and Broad Ripple Avenue. Contained along these two corridors are the best preserved legacy of the streetcars of yesterday. At many intersections along College Avenue, from downtown to 62nd street, are existing or relics of past dense retail nodes surrounded by dense housing. Broad Ripple Village is the top node of them all boasting a complete strip of shops still standing up to the street itself. Various apartment developments dot the surrounding area providing a dense retail and residential neighborhood. It is this dense form of yesterday that combines with the automobile culture of today that creates the toughest sitution to shoehorn light rail of some sort back into the mix. College Avenue itself is a 4 lane automobile corridor with parking along both sides for much of it’s length. It is also a busy automobile corridor. A rough dimension to describe it’s width is 55′ between existing street curbs. Finding the right balance of dedicated right of way for transit and automobiles is a huge challenge. So how might we approach this opportunity to excel? One approach is to try shoehorning two dedicated lanes in the median as I proposed for 38th street. This could create some difficult situations for island platforms and could also lead to a reduction in automobile right of way making this a politically dicy proposal. It is the opinion of this author that this idea would not be a bad one. However, I live in the reality that weening people off of cars is going to take some compromise.
College Ave Solution
Taking a page from the Bus Rapid Transit dictionary, comes the notion of mixed operation with traffic with demand lanes at major street crossings. The number of potential stop lights from 38th street to Broad Ripple Avenue are 7 if we include the one at Broad Ripple Avenue. Traffic normally flows reasonably well along this path except at traffic signal crossings. Finding a way to manage rapid transit movement at these intersections could be a key opportunity to mixing trains with autos and still have an opportunity to offer a premium rapid transit service. Another option could be to only operate these demand lanes during peak commuting times giving lane priority to light rail. Locals should be used to what switching traffic patterns look like by travelling on Fall Creek Parkway during peak commuting times. There, the middle lane is changed in the mornings and evenings to give an extra lane to the direction of majority commuters; southbound priority in the morning and northbound priority in the evening.
By doing this, existing automobile traffic lanes could be maintained with a minimal obstruction while still being able to offer a premium transit service. In the end, negotiating something for transit where nothing currently exists, cannot be seen as a large request given the potential benefits.
Broad Ripple Ave Solution
The other difficult portion of a northside rail route is Broad Ripple Ave. In the early days of streetcar usage, Broad Ripple Ave. was the home of a street located rail in both directions where automobiles currently travel. If you have ever visited the Village on a warm summer day or a weekend, then you know that automobile congestion is already a difficult issue. How do we solve this? Part of the problem today is the search for free or cheap parking. Now that the parking meter deal is in place, this should help aleviate congestion. A large majority of all traffic congestion is caused by people circling the block (link to Primer on Parking) looking for available parking. With the new meters in place, turnover should increase and people looking for parking should decrease. If the reported parking garage is to be realized, then congestion for the village could be a problem of the past. However, for the purposes of this case study, I will assume that the existing congestion will remain.
In that respect, I offer the center lane which is currently reserved for turning, to be converted to a 2 way dedicated transit lane. This could be used by trains and by buses travelling through the village. It would only be 1 lane through the most dense portion of Broad Ripple Ave from College Ave, to just east of the Monon where some sort of 2 lane dedicated service could be installed that either uses the median or shifts automobile traffic in some fashion. An alternative to the single center transit lane, can be seen as the dashed line in the graphic. A 2nd lane could be added via this route to facilitate a true 2 way transit path through the village neighborhood. While this could hinder rapid transit through the village, it could also offer access to the side streets of the village with the added benefit of a 2nd dedicated transit lane. It should be noted that any transit lane that traverses the Broad Ripple village is likely to be subject to heated debate as business owners and residents are quite proud of the built environment. Anything that might upset that is likely to be a hotly contested debate. Finally, extending service to the Glendale area could provide what I propose be the only park and ride facility for such a transit route. There are ample surface lots on the property of the old Glendale Mall (now turned Target anchored shopping center) that could be used as park and ride for north side residents wishing to commute downtown for their day jobs.
Have I presented an air tight case for a northside light rail route? No. However, I think I have presented a fair assesement of the geography and some possible solutions to one of the tantalizing rail routes of our region. If done correctly, a rail route through the midtown area could capture thousands of daily vehicle trips, provide economic development potential along old streetcar routes, provide access to jobs and activity centers for thousands of residents as well as conventioners/tourists who visit the downtown area as well as potentially relieve congestion. This case study also highlights a route that could set Indianapolis down a path that could stimulate the rehabilitation of multiple neighborhoods along it’s route which are currently bearing the brunt of disinvestment thanks to suburban sprawl which the recent census has indicated is still on a runaway pace in this region. My analysis also suggests a route that is 100% contained within current automobile right of way; a notion which has not been taken up very often in America. Phoenix, AZ has come the closest with nearly the entire portion of its 20 mile light rail line running along existing auto right of way. This case study is not an airtight one, however it is one that I believe truly offers an ENOURMOUS potential to outperform any commuter rail or BRT route currently drawn on a map by Indyconnect.
Special thanks to fellow Urban Indy writer Graeme Sharpe for some concepts applied in this case study
As I have posted about before, the Indianapolis MPO is in charge of transportation planning in our region. Their governing region extends into other counties around the region. A federally mandated charge of theirs, is to keep a long range plan on hand that fiscally constrains our region’s transportation expansion over a 20 to 25 year period. Everything from highway and street planning to transit planning is included. It is updated every few years formally, and informally here and there. Until recently, there was no transit, at least in large part, included in the plan. That all changed when Indyconnect broke on the scene. Today, the MPO released 3 volumes of draft documents on their website pertaining to the 2035 long range plan. As a transit activist, the most interesting document, was the 3rd Volume named, Transit Vision Plan. You can open the document by clicking here. Its 40 pages long.
Contained between the covers of this document, are some interesting pieces of information. The document lays out a vision of transit expansion that encompasses a realistic set of projects that could be included within the current 25 year long range plan. The first few chapters capture this in detailed form painting a picture of bus, light rail and streetcar expansion. There is a rating system attached that assigns a value to each potential project and labels it by name. The most surprising appearance, is a system of circulator type routes in the downtown area that are labeled as bus routes that could potentially be switched over to light rail or streetcar technology after the current 25 year plan’s recommendations are implemented. That is where reality sets in, and the most favorable projects are presented; which closely matches the plan announced in November 2010 by Indyconnect, and in which Urban Indy offered some critical analysis of.
However, the document does provide some hope to local transit advocates that our planning body received the message loud and clear when it came to urban transit improvements. There are renderings included which show streetcar service along Mass Ave in downtown Indianapolis. The highest ranking project on the list of aforementioned projects, is a circulator from lower downtown to IUPUI which would likely be implemented as a bus route and could someday be switched to a streetcar mode of transportation.
There is also significant language included which talks about remediation of Union Station downtown prior to the opening of the first commuter line. The consultants estimated $100 million would be required to fully service Union Station. As I have pointed out REPEATEDLY, there is a need to make this a modern facility that encourages people to want to visit. It makes me smile to know some thought was given to this. There is also space devoted to the remediation of the Belt Railway after the opening of the second commuter rail line; a topic that was touched upon here at Urban Indy recently as well.
Also of note is the downtown transit center that has been much talked about and studied since 2006. In this vision, the planners see a transit center located where the post office facility is located on South Street directly across from Union Station. It would handle 20 buses and facilitate transfer between routes and modes of transportation. There is also a vision of transit spines running north & south on both sides of downtown. One corridor would encompass Capitol & Illinois while the other would use Pennsylvania and Delaware as it’s spine. From each, a branching network of buses would serve the downtown area.
One of the most significant and yet not as visible pieces of the puzzle is touched upon quite often as well, and that is transit supportive land use zoning. Each project would have a check mark of items before coming online of which supportive land use patterns is a part of. This is something we have talked much about at Urban Indy, and which is at the crux of all dense land development.
The picture painted in the plan is quite rosy once totally implemented. While we sit and wait on the state legislature to decide if we should be “allowed” to vote on a tax increase, all of these ideas shall sit and wait. Without any sort of funding, they remain merely a vision and cannot be included in the official adopted long range plan. Without funding, these transit improvements can only be talked about.
I will end this with one last thought. If you study the map I have included, you will notice that N/S light rail has been added to the map travelling through Broad Ripple, south along the Illinois/Capitol corridor and to Indianapolis University. This is a logical path for transit in the region which should arguably be included in the near term plan, but is also an expensive project. The last piece to take with us, is that these plans are always under revision, and should public and political sentiment change, or other funding sources be found or created, more capital intensive projects such as light rail could take shape within the current adopted plan. To review the Transit Vision Plan draft version and read the details even more in depth than I have provided, click here.
Recently, the Indianapolis MPO released a report (click to open 33 page .pdf) created to examine the spaghetti bowl of freight train traffic that comes and goes in the Indianapolis region. While this wasn’t a point of major debate through out the Indyconnect meeting periods, it bares a lot of responsibility when it comes to firming up the underbelly of passenger rail connections in the Indyconnect plan. On my personal blog, I touched on this months ago and cited a report created in 2004 that explored moving freight traffic to the old belt railway that circles the DT area. In that post, I asked the question about how commuter trains would efficiently use Union Station as the region’s passenger hub, and maintain freight traffic without conflicts. Apparently someone at the MPO has already been thinking about this….
The new report, released in September of 2010, pre-dates the latest Indyconnect release and paints a picture of what could be in the region’s very long term transportation future. Multiple commuter rail and light rail lines are painted on the map as a means of quantitatively crafting a plan that would divert freight trains off of lines through downtown Indianapolis, and onto the belt railway. Currently, freight traffic dominates the regions railways. According to the executive summary:
- “Businesses in the Indianapolis MPO area originated and/or terminated over 100,000 carloads containing 7 million tons of freight in 2005″
- ”Passenger service is provided by Amtrak with two trains, the Cardinal and Hoosier State, which combined provide service between Chicago and New York City. Amtrak trains arrive at and depart from Union Station”
The executive summary makes the following conclusion:
- From an operating standpoint, separation of freight and passenger trains would provide the best approach
to resolve or mitigate issues associated with freight and passenger trains operating on the same track.
Relocating freight trains to the Belt, a rail line that provides a circular route around most of Indianapolis
was investigated previously, principally for safety reasons, but is now being reconsidered to
accommodate passenger train access to the center city. This alternative appears to represent the most
comprehensive approach when considering all potential intercity and commuter passenger services. But,
even it is not without problems
Complicating matters seem to be the Citizens Gas plant located downtown which is fed a steady diet of coal, and also the GM plant on the west side of the White River, both of which actively depend on the freight lines. In addition to the bulk of freight already present, future commuter lines originating from Shelbyville and Mooresville cloud the picture; as does the ever present specter of high speed rail. In solving this, the MPO and it’s partner, Wilber Smith Associates, recommend some sort of action if passenger traffic is to be accommodated using Union Station. What this is, remains to be seen however as a concrete plan is not laid out in the study. Multiple recommendations are given in respect to the currently proposed commuter lines which appear to be somewhat safe. If future commuter traffic from the other suburbs, as well as touched on lines from Muncie and Bloomington, are to be accommodated, further study will need to be put in place to figure out how to keep passenger rail and freight rail separated.
In this study, I see a vision for a larger passenger rail plan for Indianapolis. I’m not sure that I agree with so many commuter trains coming and going, but I do appreciate the vision of light rail to the Broad Ripple area, as well as south towards the University of Indianapolis. While none of this was talked about specifically in the current Indyconnect plan, it paints a picture of what planners thought about when considering the current plan. I have it from higher authority, that the long range plan’s budget accommodates some sort of belt renewal. However, no other details were given and this planning document from the MPO represents the only official piece I can find. This document could help paint the picture of what the next long range plan could look like; or the current one, should funding or public sentiment push more light rail interests forward. To review the report, click this link to open the .pdf in a new window.
The local media reported recently on an announcement by the city that they have chosen to lease the operation of metered parking to ACS, a private company out of Dallas, TX. Kirsten of Urban Indy reported on this previously before the announcement and discussed what it could mean for the future of parking. There were many things pointed out such as how this has failed cities like Chicago with the political will to do this on the city level. She has an analysis of the released proposal up now as well. Aaron Renn of the Urbanophile seems to be talking a lot about this lately in regards to Chicago, and Indianapolis and in the larger context, private leasing of public infrastructure. It tackles the policy side more than the planning and and public interface side of things, although he does touch on that as well. It’s good reading if you have the time.
The target of this article is based upon a statement made by Mayor Greg Ballard regarding the Broad Ripple neighborhood. He stated, “ …the $35 million from ACS will be used in part to pay for a new parking garage in Broad Ripple. The city is already scouting locations and hope to announce details in the near future.”
Recently, Broad Ripple Village business owners made a plea for more parking in the village area in the form of a “parking garage”. They asked for this apparently to reduce the amount of walking that people have to do to get to their shops. They also cited areas like Glendale (located at 62nd & Keystone Ave roughly a mile away) would be taking their shoppers when people couldn’t find quick parking in the Village. Glendale, they claim, can do this largely in part to it’s mall heritage and glut of open parking that is ALWAYS available. Users there are never charged a penny to park.
If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting the Broad Ripple village, you will note that parking IS a major concern. Especially for those not familiar with the area. And while the strip through the village makes for a nearly non-existant chance at parking ,if you merely drive a few blocks off that beaten path, you are likely to find parking. Most any place you will park throughout the neighborhood will highlight the more 2nd tier set of businesses that while equally as charming are not on the Avenue.
However, comparing the Broad Ripple shopping experience and the Glendale shopping experience is on the surface laughable. Glendale contains a Target, Macy’s and a few chain restaurants. Conversely, Broad Ripple is by a large majority, niche local businesses with only a few small chains permeating the mix. Additionally, my wife pointed out that on a recent trip to Broad Ripple to make some business meetings, she was unable to locate business hours on a handfull of shops located on or near the strip; that were closed in the middle of the day. Perhaps those same business owners complaining about business lost to Glendale would be able to retain said “lost business” if they were frank about when they are open? I digress…
With all this in mind, in a recent meeting, some business owners asked that a parking garage be constructed somewhere in the neighborhood. Even more alarming, was at the meeting that was conducted, Ryan Vaughn, City-County Council president and representative of the area, proclaimed his support for just such a structure.
I’d be remiss at this point if I wasn’t proclaiming my continued dismay at this idea. As those of you who follow me know, I am a HUGE advocate of an improved transit system for Indianapolis. Broad Ripple is a prime target for some sort of transportation improvement whether it is in the form of increased frequency of buses, or more attractive streetcar service from downtown; as has been advocated by many a people in the area. On the surface, I agree with a price increase in parking. It’s been literally decades since this happened, and I philosophically believe that a doubling in parking rates will cause people to think twice about parking and look at cheaper, and more sustainable, options like taking the bus. The downstream affect of this is building a trend of increased ridership, lower parking requirements for downtown development, and an increase in good urban design that also has the happy offset of increased tax revenue. But that is walking a long line of,”if this happens, that will happens”
As a group, we at Urban Indy have spent some time discussing this issue. At this point the parking garage plan has the backing of the City Council area rep & president. The Mayor, and the largely vocal Broad Ripple Village business owners. That likely means, a parking garage is coming. So how do urbanists try and get their fair share of this pie? We can look at other examples of parking garages good and bad. A typical downtown parking garage usually takes up a lot of space and has no interface with the public. FAIL.
We can look at the Ivy Tech Multimodal Center being constructed at the Indianapolis campus located at Fall Creek Parkway and Meridian Street. It will be 4 floors tall with the top 3 floors consisting of automobile parking. The ground floor will contain a library and a Bus Transit center. I have not been on site recently to survey the progress but on the surface, that is a good mixing of the available transit modes and the library is obviously a win.
In Bloomington, IN (and I have never seen this structure at all) there is another garage with a Scotty’s Brewhouse (regional bar) and a Subway that both seem to be doing well.
Both of these models offer something which the city could look at when designing a structure for the Broad Ripple area. With all the parking garages going up around town, there should be some sort of accountability for the continued promotion of automobile oriented transportation that is wildly proliferating around town. Just off the top of my head, I know that Wishard will be getting a huge parking structure. IUPUI is finishing up the California Street garage, and recently, Clarian announced an expansion in the area of 16th and Capital, which will also (surprise…) include an 1100 space garage; albeit with some allowance for first floor commercial space for medical and perhaps some other street level access.
A wish list of features that we at Urban Indy would like to see:
1. Include attractive first floor retail spaces
2. Match style of nearby structures
3. Address sidewalk directly; no pedestrian tunnels, skywalks, or interior mall spaces
4. Design structure so it can be repurposed into another use when Indy transit system reduces need for extra parking
5. Enact a market based pricing scheme for all parking spots (on-street and structure)
6. Include reduced/subsidized parking for bicyclists (and lockers/shower facilities)
7. Eliminate all on-site/off-street parking requirements for local properties